The race for control of Erie County government has already produced a winner: taxpayers.
During a meeting heavy with election-year political overtones, the County Legislature on Thursday approved cutting taxes by 6.3 percent next year and 14 percent the following year. Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said legislators would work to increase the cut in time for budget talks.
That Democratic-led vote came over the objection of six Republicans, who said they could have promised taxpayers a 15 percent cut next year.
The measure voted through by the 10 Democrats and William A. Pauly, R-Amherst, praised County Executive Gorski's leadership seven times.
Gorski is being challenged by City Comptroller Joel A. Giambra. The terms of all 17 legislators also expire this year.
Giambra started his campaign promising to cut property taxes by 30 percent over four years. Gorski countered that by saying he would cut taxes by 20.3 percent and eliminate the county's debt through the aid of the county's share of the state's settlement with tobacco companies.
Gorski today praised the Legislature's action, saying, "I'm thrilled to have the Legislature's important endorsement of my 20 percent tax cut. This will greatly assist us in our drive to begin the new millennium debt-free and with a significant tax cut."
But Legislator John Greenan, R-West Seneca, condemned the Democratic measure as campaign literature for Gorski.
"Maybe there should be a race for this post every year," added Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst.
But Majority Leader Crystal Peoples, D-Buffalo, emphasized that county residents need a tax cut now. "I hope we all come to our senses and realize we have a good thing here," she said.
Legislator Raymond K. Dusza, D-Cheektowaga, noted that Gorski erased a huge debt that he inherited when he defeated a Republican in 1987.
"The members of the minority always think they could do better; they got us into this mess," he said. "Dennis Gorski got us out of this mess.