Need a penny? Take a penny.
Back in 1985, the Erie County Legislature, with Albany's permission and approval, passed an extra 1% sales tax - a “temporary” sales tax that has come up for - and passed - renewal every year since.
Originally passed to plug a County budget hole, the City of Buffalo didn't receive a share of that particular 1%. (To call it a “penny” is really facile propaganda).
In that 21 years, when the County was flush with cash, the call went out to share part of that particular sales tax with the municipalities in general, and Buffalo in particular.
In February, the Erie County Legislature voted 11-4 to allocate and share $12.5 million generated by that 1% "temporary" sales tax with the municipalities. This came about because Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz (D-Cheektowaga) held this year’s renewal of that 1% hostage. Tokasz demanded that the County allocate $30 million from that 1% for the municipalities, or else the Assembly would refuse to renew that “temporary” tax, which, if abolished, would throw the county budget $105 million into deficit this year.
After much wrangling, the overwhelmingly Democratic County Leg was able to negotiate that figure down to $12.5 million. Assemblypeople Tokasz, Peoples, Hoyt and Schroeder signed a letter pledging that the State would “help the County of Erie through various means to achieve long term fiscal stability” by providing state funding for some items, such as probation expenses, prisoners, and (mercifully) “Containment of Medicaid costs and increased Medicaid Fraud efforts.”
Tokasz and Senator Dale Volker have promised County Executive Joel Giambra that the state will “hold the County harmless”. It is now June, and the Erie County Legislature still has no firm deal whatsoever from Albany to in any way make up that $12.5 million.
The County, already under the watchful eye of a "soft" control board, while the city is being managed by a "hard" control board, is facing a $40 million deficit next year; $52.5 million if the state doesn't come through.
And people wonder why we in Western New York think that Albany is holding us back.
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