ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Legislator Majority Leader Steve Brew said he was “surprised” after County Executive Adam Bello opted not to sign the county budget Tuesday night.
Republicans say the Democratic executive didn’t sign his own county budget after it was voted on and unanimously approved.
“I was a bit surprised to see that the county executive opted not to sign the budget after it was unanimously approved by the entire legislature,” Brew said in a Tuesday night press release. “It is my understanding that he has been presented with the approved budget and has 48 hours to act on it. The legislature stands ready to meet and consider all items that were put on hold.”
Dr. Carbone and Brew say the fund was something they discussed with Bello as early as last week – he was in the know and in agreement with it. That’s why they say they’re confused he hasn’t approved it right now.
“They constructed the amendment, found the money to do it, with reductions and expenses and they presented it back to us and we agreed to it,” said Brew.
Officials from Bello’s office said Wednesday, “The County Legislature approved the County budget with two amendments last night. The County Executive is currently reviewing those amendments. He has 48-hours to review under the County Charter.”
Republicans say that without Bello’s signature, items contingent upon the passage of the 2021 budget have been put on hold.
One of those items, a newly-proposed “Community Contingency Fund” which would provide up to $2.5 million for the GOP-led legislature. In a press release Tuesday night, Republicans said “The main purpose of this fund is to ensure that there is ample funding for the County Legislature to address the rapidly changing needs and circumstances of the entire Monroe County community.”
Monroe County Minority Leader Yversha Roman released a statement condemning the contingency fund Tuesday night, calling it a “Slush fund.”
Roman told News 8 this contingency fund was too vague – and calls it ‘pork barrel’ politics.
“But how did we get those dollars, how it is divided up in between legislators was really vague,” she said. Roman also noted that the contingency fund for all legislators to use doesn’t make sense when there is a policy that allows a legislator to submit legislation or referral any time, asking for particular need and specific funds in the county, advocating for constituents.
“Tonight, the Democratic Caucus voted against a last-minute amendment introduced by the Republican Majority Leader that created a $2.5 million contingency fund for the legislature,” Roman said. “It is wrong to create an election-year slush fund during a pandemic. There is nothing to stop legislators from submitting legislation for their individual funding proposals. Instead, the GOP set up a pork barrel spending program during a time of crisis. With a 20-9 vote, moving forward it is our duty to collaborate with all legislators on the responsible use of this fund going forward.”
Brew and Dr. Carbone told News 8 one example of a plan for the contingency fund would be a pilot program to support veterans with their mental health. This is a program that Legislator Hebert would seek approval for, using the fund.
With Republican majority support, as well as votes from the Black and Asian Caucus of the legislature, the contingency was approved as a part of the budget, 20-9. Republicans said the vote on the entire budget passed unanimously, 29-0, which included the contingency fund.
Bello has until Thursday at 10.30 p.m. to approve the budget. If he does not, it will go through by default.
The county budget is a separate vote from the amendments. The contingency fund is an amendment.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.