Two versions of taxes, budgets and fiscal responsibility; some facts and heard-on-the-streets; Grant tops Langworthy

The United States Senate this past Friday completed its version of their so-called tax reform legislation. The 500 page bill was prepared entirely by the Republican Majority in the Senate; no Democrats allowed. It was approved in the dead of night, with last minute amendments hand-written illegibly in some cases. Lobbyists had copies of the bill before senators did. The legislation will increase the national debt by one trillion dollars over the next ten years.

The Erie County Legislature later this week will likely unanimously approve a 2018 Erie County Budget. The budget will include some extra money for ECC as well as a few minor amendments that add a handful of jobs and provide funding to community organizations. The typed changes to County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s original proposal were offered by both the Republican Majority caucus and the Democratic Minority caucus. The meeting will occur in the middle of the afternoon. The budget will be balanced.

The United States Congress still has a few pesky things to do to finish up their fiscal work. They need to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the “tax reform” legislation, which they will wrap in a few days (just in case their pedophile candidate loses his Senate race in Alabama). They need to keep the government running for a few days. They need to fund Obamacare if they are true to the Republican commitment to Senator Susan Collins. They need to soon raise the national debt limit, plus a few other things like continuing health care for the nation’s poorest children. All of these things will be hard for the congressional majorities to do, since fiscal responsibility is only a slogan for them, not something they live by.

The approval of the balanced 2018 Erie County Budget is basically wrapped up, including tax decisions, spending priorities and capital projects for the year. It’s done that way because state law and county law require balanced, on-time budgets.

The so-called federal tax reform will do great damage to many taxpayers in New York State. The likely finished bill will, for example, limit deductions for state and local income and property taxes to $10,000. This is what is refer to as SALT – state and local taxes. The cutback in this deduction will take a lot of deduction dollars away from a lot of people, so what we will be left with will be a pinch of SALT.

Standard deductions will be raised, but personal deductions will be deleted, so a family with two or three children will probably lose out in the tradeoff. Reducing the attractiveness of itemizing deductions means hurting charities everywhere. Graduate school students, college employees and teachers will lose their tax breaks. Local governments and school districts will lose the ability to re-finance debt when interest rates fall, which will hurt taxpayers.

New York State is a revenue donor state to the rest of the country, so while New Yorkers are dealing with the consequences of “tax reform,” farmers in Nebraska will still be getting their subsidies and our cash will flow to places like Texas which needs to rebuild because they were careless enough to allow thousands of people to build homes and businesses on flood plains.

But in Erie County, which is bound to follow the laws which require fiscal responsibility, budgets are approved and taxes are being set in a rational and sane manner.

Congressman Collins and his allies in the White House and Congress have sold Western New York and the rest of the state down the river. I guess Chris learned nothing about fiscal responsibility from his time as Erie County Executive.

The Republican Party is serving as enablers to the mad man who sits in the White House. But the base, that famous base, the Trump base, is happy. So to hell with the country as long as the base is happy. Sad!

Some facts and some heard-on-the-streets

Final 2017 campaign financial reports have been filed. Some highlights:

  • Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw spent a total of $129,986 in his campaign, which he won by a comfortable 55-45 margin, the largest of the three contested countywide elections. His committee was left with a balance of $10,821. Expect a Stefan for County Executive organization to be put together in 2018, in preparation for 2019.
  • New Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns spent $118,859 in his campaign, which he won 52-48 with a plurality of 7,383 votes. His campaign balance is $7,691, which he will immediately need to build up for the 2018 election for a full four year term. He will face an election turnout in 2018 that will be larger countywide, but more importantly, larger in the City of Buffalo, than it was this year.
  • Sheriff Tim Howard was re-elected to a fourth term by a 51-49 margin and a victory by just 3,389 votes. He spent a total of $339,972 in 2017 and has a balance of $7,357.
  • County Legislature Majority Leader Joe Lorigo was re-elected by a 55-45 margin, with 2,574 more votes than his opponent, Michele Schoeneman. Lorigo spent $119,818, an extraordinary sum for a county legislative race. The race was highly negative.
  • County Legislature Minority Leader Tom Loughran was re-elected by a more impressive 57-42 margin (2,769 votes) against an opponent whose campaign was dominated by negative advertising. Loughran only spent $26,803.
  • Newly elected County Legislature John Bruso was elected by a small margin, 51-49 (453 votes) in another campaign that was marked by a load of highly negative advertising by incumbent Ted Morton.

Grant wins over Langworthy

While the elected officials noted above were the main features of the 2017 elections in Erie County, a secondary contest was playing out. Political consultants Chris Grant and Nick Langworthy were collecting big money in the local campaigns. Langworthy is, of course, also the Republican County Chairman.

During the 2017 election cycle in the County, Grant’s Big Dog Strategies collected $175,890 in fees and other payments from local candidates that included Stefan Mychajliw ($99,890), Joe Lorigo ($3,500), Dennis Gaughan ($37,500), Tim Howard ($20,000) and Acea Mosey ($15,000). Big Dog was also paid $107,236 by the New York State Republican Committee, which produced significant mailings for the Town of Amherst candidates.

Langworthy’s Liberty Opinion Research produced $154,129 in local revenues from candidates including Mickey Kearns ($91,815), Joe Lorigo ($20,000), Real Conservatives ($30,000), Michael Ranzenhofer ($8,814) and Dennis Gaughan ($3,500). I do not recall any local party County Chairman ever having campaign work paid to a consulting firm that he owns.

Speculation and rumors

  • The two prime candidates for Chairman and Majority Leader of the County Legislature, which will switch to Democratic control in January, are current Minority Leader Loughran and Legislator Peter Savage. Savage has the edge for Chairman.
  • The two prime candidates for Minority Leader of the Republican Caucus in the Legislature are rumored to be Kevin Hardwick and Ed Rath.
  • Stories are circulating that outgoing Hamburg Town Supervisor Steve Walters may be in line to be appointed attorney for the town, while defeated Republican candidate for Supervisor Dennis Gaughan could get a deputy town attorney appointment. Democrat Jim Shaw will be the new Supervisor but the Republicans will control the Town Board.
  • Perennial Town of Tonawanda candidate Kevin Stocker may be taking another shot at political office in 2018, once again challenging State Senator Chris Jacobs, but perhaps this time as the member of a different political party.
  • The Bills will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Christmas Eve, which would seem to be very appropriate.
  • The Sabres were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs a couple weeks ago. Okay, that is not technically correct. The real date will be sometime in early February.

What if they gave an election and nobody came?

Tuesday’s primary elections were some of the most anticlimactive political events that I have ever seen – a very boring day. It was like Erie County voters collectively sighed, “whatever!”

The race for Mayor of Buffalo in the Democratic primary seemed pre-ordained for a long time. Mark Schroeder and Betty Jean Grant gave spirited efforts. Schroeder’s TV ads were very well done and he put the best effort into telling voters what he would do in the next four years. For the most part Schroeder and Grant’s attacks on Mayor Brown’s record were professional and controlled. Continue reading

The Republican commitment to enacting Trumpcare comes to a fork in the road; In Memoriam, Father Vincent M. Cooke, S.J. and Bill Mariani

So this is what all the waiting was for? A warmed over hybrid of Obamacare and the House “repeal and replace” bill is all the United States Senate Republicans could come up with? They hid in a secluded room for weeks to produce this?

I’ll give them this: amending Obamacare is hard and complicated work. Who knew? Continue reading

Salaries and contracts — ECMC, ECWA and ECC

There was a time during the financial meltdown of Erie County government in 2005 when the Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Erie County Fair tried to distance themselves a bit from the “Erie County” part of their names. It was understandable, since Erie County wasn’t a very positive brand name at the time.

We could be coming to a point where Erie County government might, by name association, become concerned about other entities that are affiliated in some fashion with the government, yet still remain essentially independent. I am referring to the Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMCC, or more commonly, ECMC), the Erie County Water Authority (ECWA), and Erie Community College (ECC). Continue reading

Issues and unintended consequences concerning a state “free tuition” plan

An old expression goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last week proposing a free college tuition plan offers new opportunities for many families with incomes under $125,000. It also raises a number of concerns. There might be some unintended consequences if the plan is approved by the State Legislature. Continue reading

ECC planning for senior management raises and a structural realignment

The Board of Trustees of Erie Community College, at their meeting on Monday, November 21, will vote on a resolution that provides a schedule of salary increases for the School’s senior staff, which is known as the Senior Executive Staff, or SES. The Board will likely also review a re-alignment of its management structure, eliminating, adding and re-titling a number of positions, and changing some reporting arrangements. Continue reading