Southworth angered by “unfunded mandate”; cost to come out of general fund
BY MARCI REVETTE
Saratoga County residents voted in an unprecedented additional primary Tuesday night to decide the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in this fall’s election.
This year’s primary vote date was changed by federal District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe from Sept. 11 to June 26 in order to allow sufficient time to send absentee ballots to military voters. The ruling found absentee voters, including military personnel serving overseas, would be unable to participate if the primary were held as originally scheduled.
This changed primary date will cost Saratoga County taxpayers an additional $300,000, according to Town of Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth. “You have to pay for the election inspectors, facilities, printing, overtime for employees,” she said. “Also there will still be a primary on September 13. Every primary costs every county extra money.”
The Sept. 13 primary will decide candidates for state and local offices, according to the New York State Board of Elections.
The additional fiscal burden of the extra primary date has angered local officials. “That money now has to come out of our shrinking fund balance,” Southworth said. “Ultimately that’s less money that we’ll have for the upcoming year’s budget. We’re going to have making even more difficult choices.”
Southworth has been vocal in her opposition to unfunded mandates by both the state and federal government, which she believes place an undue burden on local government finances. “The reality is services are going to be cut to our seniors and other needy citizens,” she said. “Those in the most need are going to be the ones that are hurt. That’s unfortunate because those are the ones we’re supposed to be looking out for.”
The ruling in federal court was an unexpected development.
“The additional $300,000 is on top of budgeted amount for primaries,” Southworth said. “We did our budget in November and it was approved in December. At that point no one knew there would be extra primaries.
“We worked very hard to come up with a balanced budget,” Southworth concluded. “A lot of difficult decisions were being made. And now we’re being told the money has to come from our fund balance, which will ultimately affect the taxpayers.”
Wendy Long, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, defeated U.S. Representative Bob Turner and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos in the 20th Congressional District Republican U.S. Senate primary. She will be facing incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the fall.