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State lawmakers ponder Cuomo's State of the State offerings for WNY

WBFO file photo

While Governor Cuomo was in Amherst Monday selling his Buffalo Billion Squared and Middle Class Recovery ideas,  New York State Legislators were in Albany attending scheduled sessions. Local representatives are still peering through Cuomo's many proposals to learn more details but they like some of what they're seeing.

Part of Cuomo's so-called Buffalo Billion Squared - which is $500 million but an investment the governor says will build upon Buffalo's successes "exponentially" - includes $10 million dedicated to tackling dilapidated, abandoned properties, or "zombie homes," in Buffalo's East Side and in the Town of Cheektowaga.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who has been active in the campaign to crack down on zombie homes, expressed hope that Cuomo will carry on an effort established by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"We've got a program through the State Attorney General that's done a lot of good work on zombie properties. That was funded through the banking settlement," Ryan said. "That expires this year and that money now goes to the Governor's Office. We're hoping that the governor carries on the good work of Attorney General Schneiderman to keep that fund going, that would really help parts of the East Side and parts of Cheektowaga."

State Senator Tim Kennedy, meanwhile, expressed his excitement about Cuomo's proposal to increase the Child Care Tax Credit for families. Those increases would double or even triple, based on income bracket. Kennedy suggested it could end a dilemma for many Western New York families, who want to earn income for the family but find the cost of child care too cost-prohibitive.

"It's actually more affordable to stay at home with their child and not go to work. We want to reverse that," Kennedy said. "We want to make sure that every working mother and working father has the ability to afford child care here in the State of New York. And the governor, proposing what he did, is a step in that direction."

Both lawmakers also responded favorably to Cuomo's call Monday to bring ride-hailing services including Lyft and Uber into Upstate New York. Ryan pointed out, though, that more discussion needs to be had before such services can open for business beyond New York City.

"We're all for bringing ride sharing into different areas of Upstate but recognizing that the rules that may apply to bring Uber into Lake Placid might not be the same rules that fit the City of Buffalo," Ryan said. "It's easy to paint the broad brush stroke. We're all for it but the devil's in the details and, frankly, that's where the hard work is."

Ryan expressed confidence ride hailing will be passed within the next six month. Kennedy says with the events scheduled to come to Buffalo in the next few months, including NCAA Tournament basketball and the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, it's an urgent matter that could make or break Buffalo's reputation as a tourist destination.

"When you bring folks here to Western New York by the tens of thousands, and we're promoting our tourism industry and our place in the world as this growing progressive city on the shores of Canada, we want to make sure tapping into the technology people use in other areas of the United States and in the international community," Kennedy said.

"The NCAA tournament is something where folks are going to go home and it's going to be that young, progressive, eclectic trendy crowd that's going to tap into Uber and Lyft if it's available. If it's not, they're going to home and complain. We can't allow that to happen. The urgency is definitely there."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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