Vetoes funding requests because of votes against budget
Dutchess County’s outgoing county executive William F.X. O’Neil decided to punish three legislators for voting against the 2024 budget on Dec. 15 by vetoing their funding proposals.
Donna Bolner, a Republican from LaGrangeville, added $3,000 to the budget to buy cellphones for police officers; Craig Brendli, a Democrat from Poughkeepsie, added $20,000 to boost funding for the Human Rights Commission; and Barrington Atkins, a Democrat from Poughkeepsie, inserted $52,349 to hire a recovery coach for youth and $25,000 for the Path to Promise program for children and teens.
O’Neil said the legislators were “disingenuous” because they had voted against the budget as a whole after their amendments were approved. “This is not governing; this is grandstanding, and it is wrong,” he wrote in a memo.
The budget passed, 15-9, with three Republicans joining six Democrats in opposition, an unusual level of disunity in a Legislature where the 17 Republicans and eight Democrats often split along party lines. The disunion represented conflict over increases in salaries and sales taxes.
O’Neil, who was appointed last year after Marc Molinaro was elected to the U.S. House, is retiring Dec. 31. He will be succeeded by former state Sen. Sue Serino, a Republican who won the seat in November.
After an override vote failed, Democratic legislators denounced the vetoes, and Republicans who had initially approved the new funding reversed their positions.
Yvette Valdés Smith, who represents parts of Beacon and Fishkill and is the minority leader, noted in a statement that the veto of extra funding for the Human Rights Commission comes at a time of rising antisemitism and Islamophobia.
The Democrats also continued their criticism of the substantial pay raises approved for the county executive (18 percent), county clerk (26 percent) and legislators (68 percent), which O’Neil allowed to stand although he described them as “an area of concern.”
“Our neighborhoods needed this extra funding, not higher salaries for elected officials,” said Atkins.
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