WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The Republican minority became the majority on the Westchester County Legislature Friday afternoon and voted to pass its version of the 2013 county budget after all but two Democrats walked out of the chamber.
The Republicans said there was a quorum because Democratic legislators Virginia Perez and Michael Kaplowitz remained in the room.
Both threw support behind the minority report, the Republicans' version of the 2013 budget, which keeps the tax levy flat and restores at least 30 of the 126 jobs cut in County Executive Robert Astorino's proposed budget.
The Democrats contend that it was not an official vote. However, Astorino signed the budget Friday afternoon.
"Today's actions of the Republican legislators, along with that of Legislator Perez and Legislator Kaplowitz were despicable and made a mockery of the legislative process," said legislature Chairman Ken Jenkins, D-Yonkers.
Democrat Judy Myers, chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, had moved to recommit the budget, which would kick the spending plan back to the budget committee. Then, Jenkins adjourned the meeting.
The Republicans' version of the budget would also lower the parent share of subsidized childcare from 35 percent in the proposed budget to 27 percent. Democrats proposed keeping the share at 20 percent.
“While this compromise doesn’t provide everything we would like to see, it is far more preferable than the alternative of a wholesale veto or a fiscal standoff,” Perez said before the special legislators' meeting Friday.
Her Democratic colleagues said they would rather have no budget at all than pass Astorino or the Republicans' proposals. If a budget cannot be agreed upon, it would revert back to 2012 levels.
“Returning to last year’s budget will be a huge improvement and big step toward fiscal stability, compared to what the County Executive is proposing,” said Peter Harckham, D-Katonah, majority leader for the Democrats.
Thursday, the Democrats released their list of deletions from the budget to offset their added spending. Among the cuts were 57 members of Astorino’s staff, who Democrats said make an average of $97,000.
Astorino criticized the move, as well as using $11 million of the county’s reserve funds to pay for tax certioraris. His proposal would bond $13 million to pay for this year’s tax certioraris.
“There’s no way we sanction laying off 126 experienced professionals… while agreeing to keep 57 political hires on the county payroll," Harckham said. "This is not the kind of budget Westchester taxpayers want.”