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Assembly Speaker visits region to explore pollution problems; meet with business owners

Most members of the New York State Legislature are on summer break, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is using the time to tour the region.

Heastie and his entourage were casually dressed - polo shirts, summer slacks, no ties - as they toured Cheektowaga and Lancaster Monday. Assemblymember Monica Wallace served as tour guide around her district. The Speaker had a chance to see where some money in this year's state budget is going.

They checked out pollution problems in Scajaquada Creek, a high school program to make sure all kids will have supplies, local aerospace employer Avox Systems, the Greater Lancaster Museum of Firefighting and construction on West Main Street. The Bronx Democrat was shown everything from a planned rebuilding of Central Avenue to re-establish all of its ties with the neighborhood, to a tour of the Lancaster Opera House with rehearsals for the summer camp production of "Shrek: The Musical."

Heastie has been on a series of visits around the state.

"It's always a good time to be, particularly in the summertime, to be in Upstate New York and Western New York, beautiful parts of the state," said Heastie. "So it's good to come up here and just to let people in Western New York know that the Assembly tries to prioritize all the things that are important to every region of the state."

Heastie said he's watching carefully what Washington might do to New York State, from potentially ending property tax write-offs on income tax returns, to changing the rules on aid to health care in the Empire State. He said he is ready to call for a special legislative session, if necessary.

"It's too early. We don't really know what the federal government is going to do," he said. "It's looked like they've been putting a little timeout right now, in terms of health care, but there are still other things we're concerned about. The elimination of tax deductions, I've said before, would sock middle class families right in the stomach, those who deduct their real estate taxes and income taxes on their tax return."

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.
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