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New Legislator Unveils Budget Reform Package

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Erie County's newest legislator, Timothy Kennedy, proposed a sweeping budget reform package yesterday. And he's linking his vote in support of a penny increase to the sales tax to passage of his bill.

Kennedy is proposing the creation of an eleven-member commission that would monitor county finances on a monthly basis. The panel would be made up of private citizens, ranging from accountants to lawyers. Kennedy also says his reform package would reduce spending.

"We're going after the take-home vehicles," Kennedy said. "We feel there are an excessive amount of take home vehicles and an excessive amount of cell phones. We're also targeting excessive benefits to patronage employees in the county."

A key part of the 2005 county budget is a penny increase in the sales tax. While there were ten votes in the Legislature last month for initial approval of the increase, at least one legislator, Al DeBenedetti, is now wavering when it comes to final passage. And Kennedy says he won't vote for it unless his bill is passed.

"What I said is I cannot vote for the sales tax increase unless there is a demonstrated willingness by this administration to reform the county," Kennedy said. "It's not fair to the public, and the public deserves better.

Kennedy was appointed to the Legislature last month to succeed newly elected State Assemblyman Mark Schroeder. He said several top Democrats, including Chairman George Holt, are supporting his reform package.