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County Executive Mark W. Thomas on Wednesday signed a $198 million 2005 budget that the County Legislature passed along party lines Tuesday night.

Thomas also signed a sales tax increase of 1.25 percent and .25 percent mortgage tax increase that legislators approved, 13-2, and, 14-11, respectively.

"It's important to have this behind us; we need to get on with business," Thomas said.

Lawmakers met for four hours before approving the budget, which will raise property taxes by 1.7 percent, and the tax hikes.

The sales tax increase, from 7.25 to 8.5, would bring an estimated $8.5 million in additional revenue and was viewed as a bitter pill to avoid a significant property tax increase or cuts in services. The extra revenue is also needed to help pay for road and bridge projects, other capital projects and a reserve fund for bond indebtedness.

Tuesday's meeting was marked by partisan bickering.

Legislator Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown, took a shot at Republicans while noting the final document was crafted by Democrats.

"Yes, this is a Democratic proposal," she said. "This is a Democratic plan that the Democratic caucus sat down with a Democratic county executive and hammered out over many hours of discussion and diligent work. This is a Democratic solution, and apparently there isn't a Republican one."

Legislator Richard Babbage, R-Bemus Point, voted with the majority in favor of the increased mortgage tax.

The requests to raise the taxes now go to Albany for approval. If approved by the state, the tax measure would be reconsidered again by the Legislature. A decision on state approval is not expected until spring.

The Legislature defeated a measure to cut veterans services. The Democratic caucus proposed cutting $54,390 from the department's budget, eliminating the Dunkirk office and director's position.

Legislator Ron Szot, D-Dunkirk, switched sides, effectively killing the move, which went down to defeat, 13-12.

Legislature Chairman Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, accused the Republican caucus of doing little to present its own budget cuts.

"It's nice that they (Republicans) supported our cuts . . .," he said. "It'd be even nicer if we had seen some substantial cuts made -- whether after the budget meeting or during the weeks and weeks of committee meetings -- by a Republican legislator. That's what's missing in the process."

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