Erie County Government Bucks Collins, Process Termed “Absurd”, “Insane”

1 Dec

The Erie County Legislature yesterday pushed through amendments to the 2011 county budget that would restore 2010-level funding to a broad range of cultural organizations that had been cut off by County Executive Chris Collins’ proposed budget.  Shockingly, the county library system’s funding was restored completely, and done so unanimously.  Because each amended line item was voted for separately, some may have the 10 votes necessary to override a Collins veto.

While yesterday I had predicted that “reform coalition” Democratic legislators Barbara Miller-Williams and Christina Bove would submit amendments that the Republicans, including Collins, would likely approve, that’s not what ended up happening.  Apparently, at some point over the last few days, Bove had a change of heart and joined in the Marinelli/Whyte package of amendments, which left Miller-Williams out to dry.

Query what happens to Collins’ “Reform Coalition” now that Bove has effectively left it and Tim Kennedy is moving on to the state senate.

We’ll have the complete list of culturals and the individual votes up later today, but also notable was a restoration of funding for the Comptroller’s auditing staff and reductions elsewhere to pay for it all.

As legislators left their chambers, County Executive Collins held a hastily assembled news conference where he pitched a fit,

The Erie County taxpayers were not well served today.  What we saw across the street was politics at its worst.

Collins also made allusions to the legislature being Santa Claus, money growing on trees, and fumbled a comparative, stating that he wouldn’t trust the legislators “to balance the county budget, much less their own checkbooks”.

During the session, Miller-Williams, who suddenly had no ally in that chamber, kept reminding legislators about the fact that Collins would veto a lot of this stuff, urging them instead to pass her Collins-approved version.  Instead, the legislature showed leadership and re-asserted its co-equal independence from Collins.  That sound and fury from the 16th floor of the Rath Building may very well be Collins’ anger that his carefully crafted de facto majority has crumbled – when it really counts.  His veto pen will fly, and he’ll have to defend his cuts – one by one – to the people in next year’s election.  He’s not the boss of the county – the people are.

But Democratic legislators noted that not one person who contacted them ever expressed any support for Collins’ cuts.  Their constituents want the county to continue to fund cultural organizations and the libraries.  Ultimately, that is whom the legislators serve.

But the most memorable moment of yesterday’s session, as far as what I was able to see, was an outburst by 4th District Legislator Ray Walter.  He very rightly assailed the entire budget process as a failure, saying that “fifteen people fighting over $6 million of a $1 billion budget each year is absurd”, and in a pointed shot at cultural proponents protesting in the legislative chambers added, “this is insane.  Want to protest something?  Protest Albany.  $267 million in property taxes (from one of the poorest counties in New York State) directly to fund Medicaid”.  He blasted unfunded Albany mandates as being the root of all county budget evils, that this is a “fundamentally dysfunctional way to run a state”, urging State Senator-elect Tim Kennedy to “do something about it” when he gets to Albany.  He concluded, “we need to fix the way this system works, or fix the way that we run this county.”

Ray Walter may have voted against the restoration of funding for just about everything yesterday, but he’s absolutely correct when it comes to the absurdity of this process and how harmfully Albany runs this state and its programs.  When he says we need to fix Albany, or fix the way the county is run, he’s absolutely correct.  To my mind, politics should be extracted from the system to the greatest degree possible.  A professional county manager to replace either the County Executive or his deputy would be a great start.

Collins’ vetoes come next, and the budget process concludes next week.

4 Responses to “Erie County Government Bucks Collins, Process Termed “Absurd”, “Insane””

  1. Brian December 1, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    Erie County loves to cry about how much of the property tax goes to Medicaid. Look at the budget, though, and tell me how much of that $1 Billion comes from State grants. 

  2. Chris Charvella December 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Erie County may be better served by a County Manager because of reasonable parity on the legislature. In Genesee County we have a right wing ideologue as manager, hired by a 8-1 Right wing ideologue legislature. I’d love to have a County Executive out here who was directly answerable to voters every few years instead of our Consul for Life.


  1. 2010: This Year in Fail « - December 27, 2010

    […] the year was topped off by the Erie County Legislature doing battle with Chris Collins over 0.1% of the county budget. The regular fights and protests […]

  2. Chris Collins and the Dictatorship of Petty Bureaucracy | Artvoice Daily - October 17, 2012

    […] Collins created new jobs for pet projects, didn’t cut spending overall, and was facing a massive 2011 deficit. At least he had a compliant, but horribly run legislature. Collins then turned his ire towards […]

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