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STATE OF COUNTY ADDRESS CALLS ON STATE TO FUND OWN PROGRAMS

Author: SuperUser Account/Tuesday, January 3, 2012/Categories: General

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LOCKPORT—Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, warned county
lawmakers that a host of unfunded—but mandated—programs from Albany were increasing pressure on
county governments around the state during what have been tough budget years.

Ross noted that, despite preventing all but a miniscule tax hike this year, Niagara county lawmakers
were under pressure in the budget process because county government must pay more than ever for
the state’s Medicaid program and local contributions to the state’s pension system.

In a speech that clocked in at just under 34 minutes, a succinct Ross addressed what he considered top
goals for the County Legislature to pursue in 2012. As in past years, a major portion of the speech was
devoted to providing guidance for the Niagara County Center for Economic Development.

“There are three areas that can help Niagara County through these difficult economic times,” Ross told
the 15 members of the newly-downsized Legislature. “2010 saw the birth of the Opportunity Zones
program, the continuation of the highly successful Empower Niagara program, and funding of the
program for brownfields remediation. All of these are necessary for job creation.”

“These programs are creating opportunities from Niagara County’s strengths in tough economic times,”
Ross told his fellow lawmakers and an audience that included the county’s other elected officials and
appointed department heads.

Ross devoted several minutes to the topic of economic growth, noting that resources like the Niagara
Falls International Airport—which has added several airlines in the past two years—must continue to
evolve, and the county must rely on institutions like Niagara County Community College and its new
Culinary Arts Institute to provide skilled workers to meet local demands.

Ross also pleaded with leaders at the New York Power Authority to provide additional megawatts of lowcost
power to the county for its highly-successful Empower Niagara program. Demand for the program,
which subsidizes electrical power for local businesses, has grown, causing the county to pull back free
power previously provided to some government agencies to bolster job creation.

“This program is helping to ensure that even small businesses will be able to take advantage of the
benefit of low-cost power,” Ross explained. “The Empower Niagara program has resulted in the creation
and retention of more than 500 jobs and a private investment of more than $10 million.”

The speech was not a paean government programs, however. Ross alluded more than once to the
record downsizing of the County Legislature to its present 15 members during his address, and
reminding his fellow lawmakers of the importance of cutting government and lowering taxes.

“The Niagara County Legislature believes in smaller government and reducing property taxes,” Ross said.
“No one in this room opposes those things.”

Ross noted that county lawmakers had been pleasantly surprised by Gov. Cuomo’s embrace of a 2
percent property tax cap on county and municipal governments, but that the cap would be meaningless
until unfunded mantes are reined in by the state.

Ross drew heavy applause from the room at the conclusion of his speech.

Despite the fact that this was Ross’s ninth State of the County address, for more than a quarter of the
Legislature, it was the first they had attended. That’s because four of the 15 county lawmakers were
sworn in for their first full terms Tuesday night by County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow.

One of them, Legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, was asked for her reaction to Ross’s address
following Tuesday night’s meeting.

“I was very interested in hearing what Chairman Ross had to say,” Lance said. “I felt that he offered
solid guideposts for county government. I agree with his call for further fiscal restraint, and I’m glad he
had an emphasis on economic development.”

Lance, whose Wheatfield district includes much of Niagara Falls Boulevard and parts of the Niagara Falls
International Airport, also praised Ross for devoting a portion of the speech to bolstering that community
resource.

“I also agreed with Chairman Ross’s praise for the property tax cap, but I’m concerned about unfunded
mandated costs that are being passed on by Albany to county government,” Lance said. “That needs to
be addressed this year, and that’s a message we’ll be sending to Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo.”

While the speech was heavy on policy, Ross did take a moment to reflect on the role of the County
Legislature and its 15 members—particularly in the midst of the continuing weak national economy.

“The Niagara County Legislature will continue to work toward making Niagara County a better place to
live, to work, to raise a family, and we will strive to support more prosperous times for our Niagara
community,” Ross vowed.

Audio: Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, delivering his annual State of the County address Audio 1 
Audio: Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, delivering his annual State of the County address Audio 2 
Audio: Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, delivering his annual State of the County address Audio 3 
Audio: Legislator Kathryn Lance, who was asked to provide a candid reaction to Ross's speech from a member of the newly-downsized County Legislature. 


William Ross



    Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-
    Wheatfield, calls on New York State government to   
    provide unfunded mandate relief during his ninth annual
    State of the County address




Niagara County Legislature





The 15 members of the downsized Niagara County Legislature listen intently as Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, urges the Niagara County Center for Economic

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