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Legislature changes rules for creating Erie County jobs

With Erie County deep into the budget process for next year, county legislators voted Thursday to make some changes in the way it's asked to create new jobs.

While the jobs may be in the budget or are proposed in the rest of the year, actually putting someone in the posts goes before legislators, because each one essentially modifies the budget.

Usually, the letters seeking appointments are sent to committee and can be subject to the grinding political wars in the Legislature. That can mean the majority party can decide not to fill a post sought by someone of the opposite party or both sides can agree on a person or a job addition.

The proposal amends the Legislature's Rules of Order to require more data in job creation requests from elected officials or from county agencies. In an often highly-political legislature, this slid through unanimously.

Legislature Chairman Peter Savage says the information is usually available, if legislators ask.

"I personally had no objection to that rule change, but I thought it was kind of superfluous because we can ask any question we wish to ask of any department when they submit a request," Savage said. "I think the body supported the resolution as nothing more than a continuation of what we already do."

However, Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo said the rules change is better.

"It's more thorough and it gives much more information, such as the funding source, whether it's grant-based or if it's coming from county dollars," Lorigo said. "How long the job is anticipated to be in existence? What's going to happen if that  grant funding goes away? Where the grant is sourced from? It's laid out more clearly than it's been in the past."

Lorigo says this isn't just pushback against Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who is on the ballot next year, with Lorigo likely to back the Republican candidate. Lorigo said the new forms also create more openness.

"Just increase transparency," Lorigo said. "Whenever the Administration or an elected official comes over here to ask about creating a new job, we ask a number of questions as to where the funding is coming from, how long the job is anticipated to be in existence and what's going to happen when that funding dries up."

Legislators are free to ask for the same information, when the application gets to committee.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.