April 14, 2009

Gaughn's Deception Continues

Everybody in Western New York knows we need less government, less villages, less boards and less bureaucracy. So I find it baffling that government downsizing advocate Kevin Gaughan finds it necessary to misrepresent and distort the facts regarding our government to make his point.

The premise for his advocacy is cost. He recites the fact that the price tag for politicians in Erie County is $32 million. If government in Erie County was cut in half, from every Town and Village and school board and the City of Buffalo and the County, the savings would be, in theory, $16 million dollars. Now for some perspective: the overtime budget for firefighters in the City of Buffalo is almost $12 million a YEAR. Just overtime!

Gaughan also compares the size of the Erie County and Niagara County legislatures and, based on population, concludes that Niagara County government is even larger than Erie County’s. But nowhere in this analysis does he even bother to mention the cost differential between the two. Erie County legislators are full time, are paid about $46,000 per year and have district offices and staffers. Niagara County legislators are paid $15,000 per year, have no offices, and share three clerks among them. Why would Kevin ignore such a huge disparity when drawing conclusions regarding the size of our government?

Gaughan also asserts that “after just eight years, most of these folks are eligible for lifelong health care.” I have made several calls and have been unable to find any local governments that provide this benefit. In fact, the Niagara County legislature eliminated their lifetime health care benefits altogether. But yet Kevin does not even mention that. Our legislators had the courage- yes, I call it courage when an elected official reduces his own compensation- to do this and yet get absolutely no recognition for this move.

So why the half-truths and lies? What is his agenda?

If Kevin Gaughan really cared about saving us money and returning our region to prosperity, he would use this opportunity to focus on the real issues: unsustainable Medicaid spending and a government workforce that costs us more than we can afford, from their lifetime health insurance to their pensions to their wages to their overtime. The City of Buffalo has a cop that made $190,000 last year. That is more than the Governor of the State of New York. That is more than an Appellate Court Judge. (I just read that Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, is paid $125,000 per year. Buffalo has dozens of public servants that earn more than her too.) Yet where is Kevin? It’s like finding Waldo. I will tell you why he doesn’t talk about this. It is uncomfortable. The second he mentions the Taylor Law or binding arbitration or pensions based on the last years of service, every cop and firefighter on the government payroll will show up in force and accuse him of ignoring public safety.

So choose politicians, the path of least resistance. No union or special interest group will say a word. It is the easy way out. But out of what? Kevin, I know you have a plan. What is it?


Oliver said...

Gaughn is going after the low hanging fruit. It's easy to advocate for "getting rid of politicians" but much harder to make meaningful changes that will really save money. Gaughn should use his time and energy to work with local elected officials to reduce the number of cities, towns, villages and school boards. Cutting part time council members at less than $10,000 a pop has less effect than consolidating the 10 plus school districts in Niagara County down to 3.

It's just easier to do the popular thing

wnytomato said...

You complain that Gaughan misrepresents the lifelong health benefits some officials recieve, and then you cite them yourself as one of the "real issues" we have. Way to contradict yourself. And it's bad journalism to quote Gaughan without a cite. Where did that come from? For all I know you made it up, and it's possibly taken way out of context (which is my assumption). This post is nothing but you whining with little to back up your opinion. Just because there are 20 other things wrong doesn't mean we shouldn't fix this thing.

The most important thing Gaughan is doing, in my opinion, is attempting to make our government smaller and more efficient like the rest of the (growing!) country. I don't care if it only saves me one cent as long as WNY can recover from the pathetic path it's on.

Oliver, you say "it's just easier to do the popular thing"... didn't Gaughan MAKE this the popular thing?