In an effort to rid the We
stchester County Board of Legislators of that “magic number” of 12 Democrats, the county executive on Monday backed a slate of “reformers” who share his vision.
No surprise: They’re all Republicans.
With a motto of “Candidates For a Healthy Westchester,” GOP County Executive Rob Astorino said the goal is to make Westchester affordable and to shed the distinction of being the highest-taxed county in the U.S.
Astorino cited 247 vetoes that were overridden by the county board and said the only way to move forward on his fiscal reforms was to vote out the Democrats, or at the very least, eliminate their “magic” veto-proof supermajority of 12 votes.
“Right now we have a county government at the Board of Legislators level that has blocked just about every reform possible,” Astorino said, standing in front of the Westchester County Center alongside two Republican incumbents and five challengers. “People voted in 2009 to make changes. We’ve done the best we can. … In order to do that, we need a true partner with the eighth floor, the Board of Legislators themselves.”
The board has 12 Democrats and five Republicans; all 17 are up for election on Nov. 8.
Astorino and the candidates outlined a platform of lowering taxes, job growth, open government, cutting waste, working with government and protecting local zoning rights. It’s about about cooperation and working together, he said.
“Just because it comes from me doesn’t mean it should automatically be killed,” Astorino said.
They blamed Democrats on the board — who they said operated under “one-party rule” while Andrew Spano was county executive — for Westchester’s badge of having the highest property taxes in the nation for five years and accused them of raiding reserves and other actions that Astorino dubbed “fiscal insanity.”
But Democrats say it was they who delivered on a 2.2 percent tax levy decrease and $30 million in spending cuts, all while protecting child care, forensics labs, shelters, emergency services and other vital county programs.
And they provide a check on the executive branch.
“The fact is we provided more than twice the tax relief than he did,” said Majority Leader Peter Harckham, D-Katonah. “Our budget process was held in the open. His was done in his corner office. The facts speak for themselves.”
Harckham said Democrats took a “more thoughtful approach” in slicing services compared with a “blunt ax approach to cutting things.”
“We’re providing checks and balances to his unbalanced approach,” Harckham said.
But for the majority leader’s opponent, Peter Michaelis, cutting $30 million out of a $1.8 billion budget isn’t enough.
“This is a dysfunctional legislative body that seriously believes that it has lowered taxes twice” what the county executive proposed, Michaelis said. “We need new leadership to make real cuts. Saving $30 million a year isn’t going to cut it.”
County Executive Rob Astorino’s slate of reform candidates:
District 1: Legislator John Testa
District 2: Peter Michaelis*
District 3: Michael Smith
District 4: Terrence Murphy
District 5: Iris Pagan*
District 6: David Gelfarb
District 7: Suzanna Keith*
District 9: Susan Konig*
District 10: Legislator Sheila Marcotte*
District 11 : Legislator James Maisano
District 14: Legislator Bernice Spreckman
District: 15: Legislator Gordon Burrows*
District 17: Carmen Gomez Goldberg*
* Present at Monday’s news conference