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A NEW FISCAL REALITY

As the nation faces an economic crisis made worse by the recent terrorist attacks, Buffalo officials and lawmakers must be prepared for intensive belt-tightening. Following a warning by Comptroller Anthony R. Nanula that the city could face major fiscal problems, city department heads are preparing a list of budget cuts. And the mayor has ordered a freeze on equipment purchases and capital expenses.

These are practical -- albeit painful -- steps given a situation unique to this state's history. And city residents hopefully will show patience and understanding for the steps that officials may be taking in the coming weeks.

City officials are going to have to find ways in which they can reduce spending in the face of a growing economic crisis. And the Common Council should follow suit. The pork that lawmakers have grown accustomed to will have to become increasingly lean.

The city was already in need of a $31 million infusion from the state. It may well be that the state money expected by the city will fall below that figure in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Whispers out of Albany are not good -- not just for Buffalo, but for the entire state.

The state is set to take a major economic hit as a result of the attacks, and it will take a long time to recover -- especially given the fact that an economic downturn existed before the destruction of the World Trade Center. Whatever state surplus existed likely will be used for emergency relief efforts.

Clearly, the state needs to divert resources to help New York City recover and rebuild, and everyone may be called to contribute to that effort. Buffalo officials appear to recognize that fact in trying to do more with less. At this point, it is incumbent upon Buffalo to help itself.

Sure, we'll feel more pain. But the reality of the situation cannot be avoided. That's not to say that the state can or should ignore the needs of Buffalo and the rest of the state. But this is a different world than existed on Sept. 10, and people need to accept that reality.

Ironically, a result of this American tragedy may be the chance for Buffalo to better use its public funds. This goes beyond belt-tightening to fiscal responsibility -- now and for the foreseeable future.

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