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Local, county leaders urge Cuomo to back off proposed VLT aid cut

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Facing a projected $6 billion budget deficit and an April 1 budget deadline, the Cuomo administration is proposing the elimination of $6.9 million in state aid for municipalities where video lottery terminals are played. Leaders gathered in one affected community to say that would be economically devastating to that municipality.

Since 2006, New York State and more than a half-dozen municipalities and the counties in which they are located have held a revenue agreement, in which Albany would provide annual financial aid to those communities while they host state-approved raceways or gaming facilities that include video lottery terminals (VLTs).

As one step toward closing a budget shortfall, the Cuomo administration has proposed a state aid funding cut. The Town of Hamburg, one of the locales where VLTs may be found, stands to lose an estimated $866,000.

"So if indeed the budget is passed by the state in April and these funds have been eliminated, we're going to have severe impacts (in) May, June, July, the summer of 2020," said Hamburg Town Supervisor James Shaw. "Not to mention, having to deal with drafting a budget for 2021 without 865,000, our second largest revenue stream."

Shaw says the services and funding at risk of compromise includes its allocations toward seven area fire companies. Tax increases would be one of the other possibilities in the event the VLT funding is cut.

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan is in support of Shaw, and says local governments at risk of aid cuts held up their part of the agreement and so, too, should Albany.

"We know we have fiscal problems in New York State. We're endeavoring to put a deal together to make sure that our state's budgets balanced. But we're not going to do it on the backs of small towns like Hamburg and we're not going to do it on the backs of Erie County," Ryan said.

The Erie County Legislature on Thursday passed a resolution urging the Cuomo administration to back away from the plan. The county, under the Cuomo proposal, stands to lose $288,560.

"I knew when there was a $6 billion deficit announced in the state budget that it was going to be an issue for the towns and the counties and local municipalities. I had no idea that it would be taken away the second biggest revenue source in Hamburg. So that's obviously a great concern," said Legislator John Gilmour, who lives in Hamburg.

Shaw announced that the Village of Hamburg had passed a similar resolution supporting his position and that the Village of Blasdell was expected to follow in short time.

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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