Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Imagine That

While Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente is in Albany desperately trying to get sponsors for his proposed hike in the county sales tax at least one county legislator is saying there's another way.

County Legislator Michael J. Hennessy wants to see a greater effort aimed at cutting the cost of county government as County Executive Anthony J. Picente’s sales tax extension proposal comes up for consideration.

Hennessy, D-2, Sherrill, says there are three main areas where savings can be achieved:
• Consolidation of the county’s finance and audit and control functions.
• Possible elimination of the Youth Bureau.
• Cuts in discretionary spending,
Additionally, he wonders if towns could take over some of the work now done by the county Department of Public Works and whether the county is overestimating how much it has to contribute to the retirement system.
"The bottom line is there’s many ways of cutting this budget, in my opinion," he said.

It's good to see someone is considering the possibility of cutting the budget, but it's a huge disappointment that more legislators aren't speaking publicly about the issue. Then again, maybe they are and we aren't hearing about it. I know that most of them rely on the area's traditional media, the Observer-Dispatch, the Sentinel, and what passes for news departments at the local broadcast outlets, so there's a good chance their message isn't going out. Not because of any idealogical conspiracy in the media, although I know a certain amount of that goes on, but because there simply isn't enough airtime or column inches to cover every single political item that gets faxed in.

But I digress.

Meanwhile, Picente and other county representatives were in Albany this morning meeting with the county’s state representatives in hopes of lining up their support for his sales tax plan. Board of Legislature Chairman Gerald J. Fiorini, R-20, Rome, was part of the county delegation.
"I’m waiting to hear from them," Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito, D-116, Rome, said of her scheduled late morning meeting.
State authorization — approval by the state Legislature and enactment by the governor — is required before a county can implement a sales tax.
If Picente can get state lawmakers in both houses to introduce the necessary legislation today or tomorrow, the issue is expected to come up at the county Board of Legislators’ meeting Wednesday afternoon. A simple majority — 15 — of the 29-member county board must vote for the resolution asking state lawmakers to enact legislation authorizing the county to enact a .75 percent sales tax.
The issue is time sensitive because the state Legislature is slated to end its session next month. If the state gives the go-ahead, the county legislature would then vote on the tax a second time.

It would be a terrible, terrible thing if the vote in the county legislature came down on party lines. I'd hate to think of the political fallout if every single Democratic representative followed Mr. Hennessy's lead and voted against the tax increase while the Republicans all voted for it. Sure, it would still pass, but then the local Republicans would own it. I'd hate to see any challengers rubbing their noses in it this fall during the elections.