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Hamburg, Erie County leaders press governor on budget proposal

Area leaders have joined forces in an effort to keep New York State from cutting off video lottery terminal funding to Hamburg and Erie County.

HAMBURG, N.Y. — A few weeks ago 2 On Your Side reported that a proposal in the governor's budget could cost the Town of Hamburg nearly $900,000.

Now community leaders have joined forces in an effort to get the state to reconsider, and they're asking for your help. 

A proposal in Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget would cut off funding to communities that host video lottery terminal casinos and racinos, with the exception of Yonkers. 

That's the money the Town of Hamburg and Erie County get from the state for hosting the Hamburg Gaming at the fairgrounds. 

For the Town of Hamburg, that loss would be more than $865,000.

Town Supervisor Jim Shaw told 2 on Your Side, "Hamburg's a tough town. We fight hard for what we believe in, and we think we're entitled to our share of state funding for doing all the work necessary to host this casino, and we're gonna keep on punching."

Shaw said the loss in revenue could result in a significant tax increase. 

"The people in this community are hard-working folks," he said. "They can't take any more property taxes, so if we don't raise taxes, we're gonna have to cut services. We're gonna have to lay off people. We don't want to do that. We've got a quality of life here that we want to maintain." 

In the last few weeks, Shaw has joined forced with Erie County Legislator John Gilmour and Assemblyman Sean Ryan. Together they're urging the state to restore the funding.

"The governor's 30-day budget amendments came out, and there was no video lottery terminal money. It wasn't restored, so it's gonna be a longer fight," Ryan said. 

On a local level, the effort is gaining momentum. For example, Shaw and Ryan have sent letters to the speaker of the New York State Assembly, and the Town of Hamburg is collecting signatures on an online petition calling on the state to reconsider. 

Shaw said the goal is to get 4,000 signatures and send the petition along to Albany before final deliberations of the budget.

"In addition to that, the town has passed a resolution, the town board, the village boards of Blasdell and Hamburg, along with the county legislature, so we're gonna put on a full-court press to get the governor and the legislature to restore the video lottery terminal funding for Hamburg," Shaw added.

Ryan added, "We're gonna keep fighting as part of the Western New York delegation to make sure that happens."   

When 2 On Your Side first reported on these concerns on January 31, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget sent this statement: 

“Local governments across the state benefit from hosting video lottery terminal facilities in the form of increased sales taxes associated with the facility and from those who visit it and spend in their communities, far outweighing any possible costs associated with hosting one,” the statement said.

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