It's time for a confession, and a call to action.
"We are steadily approaching the time when Albany will be unable to squeeze any more blood out of us. That time may be a year, a decade, or a generation away, yet it is coming," a Jan. 2, 2011, column on this page said.
"Unless Albany changes course, we are approaching the time when local governments will have few choices other than to stand together and say, with the public's backing: 'That's it, Albany. We're done. You've squeezed the last drop of blood out of us. We're not giving you any more, because there's none left to give.'"
When this correspondent wrote that, he thought the time was closer to a generation.
It is not.
How much time each locality has depends on the circumstances of each. Yet here in Chautauqua County, the time is getting short.
Take just the county budget as an example. According to data from reports in this newspaper, the starting point in discussing next year's county budget is a property-tax-levy increase exceeding 10 percent. This comes despite wringing out significant spending that state law allows the county to control. The increase is overwhelmingly due to state mandates.
If we do not stand together and tell Albany "no" now, then when will we? Would a 20 percent hike do it? How about 30, 40, or 50? Or 100, or 200? If not immediately, then over however few years.
Does this sound absurd? Sure it does. But 10, 20, or 30 years ago, how absurd would the current facts have sounded? When it comes to Albany-imposed nightmares, today's absurdity is often tomorrow's reality.
So among the questions all local elected officials - Democrats, Republicans, and others - need to ask themselves is whether they will say "no," and when. If not they, then who? If not now, then when?
Saying "no" to Albany while saying "yes" to a brighter future is fraught with legal challenges: Under state law, localities are creations of the state. Besides, if the ruckus arises from only one county, then count on state government to descend mercilessly.
Change can come when elected officials from across the state - with the public's backing - stand together and refuse to let local taxes satisfy Albany's voracious appetite for government spending.
Elected officials from across the state should consider this: Your strength lies in the power of the ideas and the power of numbers. If you will just stick together, it will be much harder for Albany to come after all of you.
West Ellicott resident Randy Elf, an alumnus of The Post-Journal, has been a teacher, a law clerk to two federal judges, a state Assembly candidate, and a lawyer.