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January 2017 Column - New Year, New Challenges


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

We’ve all read the stories in the paper of the countless individuals suffering from the ongoing opioid epidemic. There has been a lot of talk of families being ripped apart by this tragedy, too often we hear talk but see little action.

Legislator Ted Morton joined Senator Patrick M. Gallivan, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, Holland Central School Superintendent Cathy Fabiatos and Alden School Superintendent Adam Stoltman to announce continued funding for school resource officers (SRO) in several local districts. The SRO program provides a uniformed officer in schools as a way to promote student safety, conflict resolution and anti-bullying initiatives.


At a Legislative session held on September 21, 2017, Legislator Ted Morton honored Lancaster resident, Dick Young as the September 2017 Citizen of the month.


Today, in response to the County Executive’s offer to work with Legislator Morton to develop a compromise Made in America Act, Legislator Ted Morton wrote to him to begin the process.


Legislator Ted Morton first introduced the Made in America Act in support of local manufacturers and local workers in Erie County. After passing the Legislature by a vote of 9-1, the County Executive vetoed the law after instructing the County Attorney to draft a legal opinion.


As we start 2017 I wanted to talk about some of my priorities and the challenges we will face in Erie County.

Although we’ve managed to have several good budget years, this upcoming year we could see many potential issues. For starters, our county’s sales tax revenue faces a decline because of lower energy costs and continued weakening of the Canadian dollar, resulting in an ongoing drop in revenue creating significant challenges for the county’s budget.  In addition, under federal law, Erie County must pay the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) yearly payments to help defray the costs for care of low income and underinsured patients. The county budgets $16.2 million annually for this expense. Often though, Erie County ends up paying much more based off a complex formula. It’s estimated that in coming years, due to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the county payment amount could increase by tens of millions of dollars beyond what we already pay. Although there is expected federal action to repeal portions, if not all of the Affordable Care Act, there is much uncertainty as to how that will impact our budget. These are unpredictable payments the county is obligated to pay. 

In addition, I was very disappointed to see that the Governor vetoed legislation that would’ve saved the county an estimated $12 million a year by having the state assume payments of defense attorneys for low income residents. With the state continuing to force unfunded mandates on to the county, this is an added burden for all residents. Approximately 90 percent of the county’s budget is mandated by the state and federal governments; we are in desperate need of mandate relief. The state continues to pass the buck and it hurts local taxpayers.

The months ahead will require careful budget monitoring and the county can no longer afford the type of reckless spending the administration has proposed in the past. Between the lack of mandate relief from the state, and rising employee costs, we will need to take great care in the weeks and months ahead.

In addition, Como Lake continues to be a top priority of mine. Although dredging will not occur this year, the county recently held a public input session as the county updates its master plan for the parks system. Also in late December, county crews repaired the lighting system to the park’s lighthouse. As we prepare for another Capital Projects budget process, I will continue to fight to get the lake finally dredged. There is support in the Legislature to get it done, but we need the county executive to work with us so we can see this project come to fruition.

Happy New Year to you and your family! As always should you have any questions or concerns please give me a call at 858-8856 or send me an email to ted.morton@erie.gov