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Giambra Ressurects Sales Tax Increase, Says New Revenue Needed

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is talking about a sales tax increase again. He says raising the tax by mid-year might be the only way to deal with the next budget deficit.

"County government is paralyzed," Giambra said. "We are in paralysis because of politics."

Joel Giambra says the county desperately needs a new revenue source. He says they could conduct more bond selling or consider another increase in the Erie County sales tax. But Giambra and the comptroller remain at odds over the amount of this year's budget deficit. Nancy Naples says it could top $113 million. Giambra believes it is closer to $60 million. He says the best option to deal with the deficit is to raise the sales tax.

Giambra says without a new revenue the county cannot continue to operate. But he's not sure if there would be support for the hike, and once again, time is running out to ask the State Legislature for an increase.

"If there was a desire or an appetite to raise the sales tax in order to balance the budget this year as opposed to deficit financing, it has to be done soon," Giambra said. "If there were ten local votes in recognition that we have to have the revenue, it would have to be done before the State Legislature adjourns in June."

Giambra says without a new revenue, the county could be forced to reduce this year's budget by another $40 to $50 million. But the County Legislature's Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli says just a sales tax increase would not go far enough to fix the problem. She says a number of options must be laid out.

"It may have to be a multitude of answers, which won't be good -- sales tax, property taxes, deficit financing, future cuts and new fees," Marinelli said. "I think we have to have to have a patchwork quilt of options to see if there are any votes or decisions to be made to do that."

Marinelli says they are back to where they found themselves six months ago.