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January 2014 Column - Infrastructure maintenance, business forums priorities in 2014


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Back in 2012, I worked with volunteer firefighters and the Firefighters Association of the State of New York, known as FASNY, to get Erie County included in the HELP (Higher Education Learning Plan) grant, which was paid for with federal dollars...

The Erie County Legislature has approved a resolution in support of an amendment to the federal health care bill that would require that New York State pay the total cost of Medicaid. This would relieve Erie County of approximately $200 million...

Members of the Erie County Legislature have requested that the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority (ECFSA) Board appear at the next Finance and Management Committee meeting to discuss the new plan that would allow the ECFSA to borrow on behalf...

My office recently participated in a conference to discuss New York State’s Foreclosure Relief Act and how it can remove “Zombie Properties” from your neighborhood. There isn’t a single community in Western New York that...

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a lot of big ideas. Some of these ideas would be incredible for our region, including the extension of light rail into Amherst. However, we first need to address how to pay for our current obligations before...

oneilj - Posted on 06 January 2014

As the Legislature begins a new term, I am honored to be part of the majority caucus, led by the Republican Party for the first time in more than 35 years. I believe this transition comes at a critical time. This changeover will end one party rule in Erie County. The Legislature will no longer be acting as a rubberstamp for County Executive Mark Poloncarz, but instead, collaborating to best serve all taxpayers.

 

One of the areas where the new Majority Caucus and the Administration currently differ is on prioritizing infrastructure repairs. As the next Chairman of the Economic Development Committee, I plan to advocate for increased infrastructure repairs, and will work with the county executive and his administration to accomplish this. Maintaining a solid, functioning infrastructure is one of the key services provided by county government, and one that is important for encouraging economic development. 

 

Secondly, I plan to create a transparent committee process that keeps businesses and residents involved. This will begin by hosting two key forums. The first will focus on large commercial and industrial businesses with the second aimed at small businesses. The agenda for these forums is still being developed as much research is needed to outline the most critical topics of discussion that will best serve those present. By bringing together trade groups, business associations, chambers of commerce, and business owners, we can directly address questions and concerns currently affecting our businesses and associations. There is much work to be done, and I believe these forums are an important first step. 

 

With the start of 2014, I have some remaining reservations concerning the 2014 budget. I could not support the adopted budget when the Legislature voted last month for several reasons. One of my main concerns was the county executive's estimated sales tax revenue. Growth was set at only 2.75 percent; I believe this amount is far too conservative. Without adequate revenue estimates we can't properly budget for the county's responsibilities. After conducting some research and considering past trends, I believe the county should be estimating 3.1 percent growth. This number would have been fiscally responsible and accurate. Furthermore, the last 2013 sales tax numbers available showed that Erie County was at 3.26 percent growth through the first 10 months of the year, according to our Comptroller.  

 

Before the Legislature concluded its business for 2013, the former Chairwoman pushed for a vote to ban fracking on county owned property. With the support of her caucus, the vote was forced before due process could occur. In just two weeks, the local law was proposed and put to vote. The item was not discussed in the legislature's committee process, and the law is flawed. Furthermore, the county already has a policy in place concerning fracking on county land, dating back to 1993. The process was the perfect example of bad government practice that should upset residents.

 

If you have any questions about a county issue, please contact me at 858-8676 or email edward.rath@erie.gov.