Editorial: Take an honest look, lawmakers

We bring you news this week of the Albany County tentative budget for 2013, and as has become customary, it’s a doozey.

County Executive Dan McCoy’s spending plan is nothing if not comprehensive. It is based in no small part on a plan to privatize the county nursing home, which if McCoy’s estimates are correct would save taxpayers $70 million over the next decade, primarily by stemming the annual multimillion dollar loss the county must absorb by operating the home. The county executive came into office knowing he would have to tackle this elephant in the room, and here he is at least making an effort to move things forward without completely shuttering a refuge of last resort for the county’s needy citizens.

Whether those efforts will be in vain or not is still undetermined, though. The County Legislature makes the ultimate determination on a budget, and this body has a history of using fuzzy math to justify spending plans best viewed with rose-colored glasses. Let us not forget this group of lawmakers passed a 2012 budget that hiked taxes by nearly 9 percent and proclaimed it a landmark victory simply because the number had started at 20 percent. In fact, taxes have risen for four consecutive years now by our count, and each year they provide diminished returns in terms of services.

This body has also for the past few years doggedly stuck to plans to borrow massive sums of money to construct a new and grander nursing home, a proposal the state has frowned upon by denying the county’s certificate of need for the project. And why wouldn’t an honest review of the facts fi nd the idea to be wanting? The facility is projected to run $24 million in the hole every year, which is a business plan that makes today’s $7 to $9 million deficits look like a paragon of efficiency.

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