WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- It all came back to taxes.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R-Mount Pleasant) and his challenger Senator George Latimer (D-Rye) went at it in an oftentimes contentious debate at the Reckson Center in White Plains Tuesday night sponsored by the Business Council of Westchester. Astorino is running for a third term.
Astorino touted his record as county executive, having cut the tax levy by two percent while saying he maintained essential services and promoted economic development.
"We have gotten rid of waste," Astorino said. "There has been an increase in population because people want to come here. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in New York State."
Latimer said Astorino has mismanaged the county by using one-shot deals to fill holes in the county budget all while eyeing a run for governor in 2018. Westchester ranks 53rd of 57th counties in the state when it comes to fiscal health.
"The county is at a crossroads," Latimer said. "The day of reckoning is coming."
Astorino accused Latimer of raising taxes 46 percent while he served in the county legislature while Latimer accused Astorino of raising taxes 52 percent when Astorino was on the Mount Pleasant Town Board.
Astorino said Latimer was going to raise taxes if elected county executive, a charge Latimer denied.
"George Latimer has never met a tax he didn't like," Astorino said.
Latimer said state taxes for the middle classes are at their lowest level in 60 years and that residents will be paying for Astorino's budgets for years to come.
"How are you going to straighten out this mess?" Latimer said. "You're going to be running off to Oswego, you won't be here in Westchester to solve these problems."
Things got heated when Astorino brought up the $46,000 Latimer's wife owes in back taxes on a property in Rye she inherited after her mother died.
"You either pay your taxes or you don't," Astorino said. "We'd all like a second home in Rye. The students in Rye are beating cheating out of $35,000.
Latimer said he doesn't own the property and that his wife's property in the middle of a family dispute.
"I pay the taxes on the property I own," Latimer said. "This is a really sad day. The path to the governorship goes through the gutter."
Latimer also criticized Astorino on a public-private-partnership deal to privatize Westchester County Airport, suggesting he read "The Art of the Deal" by President Donald Trump.
Latimer said the deal will turn the airport into LaGuardia Airport North, while Astorino said he has no plans to expand the airport and that leasing the airport will provide a 40-year revenue stream for Westchester.
Astorino and Latimer also sparred on whether Astorino supports President Donald Trump, affordable housing, whether county gun shows should be allowed on county property and immigration.
Astorino and Latimer will meet for the second debate on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Iona College.
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