On Thursday, the Erie County Legislature voted against the proposal to authorize the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority to proceed with the 2007 capital borrowing. The Legislature anguished over this decision and, contrary to the suggestion that legislators were being "difficult," it is important for the public to know that we did so as a matter of public policy -- public policy that was set after a thorough examination of the facts.
Fundamentally there are three reasons why the majority of legislators made this determination. The first reason is that we believe it will cost Erie County money. The control board alleges $600,000 of savings over 30 years. But that savings is discounted by the $21 million it will take to fund the control board staff necessary to manage this new debt during the same 30 years. Thus, it is a cost rather than a savings.
Furthermore, the county's comptroller, Mark Poloncarz, testified that there will be a significant long-term negative impact on the county for leaving the credit market, especially when it is not necessary to do so.
The second reason is very simply that it is not necessary. Erie County does not need deficit financing and has not reached its borrowing limit. Every control board in the history of New York conducted borrowing on behalf of a municipality because that municipality either needed deficit financing or had reached its borrowing limit. Neither of these factors is true in Erie County. Setting a statewide precedent like this for a costly long-term mistake seems entirely unwise.
The third reason is that no declaration of financial need by the county has been made. Under the control board's enabling legislation, the county must ask the control board to borrow on its behalf. Before asking, the statute requires the Legislature to make the public policy judgment that a financial need exists for the control board to conduct borrowing. For all of the reasons articulated above, a majority of legislators, as a matter of public policy, see no financial need and are not prepared to ask the control board to conduct the county's borrowing at this time.
Despite this public policy judgment, the control board seems unrelenting. It wants to force the Legislature to make the request. Clearly we won't. At least not like this. The result is a stalemate in which valuable projects such as the Buffalo Bills scoreboard and necessary road and bridge repairs hang in the wind.
The control board should respect our decision. It should reconsider its previous actions and authorize our duly elected comptroller to conduct the borrowing. Then he can immediately cash advance on the projects hanging in the wind and all of us can come back to the table in a cooperative fashion.
Only then will we be able to move forward together, with this stalemate behind us, focusing on the real issues the ones worth millions of dollars in the 2008 budget and four-year plan. Certainly the taxpayers deserve that.
Maria Whyte, D-6th District, is a member of the Erie County Legislature.