MAYVILLE - County Republicans don't always disagree with Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk.
During the recent sales tax debate, one such legislator said he agreed with statements made by Ahlstrom - statements made close to seven years ago.
George Borrello, R-Irving, quoted something Ahlstrom said in 2004, when a similar proposal to increase sales tax rate was before the County Legislature.
Legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, makes a point during last month’s reapportionment vote. Borrello also spoke in favor of increasing the sales tax rate during the legislature’s recent business meeting.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
At that time, it was Ahlstrom and county Democrats who were requesting the rate be increased to 8.25 percent.
"I'm very happy that he said that he voted for it then and I understand the reasons why he wants to vote against it now, but I do want to point out something very important he said in his statement," Borrello told his fellow legislators. "He said: 'Once again, we are gathered here for our annual budget debate. The budget process seems to be the one area where political ambitions and partisan politics cannot be put aside.' Couldn't agree with you more, Mr. Ahlstrom. You're absolutely right."
Borrello continued on to ask for such politics to be set aside and for the vote on the sales tax request to be done on the facts of the county's current fiscal situation, devoid of all posturing.
"Let's put the partisan politics aside and understand one thing that's very clear here," Borrello said. "If we eliminate every single non-mandated service, we are still looking at a $2 per thousand increase to our property taxes. Let me say that again, because I feel that that's very important. If we eliminate every single non mandated service - Office for the Aging, the Meals on Wheels program, the sheriff's road patrol, fixing roads and bridges, plowing roads ... some things that I consider kind of important, we're still looking at a $2 per thousand increase in our property taxes."
SALES TAX PASSAGE
Described by Republican legislators as being the first of several steps county government is going to have to take in the coming months to address the 2012 budget deficit, the resolution regarding the sales tax rate passed in a 15 to 7 vote.
Not an automatic increase, the request will now go to Albany for approval from the state Senate and Assembly. If passed there, it will then return to Chautauqua County for final approval by the legislature.
In his comments to the legislature, Borrello called the potential increase "the lesser of two evils" - when considering an increase to either the sales tax or property taxes.
Other Republican legislators similarly argued that all people, across the board, pay sales tax to varying degrees. Summer visitors to the county pay sales tax. People who rent pay sales tax on items, but not property taxes. Drug dealers pay sales tax.
"Those are the harsh realities of the fact that this is the fairest of all taxes, if, in fact, a tax can be fair by itself," Borrello said.
The Irving Republican continued on to call Albany the real problem, characterizing the state government as a "Draconian force" which created the county's current situation and also pitted it and all the other local municipalities against each other.
CALLING OUT DEMOCRATS
Borrello stopped short of asking Democrats "Where's the beef" during the April 27 meeting.
In another quote, Borrello highlighted something else that Ahlstrom said in 2004 - that legislators opposed to increasing the sales tax rate proposed no other alternatives to dealing with the budget.
"Where are the alternatives?" Borrello questioned.
Just about the only alternative the county has, he said, is to decide which appendage legislators like the least and to cut it off.
"Mr. Ahlstrom, if he's going to vote against it, is doing the same politicking that he was against in 2004," Borrello said. "So, Mr. Ahlstrom, I ask you, let's put that aside and let's make the tough decisions and then let's cut the budget as much as we can. But at the end of the day, even with cutting everything we still are facing a very large increase.
"I don't like this," Borrello continued. "I wish we didn't have to do it. And quite frankly, I feel like a big party was thrown long before I was here and now I have to pay the bill with county tax dollars. But guess what? A lot of you guys were here and threw that party. I hope you enjoyed it, but now it's time to pay the bill."