ALBANY, N.Y. -- Efforts to bring ride-sharing to Western New York were met with resistance in Albany Wednesday.
The Assembly majority removed any language about ride-sharing from their budget proposal altogether, making many Western New York leaders upset, however there is still time to get it back in. There are about two weeks left to get a workable provision in the State budget.
Still, though, the clock is ticking on a conversation that has been going on for three years now.
The Governor's budget proposal includes provisions for services like Lyft and Uber. The Senate's one-house proposal does, too. Only the Assembly’s does not.
"Most of the Assembly people, whether they be Republicans or Democrats in Upstate or Western New York are in favor of it. The ones holding it up are the New York City Democrats, and I think they're just using it as a negotiating ploy for other issues in the budget,” said Assemblyman Ray Walter, who sounded off on Twitter Wednesday night.
Outrageous that Assembly Democrats have left ride sharing out of their one house budget. Once again turning their back on upstate & WNY— Ray Walter (@RaymondWWalter) March 15, 2017
The bill was introduced, but not passed. Even if it gets back in, Senator Chris Jacobs calls the requirements burdensome.
"Some of the rates they'd have to pay are 10 times what current ride-sharing is having to pay in New York City,” Jacobs, R-60, explained. “Also, they pushed the regulation to each town and each city. If you were trying to be an Uber driver or Lyft driver, you would have to get licensing in Buffalo and Cheektowaga and Amherst.”
"If you're setting the standard so high that nobody can afford to have ride-sharing in their region, in upstate and Western New York, then it defeats the purpose,” Walter, R-146, said.
The timing of this means Buffalo will, once again, not have ride-sharing for visitors of a major national event. March Madness kicks off with the first four games of the NCAA tournament at the Key Bank Center on Thursday.
"We want this to be the last national recognition we get, in March Madness coming here, where we have an embarrassment that this great city that's coming back does not have ride-sharing. I think the biggest city in the nation that does not have that,” said Jacobs.
Walter says Uber's lobbying efforts have been misguided. In the past two years, they have done publicity stunts around Buffalo, including delivering Xbox games, ice cream, and bringing people to Lloyd’s Taco food trucks.
"They should be targeting New York City Democrats, they should be targeting the Speaker, they should continue to put pressure on the Governor to make it happen,” said Walter. “They're wasting their time lobbying Western New York and upstate Republicans and Democrats, who all support it in the first place."
Uber did not directly respond to that criticism, but wrote the following in a statement:
"While we prefer the legislation proposed by the Governor and the Senate, we are heartened that Upstate Assemblymembers from both sides of the aisle are now making ridesharing a priority."
June would be the ultimate deadline before session ends for the year, but Walter says this needs to get done now because if it's not included in the budget to start, he says it’s simply an uphill battle from there. Jacobs still is optimistic it will get done.