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Outrage over proposed county cultural cuts

Photo by Darleen Pickering Hummert
Protestors outside Erie County Hall

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – t was standing room only late Wednesday afternoon for an Erie County Legislature hearing on County Executive Chris Collins' proposed budget for 2011.

The controversial spending plans eliminates funding for all but the largest cultural organizations, cuts $4 million in library funding and lays off 200 county employees.

Representatives of arts groups gathered outside county hall for a rally. Randall Kramer is artistic director of Musicalfare Theatre in Amherst.

"Some of these organizations have been funded for over two decades, so the county has invested in for a long time into these organizations, and to zero them out you are crippling these organizations. It doesn't make any sense," said Kramer.

But Collins is defending his budget cuts. In a written statement from his office, Collins said his main priority was not raising taxes. He said his proposal is fiscally responsible. Here is the full text of the statement:

-- Statement from Grant Loomis, spokesman, Erie County Executive Chris Collins

"The County Executive's proposed budget accomplishes his primary goal of not raising taxes. The budget also takes the fiscally responsible steps of paying down debt and making critical investments to protect taxpayers in the future. The weak national economy, unsustainable municipal union contracts, and the continued dysfunction in Albany have forced some tough budgetary decisions, but they are necessary to keep taxes low and spending under control."