To this day, it boggles my mind how Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso continues to get a free ride from the county unions. This guy has been the biggest anti-union Democrat in the county legislature that I can recall. It started with his hiring of outgoing county manager Greg Lewis, and continues to this day with his recent statements about the county budget.
In this Buffalo News piece, which details the legislature's challenge of closing a $4 million budget gap stemming from huge increases in the county's mandated Medicaid and state pension contributions, Virtuoso states, "I’m certainly not going to vote for a tax increase. The people of Niagara County can’t afford it. We’re going to have to make some serious cuts".
Serious cuts. Virtuoso is like the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day. Every year he comes to the table with his pathetic political posturing, seeking cuts in positions like the legislature clerk, the conflicts attorneys (who were hired because of a judicial mandate) and the county auditor.
For the sake of argument, let's say these positions are eliminated or reduced. The auditor and the clerk are about $100k. You can't dump the conflict attorneys, you can only reduce them. Although anyone with half a brain knows that reducing the number of conflict attorneys will actually increase county costs, let's say we find some magical way to save $100k on conflict attorneys. That leaves the county with a $3.8 million budget shortfall.
Virtuoso said that we need to make "serious cuts" and that he is "certainly not going to vote for a tax increase". The county is facing a $6.9 million increase in Medicaid and state pension costs this year alone. That's not the total, that this year's increase. Considering that 79% of the county's budget is mandated, and that the single biggest variable that is under the control of the legislature is personnel, Virtuoso's threats of needing to make "serious cuts" and his vow not to vote for a tax increase leaves one option: personnel cuts.
Because he is incapable of keeping his piehole shut, Virtuoso's tough stance puts him in a real bind. If he insists on enacting these alleged "serious cuts", he can only do it by screwing the county unions; if he refuses to vote for a tax increase, he screws the unions. The only way he appeases the unions is to support a tax increase - thus the predicament.
It will be interesting to see how he attempts to manipulate his way out of this one - and if the unions continue to give him a free pass after he sticks it to them once again.