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Erie County candidates spar over public authority debt figures

August 4, 2011

Last week, incumbent Erie County Executive Chris Collins announced his intention to reduce the county’s debt by nearly $200 million if he wins another term, but his challenger and current county comptroller, Mark Poloncarz, called him out for including $100 million of public authority debt in the plan.

In a statement from the county comptroller’s office, Poloncarz argued that “although [Collins] would like to pretend that more than $100 million in debt related to the Erie County Medical Center Corporation (‘ECMC’) is ‘off the County books,’ the County is still legally obligated to guarantee that debt, must identify it under New York State law as a long-term outstanding indebtedness obligation of the County, and we would be forced to pay it if ECMC were to ever default.”

According to an editorial in ArtVoice, Collins’ campaign spokesman responded by “reiterating the claim that re-booking the $100 million in ECMC debt represented legitimate debt reduction, without offering an argument for why that was so.” The ArtVoice report also suggested that it would be “as absurd to argue that the $100 million represents debt reduction as it would be to argue that all the guaranteed debt accumulated by New York State’s public authorities is something other than public debt.”

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