As we usher in 2015, let’s reflect on the past and look forward to a promising year ahead. We recently emerged from a long and grueling budget process that was filled with a series of difficult choices. While most in the Legislature punted on the hard decisions, I am gratified that they took my lead to hold to the state’s two-percent tax cap. After three years of double-digit tax hikes, this is a tacit acknowledgement that Rockland County residents have given too much. I am proud to set the bar for future budgets.
A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy. Our efforts to attract new companies and expand existing businesses are direct evidence that the underpinnings of our county are strong, competitive and resilient enough to overcome any challenges we face. As we keep taxes low and exercise fiscal restraint, we can only increase opportunities for investment in our towns and villages, so our residents have more money to spend on their families and save for the future.
In the face of a $138 million deficit, and labeled as the most “fiscally stressed” county in New York by the state Comptroller’s Office, our Democratic-controlled Legislature refused to choose right path forward. They remain in their respective comfort zones, rehashing old political positions and continuing unwise spending habits. I believe this to be the reason why the public holds the county government in such low esteem. This is a profound problem for our entire system of self-government. Without the trust of the people, governance degenerates into mere spectacle, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the newspapers.
In the new year, I will work to overcome the sharp divisions that often leave our politics in gridlock. Your legislators and I were elected to do the people’s business. I call on my colleagues to rise above partisan interest and work for the good of Rockland County. Know that I pledge to do the same as I have not come here to embrace delay or denial. I will not be deterred from this goal.
In the coming year, we will continue to honestly assess our financial condition and take the responsible actions to right-size county operations and reduce our deficit. As we did in 2014, choices will be made and difficult decisions taken. We will take aggressive steps to fight back against those caught “gaming the system” or ignoring our housing and zoning laws. On the issue of Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center, we continue to work toward a smooth transfer of ownership to Sympaticare, Inc. On the issue of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, I continue to work with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to make sure the already-high bridge tolls don’t grow any higher.
This new year, please keep our dedicated first responders in your thoughts. And, farther from home, please be grateful for the service and sacrifice of our Nation’s troops and their families. During this hopeful time of year, we remain mindful of the courage and resolve of the fine men and women who protect our country and defend freedom’s cause.
As we welcome this New Year, I thank you for your trust in my leadership and confidence in our purpose. Rockland County’s greatest days are still to come.
As your County Executive, I send you my best wishes for a happy New Year.