A long-awaited bill that would guide how millions of dollars in local casino revenues would be spent during the next 11 years -- with 93 percent going through City Hall -- has been delivered to Gov. George E. Pataki.
The legislation was approved by both houses five months ago, but Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane -- who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Marc A. Coppola, D-Buffalo -- had no explanation on Monday as to why it took so long for the State Senate to give it to Pataki to decide.
Maziarz cited "bureaucratic administrative stuff" and also added, "I don't know how they determine what goes down [to the governor]."
The governor acted on 953 bills submitted during the legislative session this year that ended in June, acting on many of them during August and September. The Niagara local casino revenue bill was just one of two that were not given to Pataki, who received it on Friday.
The bill amends state finance law regarding the 2002 compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians, and the tribal-state revenue account set up to receive revenue from Indian casinos. The state receives at least 25 percent of slots revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino, with a quarter of that earmarked as "local slots revenues" for the host municipality of the Falls casino.
This bill would guide where local slots revenues from 2006 to 2016 will go and how the money will be spent.
State lawmakers and the governor have been slow to work out arrangements on how previous local revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino were allocated. Maziarz and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, spent more than a year wrangling on a memorandum of understanding to guide disbursement of $24 million in 2004 and 2005 local slots revenues.
When it was finally approved, Pataki didn't sign it for two months, and city leaders were disappointed when they received less than half the funds.
This new bill calls for 93 percent of local slots revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino to pass through the City of Niagara Falls. The city would keep 75 percent of revenues for projects that "enhance economic development, neighborhood revitalization, public health and safety, and infrastructure improvement."
"I'm supportive [of the bill] from the point of view that this is the best we could do," Mayor Vince Anello said Monday. "Am I happy with the way we've been treated with the casino money? No, I'm not.
"Do I think the city needs to focus more on developing the City of Niagara Falls?" he added. "Yes I do, and the money is there to do it."
The city also would be responsible for allocating 5.5 percent, not to exceed $750,000, each to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the Niagara Falls City School District for capital construction projects, as well as 7 percent to Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. to be spent promoting the county.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency would receive the lesser of 7 percent or $1 million to be held in an escrow account for the planned new terminal at the Niagara Falls International Airport. If the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority does not begin construction within two years of that money being received, however, it will ge given to the county for economic development projects.
Maziarz said he had no idea whether Pataki plans to sign the bill, and members of the governor's office were not available to comment Monday.