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?