What a Democratic majority in County Hall means for Poloncarz - The Buffalo News

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What a Democratic majority in County Hall means for Poloncarz

If mid-term Legislature elections are a referendum on his performance as Erie County executive, Mark Poloncarz said, then the Democratic victories Tuesday mean he's doing a good job.

"That must say we're doing something right," he said.

The Erie County Legislature in January will revert to Democratic control for the first time in four years, and Poloncarz already has several proposals he hopes the new Legislature will back.

He would like a revised county ethics law passed. And he wants a fair housing law.

 

Poloncarz's unwillingness to support four-year terms for legislators, his deteriorating relationship with Republican Legislature Chairman John Mills, R-Orchard Park, and his increasingly acrimonious relationship with Lorigo brought a halt or slowdown to several proposals he brought to the Legislature in recent months.

Key wins result in Democratic takeover of Erie County Legislature

Poloncarz worked with the Republican-supported majority, under the leadership of Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo  on a compromise ethics law. But that measure was never brought up for a public hearing or allowed to become law.

Poloncarz said he hopes the ethics law he worked on with Lorigo will finally receive some attention. If not, he said, he will work with the new Democratic majority in January to pass an ethics reform bill.

"If not this year, we'll get it done the first couple of meetings next year," Poloncarz said.

Erie County officials agree to new ethics law, keep legislator terms at 2 years

Poloncarz also said he expects to gain more headway with his proposed Fair Housing Law, which adds to existing state and federal anti-discrimination legislation to prohibit housing discrimination based on sources of income, which are frequently cited as a pretext for discriminating against prospective tenants and buyers based on race, marital status and disabilities.

Poloncarz said residents should not worry that a Democratic county executive and a Democratic majority in the Legislature will lead to a county spending spree.

"It's not like we're going to go out there and go spending hog wild, because we've got to spend within our means," Poloncarz said.

The vast majority of the county budget gets passed without controversy by both Republicans and Democrats, he said.

Key Democratic legislators, like current Minority Leader Thomas Loughran, would not support any proposed budget that would increase the county tax rate, he said.

"He'll never vote for a tax rate increase, and I'll never send one over there because I know he'll never vote for one," Poloncarz said.

A Democratic majority likely means fewer squabbles over Poloncarz's appointments and fewer blow-ups like the controversy over the Erie County Medical Center financing deal, which consumed the Legislature last year, Loughran said.

"The Legislature is a check on the executive branch," Loughran said. "But I think the change in leadership will mean better cooperating with the administration and less obstruction."

He also pointed out that he was part of a bipartisan majority that pushed back against an attempt by Poloncarz to raise the tax rate in 2013. Poloncarz hasn't sent over a proposed budget seeking a tax increase since then.

Democrats launched an aggressive assault on Republican-supported legislators, with Ted Morton, R-Cheektowaga, losing to Democrat John Bruso, a retired UPS administrator and Lancaster resident heavily involved in community organizations like Kids Escaping Drugs.

Morton-Bruso race for Erie County Legislature pivotal in deciding majority

Other hard-to-defeat Republican legislators, including Lorigo and Lynne Dixon, I-Hamburg, were forced to run active campaigns to withstand serious challenges to their seats this year. Moreover, the Republicans had no success unseating any Democratic legislators this year, ultimately causing them to lose their one-vote majority.

 

Staff writer Deidre Williams contributed to this story.

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