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Collins tosses out budget amendments

By Joyce Kryszak


Buffalo, NY – Erie County Executive Chris Collins Monday issued 154 vetoes and declared a package of budget amendments approved by lawmakers null and void. The actions once again toss the majority of cultural groups off the 2011 budget.

As promised, Collins rejected every addition in the package of amendments passed by a slim veto-proof number of lawmakers. That includes money for about 40 cultural groups, the libraries, several auditor positions in the comptroller's office, as well as other cuts.

But the county executive did more than that. He declared the entire package illegal.

Collins said lawmakers failed to pass each budget cut line by line. And he said that leaves them millions of dollars short for the additions they did approve correctly.

"They were careless and they were lazy," said Collins.

So, according to Collins, if lawmakers succeed Tuesday at over-riding his vetoes, there would be an imbalance, and consequently, a tax hike.

Kevin Hardwick, the Republican legislator for the 10th district, previously voted with Democrats to give them the super majority needed for the over-ride votes. But, short of a court overturning Collins' actions, Hardwick said he sees no way now to continue his support when the legislature takes over-ride votes.

Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz said the county executive is not acting out of concern for the taxpayers.

"He's acting out of spite. He hates me," said Poloncarz.

Poloncarz said if the actions stand, he will be left with only two auditors in his office. The county executive did not see a problem with that. He said an outside auditing firm reviews the county budget once a year.

Collins did reaffirm his intent to boost library funding by three million dollars using reserve funds. But he said only if the over ride votes fail.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers are considering taking court action to overturn Collins' declaration that their amendment package is null and void.