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County Legislature Takes Second Vote on Sales Tax Increase

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The Erie County Legislature yesterday held the second of three votes needed to raise the sales tax by a quarter percent.

This time the votes stuck. The ten to five vote on the sales tax home rule message fell along the same lines as Tuesday's vote initially calling for the increase. A third vote will come, likely next week, to actually impose the tax. Final action is also pending on the deficit vote.

But a resolution proposed by Democratic Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli will not be up for a vote, at least not soon. Marinelli proposed $5 million in additional cuts for the 2005 budget. That was sent to committee. But Marinelli says it's time to act.

"I think we need to send a serious signal to the public that we will take any further reductions immediately and that the next phase will be what will be for 2006, because not all things will stay the same," said Marinelli.

Marinelli proposes a host of across the board cuts. They include $2 million from ECMC, as well as ten percent from the salaries of non-unionized employees. Lawmakers did unanimously act on a non-binding resolution objecting to administrative salary increases proposed by Erie Community College. The legislature can not actually cut the proposed raises since ECC is an independent entity. But Democrat Al DeBenedetti says that doesn't make them completely powerless.

"The only real way we can make an impact and express ourselves is to lower the subsidy, and I think we should give that serious consideration," said DeBenedetti. "That's the only way to send them a serious message -- give them at least $71,000 less and let them figure out where they're going to get the difference from."

One example of the increases proposed is $19,000 dollars more for the college president. He currently makes about $176,000 a year. There will be a public hearing held on the ECC budget, before the Legislature takes an up or down vote.