Three Erie County legislators with the Republican-supported majority voted last week against extending Erie County's additional 1.75 percent additional sales tax, part of the 8.75 percent sales tax all county residents pay that must be reauthorized every two years.
Had one more more legislator voted against extending the sales tax, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the county would have plunged into a financial crisis that would have made the red-green budget crisis of a decade ago "appear minor." That 1.75 percent additional tax is responsible for generating $273 million in county revenue, he said.
The county would have had to double county property taxes to make up the difference, Poloncarz said.
Three legislators – all facing challengers in the general election – voted against the sales tax extension: Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C- West Seneca; Lynne Dixon, I-Hamburg; and Ted Morton, R-Cheektowaga.
"I know it's an election year, but these are not things you play around with," Poloncarz said.
He added that such election year "shenanigans" could have serious consequences.
Lorigo said the proposal to extend the sales tax came to the Legislature later than usual and that the administration offered no evidence that the matter had to be voted on immediately and could not wait to be sent to committee. He also said that had he voted in favor of extending the sales tax, he expected his opponent, Michelle Schoenemann, would have criticized him for voting to raise taxes.
As it was, Schoenemann went online and accused Lorigo of "selfish political maneuvering."
Lorigo said he knew ahead of the vote that the additional 1.75 percent sales tax was going to pass, and wanted to send a message to the administration that it needs to be more careful about spending and taking the Legislature for granted by submitting something as important as the sales tax extension so late.
"It was never in jeopardy of failing, ever," Lorigo said.
Story topics: Political notebook