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Erie County Lawmakers Seek Consensus in Advance of Tuesday Vote

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County lawmakers continued to talk over the weekend, trying to reach consensus on the budget crisis before tomorrow's special session.

The struggle to stabilize county government is once again coming down to the wire. Several lawmakers submitted proposals on Friday that have little in common, except desperation. Democratic Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli's plan left several fill-in the blanks. Marinelli says she's leaving room and hope for compromise.

"There seems to be an understanding that you can't function without revenue for borrowing," said Marinelli. "Now, it's a matter of which ones get the votes."

That leaves a lot of unanswered questions. How much revenue, at what percentage? What additional cuts, from where and when? Marinelli says she hopes there will be one, focused plan in place for a vote tomorrow. Beyond that, she says all the legislative staff can do is prepare for any variety of scenarios.

"They're preparing those agendas...in working with our Albany colleagues, what are the different memorializations and home rules that would need to be done," said Marinelli. "And all of this they're having to do without the plan in place of that's been settled upon."

But what if there is nothing to submit to Albany? Marinelli says the consequences are too dire to contemplate.

"If the votes fail it forces a whole bunch of domino effects, the likes of which we'll be writing new chapters in local government history -- and these aren't good chapters here," said Marinelli.

The first chapter would undoubtedly be a state imposed control board. But even lawmakers who advocate for one say that would do the county little good right now. Officials say the county's money will run out by mid July. And, since bankruptcy for a municipality isn't an option, lawmakers will have to find some way to pay the bills.