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Astorino Issues 27 Vetoes Totaling $10 Million

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – County Executive Robert Astorino vetoed 27 items in the 2012 Westchester budget Wednesday that collectively cut approximately $10 million destined for neighborhood health centers, a Bee Line bus route, the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Invest in Kids youth programs, and families who faced a co-payment increase for subsidized child care.

Astorino, a Republican, singled out funding for programs he considered wasteful in the $1.69 billion budget adopted by county legislators last Thursday.

"That the number of vetoes is much smaller than last year is indicative of the fact that the 2012 budget was forged with bi-partisan support,” Astorino said in a statement. “There are areas where I think stronger or different actions were needed to address, rather than merely postpone, some of the county’s fundamental financial problems.”

The county executive opted not to veto the 187 positions county lawmakers wrote back into the budget as a "good-faith gesture" to unions that previously faced 210 layoffs.

"The unions need to know that every month without health care contributions means more potential layoffs next year. The math is the math,” Astorino said in a press release. "Union members have to start contributing in a meaningful way for their health care – just like everyone else."

Astorino's administration eliminated $1.9 million for Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center, Hudson River Healthcare, and Open Door Family Medical Center, saying, there was no sense in funding non-governmental health agencies when mandated county health programs received cuts.

Astorino's team vetoed $4.3 million put in by lawmakers to keep parents contributions to subsidized child care down to 20 percent of the difference between their income and the poverty level, instead of the 35 percent proposed by the county executive .

The Department of Social Services told Astorino that keeping the co-payment at 20 percent will likely cause the program to run out of money in October.

The Astorino administration also vetoed $990,000 for the Cornell Cooperative Extension and $243,436 used to run the Route 76 bus line, which he suggested merging with the Route 13 line.

Slightly less than $2.5 million for Invest in Kids programs was nixed for youth programs that Astorino said either didn't fill out a "request for proposal" funding application or "passed muster" on the application.

Although the administration said it began electronically documenting vetoes around 4 p.m., Thomas Staudter, a press representative for the county legislators, said lawmakers didn't get the vetoes by 5 p.m. and weren't sure they fell within the five-day window Astorino had to submit line item vetoes.

The county executive still could choose to veto the entire budget, however, his press team said he had no intention of doing so.

After hearing about the vetoes, Legislator William Ryan (D – District 5) said he would "certainly" vote to override any cuts to Invest in Kids programs, de-funding the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and eliminating county money for neighborhood health centers.

"The neighborhood health centers collectively represent an important component of the health care delivery service in the county," Ryan said. "I don't know how you can go into 2012 without them."

Ryan said he'd also vote to override decreased funding for the child care subsidy program because families who rely on the program may wind up unemployed if they cannot afford the co-payment increase.

"If they’re going to be able to continue to remain on the job and earn a paycheck and pay taxes, families need quality day care to rely on and it can be expensive," Ryan said.

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