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CITY ESCALATES LOBBYING EFFORTS FOR STATE AID

City officials are stepping up lobbying efforts in Albany, concerned that $16 million in additional aid for Buffalo is in jeopardy.

Mayor Masiello sent off letters this weekend to members of the State Senate and Assembly Budget committees, making the city's case for the additional aid.

"I think the health of the city is directly related to the support of the state," Masiello said Saturday. "If the state wants a strong viable city, they have to do it. And they have the resources to do it. The last thing we want to do is raise taxes, especially when the state has the resources."

It's still early in the state budget process and too soon to start making emergency plans for layoffs and tax increases, said Eva M. Hassett, commissioner of administration and finance. But city lobbyists say the aid request is in trouble, she added.

"In neither of their budgets does the city have anywhere near that $16 million in aid," Ms. Hassett said Saturday. "All of this makes us feel like we need to redouble our effort."

The city will make its case for the extra aid in detailed "blue books" that will be delivered to budget committee members Monday, and Masiello said he will be available to testify at any time.

"The state has lowered taxes; the county has frozen taxes," Masiello said. "The last thing I want to do is raise taxes on one of the poorest constituencies in the state. I deal with businesses every day that say they want to move into the city but are worried about the taxes."

Ms. Hassett said about $13 million of the additional aid is needed to pay for increased labor costs stemming from a state arbitrator's ruling giving police and firefighters higher pay increases than the city's blue-collar and white-collar unions. The arbitration award is expected to cause a rise in other city pacts.

"We're saying (to the state): 'But for your arbitrator's decision on the fire and police, our budget problems would be in the single digits,' " Ms. Hassett said.

Masiello sent letters to all committee members. Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, D-Buffalo, and State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, are the two local representatives on the budget committees.

Eve also is co-chairman of an aid-to-localities subcommittee that will meet Tuesday.

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