I am a new member of the Erie County Legislature. I was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Tim Kennedy when he was elected to the State Senate in November. As a new member, I want to be careful to take the time to study each issue that is presented to me before I cast a vote.
I have been given a tremendous opportunity with my appointment as the chairman of the Economic Development Committee. I know that sound economic development is our number one priority in Erie County and so I take this position very seriously.
The first issue of substance on the agenda is the Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp.'s issuance of interest-free bonds to nonprofit organizations. The corporation was given the authorization to issue these bonds by the Legislature in 2009.
Allowing nonprofits to use these bonds to finance large capital projects can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest costs. Required in the initial resolution were many of the provisions that New York State uses to assure that companies pay a prevailing wage to the employees of projects that receive any government assistance.
Erie County Executive Chris Collins and the ILDC have argued that the costs that are incurred by requiring nonprofits to pay a prevailing wage discourage the companies from applying for the bonds and thereby discourages potential economic development. I assure you that no one wants to see a single company discouraged from considering a project that will bring tax dollars to Erie County.
But on the other hand, data has been presented that counters this argument. This data shows the additional cost to a project is as little as 1 percent to 2 percent. This data also implies that the benefit of having an increased salary for workers has a positive, direct impact on the local economy.
I may be a new legislator, but I am not a young man. I know that each side will present its best argument for its case and I respect that. I also know that the truth often lies somewhere in between and that in order to find the most workable solution, you must take the time to study the facts as they have been presented.
I want to take the time to listen to both sides, to discuss the issue with my colleagues and to consider the research. The nonprofit corporations still have the ability to apply for interest-free bonds at this time, that has not changed. If we can make it more attractive for the corporations while still keeping wages fair, then the entire community will benefit.
My goal as a legislator is to create economic development that benefits all Erie County taxpayers in a positive way and I will take the time to make sure we achieve that goal.
Timothy J. Whalen is a Democrat representing the Erie County Legislature's 2nd District.