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Cuomo in Buffalo today mixing government and Democratic fence-mending

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has scheduled a busy day in Erie County Thursday.

On government business, he will push his shared services plan when he stops in Williamsville.

Political fence mending follows with local Democrats in Buffalo.

Cuomo will speak to a 4:15 p.m. gathering at the Meeting House in Williamsville, where he is expected to unveil a plan for his Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, according to invitations extended to business and government leaders.

When he introduced his budget proposal in January, the governor touted his idea for a $20 million competition to empower counties and other local governments to pursue consolidation, shared services and other changes to lower property taxes.

That idea has drawn opposition, with Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan Jr. questioning its complicated nature as recently as Tuesday in a meeting with the New York State Conference of Mayors.

Flanagan called the plan “laudable in its intent,” but “convoluted.”

“Can we try to make sure that we’re being efficient and saving taxpayers money? Yes, absolutely,” Flanagan said in an NPR report. “But a carrot and stick are two different things.”

Flanagan also challenged Cuomo’s contention that the state has too many local governments, and that voters have options available to dissolve jurisdictions.

The mayors’ conference has also called the idea “another top-down state mandate that ignores the root causes of high property taxes.”

As a result of the opposition, one source familiar with the Williamsville agenda said Cuomo may offer a revised version of his original proposal.

Cuomo is slated to attend an early evening fund raiser at Templeton Landing benefiting the Erie County Democratic Committee.

His address to the local party faithful is considered significant because he never has maintained any relationship with the local party throughout his more than 10 years of holding statewide office.

The governor’s political operatives had even worked several years ago to remove then-Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan, but never proved successful.

Now, several top Buffalo Democrats closely aligned with Cuomo support current Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner and relations have vastly improved. They include Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Byron W. Brown, chairman of the Democratic State Committee; and Sam Hoyt, regional director of Cuomo’s Empire State Development Corp.

A large crowd was forecast for the local party’s main fund raising event of the year.

Because of his official governmental function in Williamsville on Thursday afternoon, Cuomo would be eligible to travel to Buffalo aboard a state aircraft.

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