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GOP members eye Legislature cut

Republicans in the Erie County Legislature, a minority of three members, are pushing a proposal to reduce the Legislature from 15 lawmakers to nine, to eliminate district offices and to reduce a lawmaker's salary from $42,588 to $27,000 a year.

The Republicans also want the Legislature to occasionally meet at night and at locations around the county, so more residents can attend.

The moves would save about $1.2 million a year, said Legislator John J. Mills of Orchard Park, the Republican minority leader.

"We understand that not all of our proposals will be accepted, but they are an important step in moving this county forward," said Legislator Edward A. Rath III, R-Amherst. Raymond Walter of Amherst is the Legislature's third Republican backing the ideas.

Mills said the ideas have been presented to the "21st Century Commission," a citizens panel formed to research and recommend the size and scope of a new Legislature. Some Democratic legislators also have backed calls for a nine-member Legislature, but the move lacks a majority bloc of support.

Mills said the three Republicans arrived at a $27,000 salary because it is the average salary of a county employee before benefits. Like county employees, legislators also are provided health insurance.

Why don't the Republicans just cut their pay now?

"We could reduce what we are being paid," said Mills, who donates his $5,000-a-year leadership stipend to the libraries in his district. "But the money would just remain in the Legislature's coffers and be spent on some patronage post."

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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