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As Election Day becomes a memory, Erie County starts a budget process with Democrats in top jobs

Joseph Lorigo, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red-and-white-striped tie, and WBFO microphone flag
Chris Caya
Erie County Legislature Minority Caucus Leader Joseph Lorigo is not happy about the election of a Democratic comptroller with a Democratic county executive.

Now that the election is over, politicians are getting back to their normal work. In the Erie County Legislature, the focus for the next month will be the budget.

The Minority Caucus in the Legislature had been hoping to flip enough seats to go back to being the Majority Caucus. That apparently hasn't happened, pending the final ballot count.

So they go back to fighting with County Executive Mark Poloncarz and with a former member of the Minority Caucus, presumptive new County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick. He left the minority to join the Democrats and probably won the fiscal watchdog post as a Democrat.

Minority Leader Joe Lorigo isn't happy about most of that.

"You're going to have a county comptroller who is the same political party as the county executive. Kevin Hardwick is known for cutting deals to benefit himself. Now he's going to be in a role where he's supposed to be the taxpayer's watchdog and make sure things are all on the up-and-up. I hope he's up to the task. I'm not so sure I have seen that from him," Lorigo said.

County voters in many elections have chosen a comptroller of a different party than the county executive, as when Democrat Poloncarz became comptroller when Republican Chris Collins was executive.

Lorigo sees the budget fight over the next month a chance to establish his side of the aisle's positions.

"The budget that's coming up for us over the next several weeks, according to the most recent estimates, has over $100 million dollars in surplus. That to me tells me right off the bat that we're taxing people way too much. We need to look at ways to lower the tax levy so we're not taking money from people that we shouldn't be taking. We need to look for ways to make sure that we spend that surplus in a way that's respectful and responsible for taxpayers," he said.

The Minority Leader also said the county executive needs to prioritize roads and infrastructure.

"No matter how much money we put in those funds, the county executive doesn't spend it on the roads and infrastructure that need it. He ignores anything outside of the first ring suburbs. He doesn't do the proper maintenance in terms of mowing, ditching, trimming of trees and those are the things that need to get done and haven't been done for the past 10 years," he said.

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.