Sen. George D. Maziarz would welcome the opportunity to have the City of Niagara Falls in his State Senate District, lamented that there wasn't more private investment in the city and expects Verizon Communications to announce in the next few weeks whether it will build a $4 billion-plus data center in Somerset.
Maziarz, R-Newfane, also acknowledged that 2011-12 is going to be a very tough state budget year, as he responded to questions Friday afternoon during a live chat with readers and News Niagara Reporter Aaron Besecker on buffalonews.com.
The senator said he met with the Verizon president last Wednesday and that it will be at least a month longer before the company decides if it will build the data center on a tract along Lake Road. A lawsuit filed by a nearby landowner claiming local officials rushed the approval process was dismissed Jan. 14, but Verizon wants to wait for a 30-day appeal period in that case to expire before announcing its plans, Maziarz said.
"I expect a decision early this spring, when the construction season starts," Maziarz said. "Wisconsin is still in the mix, but again, Niagara County is still the preferred site."
As for government incentives, which The News has calculated at $3.1 million per job, he said, "I'm not sure I agree with that calculation. We do have to incentivize these types of jobs in order to create a synergy of high tech companies, i.e. Yahoo, Google, Verizon, etc., almost all of which have significant energy consumption. and $4.5 billion in capital investment must be considered."
Maziarz said he is just beginning to know two new senators from the region -- Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, who will represent Niagara Falls as part of his district, and Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo. "They seem to want to do what's right for WNY and work with everybody," he said.
Asked what will it will take for the regional delegation, as a bipartisan group, to become more influential at the Capitol, Maziarz responded, "Our Assembly delegation has to become more like Assemblyman [Mark] Schroeder [D-Buffalo] and stand up to Speaker [Sheldon] Silver."
As lawmakers close in on the need to redraw Senate districts, Maziarz also said he would welcome the opportunity to represent Niagara Falls, where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans.
"People often tell me, 'If you love Niagara Falls so much, why isn't it in your district?' " Maziarz said. "If it was, I would have less mileage."
The 62nd District now stretches from Porter and Lewiston east through most of Niagara County, through Orleans County and into part of the City of Rochester.
The senator's campaign accounts have benefited greatly during the last decade from three sources that have interests in the Falls. Niagara Falls Redevelopment and its owners have donated $45,000 to his campaigns, Smokin' Joe's owner Joseph Anderson has given more than $32,000, and the Seneca Nation of Indians has donated $6,000.
Maziarz said he talks "frequently" with NFR officials -- "and I continue to push them to do more in Niagara Falls" -- has known Anderson for twice as long as he's been involved in state politics and that campaign contributions have no connection to his opposition to Indians collecting sales tax on cigarettes sold to non-Indians.
"I do not expect the collection of taxes on cigarettes to materialize," he said.
In response to a reader concerned about the possible layoffs of thousands of state workers, Maziarz said, "Everything right now is on the table. Not just reductions of state employees, but reductions in state departments and management positions."
The budget situation "will present challenges all over New York," he said. "But there aren't easy choices. The deficit will be closed only through spending reductions."