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Erie County Legislature passes 2019 budget that includes new spending

Mike Desmond

Majority Democrats passed the Erie County budget they wanted Thursday, with a lot of new spending and a tax cut. That is because the county is awash in cash, particularly because sales tax revenue is so far above expectations.

The final vote on an amended budget was 8-3. The budget includes about $8.5 million additional dollars for roads and bridges, an amount so large, Republican Legislator Kevin Hardwick joined the majority in the approval.

"The county executive has the resources. There's no excuses," Hardwick said. "The money has to be spent on roads next year. I believe this second package provides the resources and will yield significantly better roads and for that reason, Mr. Chairman, I support it."

The budget also decreases property taxes a little, while more county employees will be hired. Another $1.6 million will be going to county non-profits and cultural organizations.

Budget Committee Chair Barbara Miller-Williams said the budget is a compromise.

"A budget that is an attempt to bring the majority and the minority amendments together," she said. "While it doesn't include everything, it did take into consideration the requests from both sides of the aisle. So at the end of the day, it is not perfect, but I will offer up to each and every one of you that it is a compromise budget."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo was not happy with the budget passed.

“I am pleased with this budget,” said Majority Leader April Baskin. “I am thrilled to have supported the cap increase in Youth Summer Primetime funding, and I am excited to see support for worthwhile organizations, such as PUSH Buffalo, in the budget for the first time. In order for our region to move forward, we have to serve the needs of every community.”

Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo saw all but one of his attempts to cut spending fail. Lorigo attacked the overall plan.

"This amendment package is bad. It's irresponsible," Lorigo said. "It adds a bunch of jobs that we don't need. It doesn't cut taxes enough. It fully funds every single pet project the county executive is attempting to hide. Legislator Miller-Williams called it a compromise. It's not a compromise."

As the budget debate speeches made clear, this is the budget everyone will run on - for or against - in the year running up to next Election Day, when the county executive and all legislative seats are on the ballot.

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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