With a weekend behind them, Westchester County's top legislators are still at odds over Friday's contentious passage of a disputed budget.
Talking to reporters Monday, Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), reiterated the feeling from his caucus that the 2013 budget approved was not a legitimate one. The package was approved 9-0 because two Democrats joined with seven Republicans after the rest of their party's members left the floor. County Executive Rob Astorino signed the measure later that day.
The legislation is disputed to the point that there is even argument over what to call it; Jenkins was careful not to describe what was passed as being a budget.
When one reporter directly asked Jenkins if there is a budget in place, he replied, “Like I said, we have serious concerns about that.”
Jenkins was asked about whether a legal challenge would be made against what was passed but declined to explicitly answer whether it was planned and did not rule it out.
“Can't say," he replied.
The chairman felt that whether to go forward with with a lawsuit would not be known after until after an analysis is done. The analysis he described to reporters would entail a parallel budget review from staff and a review of the Dec. 7 meeting. Review for the later will include the clerk evaluating video of it.
The staff review is for the board's budget committee because Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), who chairs it, opted on Friday to send a proposed version back, a process known as recommitting.
Legislators on both sides of the issue dispute whether recommitting was properly followed on Friday.
Mike Kaplowitz (D-Somers), one of the two Democrats to back the Republican-led budget, noted in a Friday interview that a vote to suspend a rule on recommit meant that Myers could not act as she did. Jenkins, talking to reporters Monday, disagreed, and argued that suspension merely lifted the restriction on who could excerise recommitting and that it was opened up to all legislators. That process, Jenkins argued, is normally reserved for the board chair, majority leader and chair of a relevant committee.
Kaplowitz, in his vote, was joined by Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers).
Talking to reporters from his office at a subsequent press conference, Minority Leader Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle) was adamant in his defense of the budget being lawful.
“We followed the law, there's no question," Maisano said at his press conference.
On another point of legitimacy for the legislation, Jenkins and Maisano are at odds over whether or not the Friday meeting was adjourned when the approval vote was taken. Jenkins, along with Majority Leader Peter Harckham (D-North Salem), argue that it was, while Maisano and Kaplowitz argued that the Democrats simply left with it still being in session.
Jenkins, a legislator since the late 2000s, argued that meetings being adjourned involved unilateral talk from the majority leader, rather than a specific vote. He also argued that the clerk has express similar sentiment.
Maisano said that he was pointing out on Friday that the meeing was not over. Reading from rules text to the press in his office, Maisano argued that a majority vote was needed on a motion to adjourn.
Matthew Richter, a spokesman for the legislative Republicans, responded to Jenkins' assertion by saying that in order to adjourn a meeting without a vote, that it is “without objection, this meeting is adjourned.”
At his press conference, Jenkins was asked by a reporter what would happen if Astorino were to go ahead and act as if he has a budget in place.
“Well, there are certainly options that we have available to us," he replied.
The budget approved by the nine legislators included adding back 27 jobs that Astorino proposed to cut in his early November iteration and raises the parental share of county-supported daycare subsidies to 27 percent, versus 35 percent that Astorino proposed. The legislation does not include a tax levy increase and does not use any reserves; the later item is a point of dispute, with Astorino wanting to avoid reserves spending.