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Mahoney wants budget votes to be after Election Day

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney delivering her budget address to the legsislature Tuesday.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s proposed 2016 budget is pretty much a status quo document. Spending is down slightly and the tax levy is down a bit  to a historic low. The only fee increases involve sewer rates that are part of a five-year sewer improvement plan. The only proposal that is generating flak initially is a proposal to change the legislature’s budget calendar.

Mahoney’s first budget experience laid the groundwork for this year’s proposal to push the legislature’s budget deadline from October to December.

“In 2008, when I was presenting my first budget to the legislature, I projected a four percent increase in sales tax, and by the time the legislature approved that budget, we had the collapse of the economy. And in 2009 we were short $30 million in sales tax revenue,” said Mahoney in her budget address to the legislature.

Mahoney says that kind of scenario could be avoided in the future if budget votes are moved later in the year, because officials would be able to more accurately project sales tax revenue. The idea of a delay doesn’t sit well with Republican Legislator Kevin Holmquist.

“Her proposal is asking us to vote on that [budget] every year, after Election Day. And a lot of bad things can happen after Election Day,” he said.

Holmquist says for the sake of government accountability, lawmakers should vote on the budget before Election Day.  

Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon isn’t sure where this will all go, but says it’s worth a discussion.

"I just don’t think it’s put together enough votes to pass, but we’ll debate it and we’ll talk about it the next three of four weeks here,” said McMahon.

Lawmakers vote on the budget this year on October 13. Mahoney and legislators running for re-election face the voters November 3. Mahoney wants the budget vote pushed to December 6.

Mahoney’s 2016 proposal is a $1.2 billion budget that holds the line on taxes and spending.

Mahoney says lower property tax rates in part, are a result of the growing importance of sales tax revenue.

“That money coming into our budget and reducing our spending at the same time, allows us to very gradually, continually, year after year, lower the rate.”  

That’s why Mahoney says projects like the recently completed Lakeshore Amphitheater, which is projected to bring in millions in sales tax, are so important.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.