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County Legislature Talks But Reaches No Consensus on Budget Problem

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The Erie County Legislature held a meeting of the whole Thursday in hopes of hammering out a course of action to deal with the fiscal crisis. All lawmakers were present, and it was mostly civil. But no consensus was reached about what should be done next.

They gathered around the long dark, table in the wood paneled caucus room. They smiled or looked on politely as Chairman George Holt and Democratic Majority Leader presented a list of options. There aren't many. That's about the only thing they all agreed on. Cut more, borrow more, or raise more taxes. Or, some combination of the three.

Chairman Holt says the time to decide is now.

"The only way we are successful in looking at the suggestions that are outlined is to make some prudent decisions in terms of votes," said Holt. "You all know the numbers -- eight and ten -- and the only way to take action is to take a vote."

But there was no point in taking a straw poll. By the time lawmakers went around the table laying out their positions, it was clear there probably weren't enough votes for anything. Several lawmakers -- Republican and Democrat alike -- say they want to wait for the state comptroller's report. Democrat Tim Wroblewski says he's tired of shooting at a moving target.

"I'm not quite sure what we're going to be able to solve from this branch of government if we aren't getting good, solid information and good, solid cooperation, not just blasting us that we're in paralysis," said Wroblewski. "It's difficult for me to stick my neck out and make any more decisions, when the last 17 things I voted, and struggled on, have all been (based on) bad information."

But others argued that action could be taken on at least the agreed "best case" deficit number -- $60 million. They say the consequence of not acting would be insolvency by year's end, or a state imposed control board.