We write together today for two important purposes. We point out, for those that don't know, that we are both current Chautauqua County legislators - one of us is a Democrat and one a Republican - and that we represent here only our own views, not those of any other legislator or either political party.
The first important topic concerns the 2012 county budget that was recently passed. Through the efforts and compromises of the entire legislature, the legislature succeeded in reducing the budget to less than a 2 percent increase over 2011. This meant that we complied with the recently passed "tax cap.''
In our opinion, the legislature passed the 2012 budget under the tax cap because a majority of the legislators heard the voice of the public. Loud and clear.
The 2012 budget includes some very difficult cuts to services. Initial credit for many of the cuts goes to County Executive Greg Edwards, who proposed them in his tentative budget. The legislature approved most of those cuts in its final budget and proposed a few more.
The legislature also chose to use funds that the county had retained in "reserve." For example, we are permitted by law to use certain proceeds from the operation of the landfill. This and other choices amount to "one-time" fixes, of which, generally, we do not approve.
However, given the option of an either a 12-plus percent tax increase or utilizing funds held in reserve, we opted to utilize the "reserve" funds now. Had we not opted to use these funds, county taxpayers would have been saddled with a 12-plus percent tax increase next year.
This would have represented an over 20 percent increase in county taxes for the years 2011 and 2012. That was simply unacceptable.
In the long term, we both understand that structural changes need to take place in county government. These changes include deciding on just exactly what we "need" and what we "don't need" in terms of services and levels of services. These are long term strategies and work needs to be done on these items soon.
REDUCING THE LEGISLATURE
The second important topic concerns the referendum upon which we can all vote Tuesday. The public can vote on the size of the legislature. Finally. We will both abide the decision of the voters, either way, content in the fact that we provided the People with a choice.
However, we have both been advocates for the reduction and so we wanted to briefly give the reasons we support the referendum.
1. We have plenty of elected officials: Village, city, town, county, state and federal. A reduction of six seats in the legislature will not deprive anyone of "a voice."
2. It will save some money, and every little bit counts.
3. The number 19 is a compromise between people who disagree. Compromise is an intentional part of our constitutional government.
4. Legislators representing a few more people will give them a broader view of issues that affect people. This will lead to more balanced representation.
5. Most importantly, we believe that a significant majority of people in this county want to see this happen.
We ask for the public to overwhelmingly support the reduction in the size of the legislature on Tuesday. The voice of the people made a difference in the 2012 budget and it can make a difference on this issue too.
Legislator John Runkle of Stockton is a Republican. Legislator John Gullo of Fredonia is a Democrat.