Friday, April 14, 2017

Faso, the GPO, and the Board of Supervisors

Gossips rarely reports on news from county government and even more rarely publishes a press release in its entirety, so on both counts this is an exception. The following is a press release from the Columbia County Democratic Committee reporting what took place on Wednesday night at the Board of Supervisors' meeting.
At its regular meeting Wednesday, the County Board of Supervisors faced a large and vocal crowd of protesters. Chanting “Shame! Shame!” angry county residents responded to the GOP members’ decision to force a rushed vote resolving to support the “Buffalo Bribe” Medicaid funding bill (H.R. 1871) introduced in Congress last week by Representative John Faso. The protest was organized by the Columbia County Democratic Committee and local activist groups.
Supervisors were notified of a vote on the “Resolution in Support of the Property Tax Reduction Act, H.R. 1871 to Eliminate the Local Share of Medicaid” on Tuesday, but Chairman Matt Murell (R) of Stockport allowed no time in the meeting for debate or discussion. The supervisors voted in favor of the resolution 9-7, falling strictly along party lines. Seven supervisors were absent from the meeting.
After the meeting, Democratic County Supervisors were also vocal, both in affirming their support for property tax reduction, and in denouncing their Republican colleagues’ behavior.
Said Art Bassin of Ancram, “While I certainly support the idea of shifting the county cost of Medicaid to the state, I voted to table the county resolution supporting H.R. 1871, and when that failed, voted against the resolution, because we got it at the last minute, had not had a chance to debate it, did not really know what the impact on health care in upstate New York would be or how the state would fund--or not--some or all of the $2.3 billion. In addition, we have no idea how the downstate congressional and state legislative delegations will react to expanding the removal of county Medicaid funding to include New York City--which could make this a $7 billion issue. We did not have the facts we needed to determine the impact of Faso’s bill, or time enough for an adequate public discussion of this issue and its implications.”
Said Peter Cipkowski of Hillsdale, “There was far too much speculation attached to this resolution. We don’t serve to take risks. Any issue that impacts property taxes and local healthcare services deserves the light of day, open debate, and public participation.”
Said William “Billy” Hughes, Jr., of Hudson’s 4th Ward, “I totally disagree with Faso forcing the issue at the County level. Counties and state should be discussing how this issue should be handled. Congressman Faso should be in Washington advocating on healthcare for all, not trying to shift cost responsibility in the state.”
Said Don Moore of Hudson’s 3rd Ward, “It is disappointing to say the least that the Columbia County Board of Supervisors has become a forum for partisan posturing on health care, health care financing, and especially property taxes. It is very difficult to see John Faso's proposal as seriously intended to either improve health care or end up saving taxpayers’ money. I am unable to separate the congressman's legislation that we are asked to support from the larger context of his support for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its $387 billion cut in Medicaid funding. How are we to weigh a supposed savings against such a staggering overall reduction? What does this mean for our sick and for our hospital? If we take our responsibilities seriously, we cannot do this piecemeal, which is why I supported the move to put this resolution back in committee for a more thorough review and discussion both by supervisors and the public. If this is a worthy proposal, it, is worth more than a few minutes of our time.”
Said Rick Scalera of Hudson’s 5th Ward, “All the Democratic Supervisors agree there is nothing more important than providing property tax relief. But the resolution deserved to be discussed much more and questions needed to be answered before anybody could have cast a responsible vote. Personally, I needed to hear from the state's budget office and what ramifications we should expect. Instead all we heard from the Republicans was ‘I think this . . . and maybe that.’ Totally unacceptable to me.”
Said Sarah Sterling of Hudson’s 1st Ward, “As a realtor, I hear all the time about how high property taxes are in New York State. I'm all for shifting costs to income taxes or something that would be a more equal burden to all, however, H.R. 1871 is a simplistic ploy for attention and does nothing to fix the problem. I fear that this will also be tied into an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and who knows what other care we provide for the needy. Meals on Wheels? Medical transportation? By the time this bill arrives for a vote it will undoubtably be much changed, and Columbia County will be tied to something that we didn't even know we were voting for. I'm proud of the Democrats for all voting against this resolution. I'd like to see a proposal that we could all vote for, but that will take time, and the dialogue should be at the state or national level not county. Governor Cuomo has also come out with some proposals, and by voting now, we are just promoting whatever agenda Congressman Faso is promoting today and not an intelligent solution.”
The move by Republicans was particularly surprising given that legislation to eliminate county Medicaid contributions has already been introduced in both the State Assembly and Senate this year, and supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Those proposals also provide that all savings be passed along to property taxpayers, which Congressman Faso’s bill and the supporting resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors last night do not.

Ancram:  Arthur Bassin     No 
Austerlitz:  Robert Lagonia    Absent 
Canaan:  Richard Keaveney    Absent 
Chatham:  Maria Lull     Yes 
Claverack:  Clifford “Kippy” Wiegelt   Yes 
Clermont:  Raymond Staats    Absent 
Copake:  Jeffrey Nayer     Yes 
Gallatin:  John Reilly     Absent 
Germantown:  Joel Craig     Absent 
Ghent:  Michael Benvenuto    Yes 
Greenport:  Edward Nabozny    Yes 
Hillsdale:  Peter Cipkowski    No 
1st Ward:  Sarah Sterling   No
2nd Ward:  Edward Cross, Sr.  No 
3rd Ward:  Don Moore   No 
4th Ward:  William Hughes, Jr.  No 
5th Ward:  Richard Scalera   No 
Kinderhook:  Patrick Grattan    Yes 
Livingston:  James Guzzi     Yes 
New Lebanon:  Colleen Teal     Absent 
Stockport:  Matt Murell     Yes 
Stuyvesant:  Ronald Knott     Yes 
Taghkanic:  Ryan Skoda     Absent

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