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Latest Sales Tax Defeat Sets Stage for Massive Job Cuts

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Attempts to raise Erie County's sales tax have failed. Now County leaders are warning of massive cuts to jobs and vital services.

Lawmakers who voted against a three-quarters of a cent increase in the sales tax refused to change their votes Tuesday. They say it won't solve the budget mess. Long-time County Legislator Charles Swanick changed his original support for a sales tax hike and voted against it. Swanick was highly critical of lawmakers' efforts to cut spending.

"This is the bottom, but there is more to come. This is the beginning of the major reduction of services in Erie County," Swanick said. "This county will carry this for ten years."

Swanick says the Legislature still needs to trim another $74 million out of the budget in order to keep the county operating. Lawmakers already trimmed more than $50 million and they warn of much more to come.

Without the sales tax revenue, layoffs are expected to begin. County Commissioner of Personnel John Greenan says some 2,000 workers could lose their jobs.

"We will have to send out an entire batch of new layoff notices," Greenan said. "We will begin that task of printing out those notices now."

But processing those layoff notices and even future paychecks could be a major challenge. Greenan says if more cuts are made, his personnel department would be wiped out.

The job cuts could effect up to 900 union members of the CSEA work force. CSEA Local 815 president Michael Bogulski was upset with Tuesday's sales tax defeate.

"A grave disappointment. It is the end of county government as we know it," Bogulski said. "I think the people are going to be sorry they were opposed to the increase in the sales tax."

Lawmakers were scheduled to meet with mediators Wednesday to continue chopping away at spending. State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Makowski set a Thursday deadline for finalizing the budget.