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Kevin Hardwick - District 10

County executive proposes ‘honest’ budget

Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ 2011 proposed budget is a stiff dose of reality. It calls for the elimination of 410 county jobs, 223 of which are currently filled, in order to avoid a tax increase. It also includes cuts to libraries and cultural organizations. Years of insane decisions and onerous state mandates have finally caught up with us.

 Despite its painful cuts, there are several good aspects of the Collins budget.

For starters, it is an honest budget. It would have been easy for the county executive to kick the can down the road by playing the game of overestimating revenues, putting off pension obligations and borrowing massive amounts of money to pay for current operating expenses.

This is what they do in Albany all the time and what we have done too often in Erie County in the past. It is what has gotten us where we are today.

The budget also contains a slight increase in funding for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. If we are to avoid difficult budgets like this one in the future, we will need to bring in more business to Erie County. The CVB enables us to do this.

The executive’s capital budget also contains $1.1 million for an access road to the Spaulding Site in the City of Tonawanda. I lobbied extensively for the inclusion of this item, as it will help us to attract new businesses to Tonawanda. When this happens, the entire county wins.

As for the cuts, I am open to changes in the executive’s plan.

For every dollar that goes in, however, another must come out. This is not the time to raise property taxes.

One change I could support, of course, is

cutting legislative salaries. I said they were too high during last year’s campaign and promised to give back $7,500 from my salary to community groups. This is a promise I have been keeping.

On a related note, it appears that the proposal to downsize the Erie County Legislature from 15 to 11 members will indeed be on the ballot for voter approval on Election Day.

I voted for this proposal back in March. More recently, though, the Erie County election commissioners tried to keep it from the ballot by claiming it was delivered to them by the wrong clerk.

I joined several other legislators in challenging the commissioners’ decision in court, a challenge that we paid for with our own money. We prevailed, and the proposal should be on the ballot. I would urge voters to approve this downsizing measure, as it should save us upwards of $200,000 per year in future county budgets. This is a cut we could all embrace.

Printed Oct. 6, 2010 in the Ken-Ton Bee Newspaper

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