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Legislature Budget Hearings Begin

By Dylan Hall

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Executive Joel Giambra appeared before the County Legislature Tuesday to answer questions about his proposed 2003 budget. Giambra says reserve funds will close a projected $35 million gap in the budget.

But Legislator Charles Swanick expressed concerns the spending plan relies on more than $12 million of state support it may never receive. Giambra said he's open to other suggestions.

"It's a problem, Legislator. While I recognize by charter you don't have the legal authority to change revenues, if you have some ideas I'm all ears," Giambra said. "I don't think, absent some relief from the state, there is not much more we can do on the expense side."

Giambra said his hands are tied by expenses that cannot be cut such as Medicaid, county employee pensions and employee health insurance.

In 2004, he said, balancing the county budget will likely require some downsizing and an increase in the county sales tax.