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State reportedly eyeing loan for Niagara Falls to make up for casino money

New York State is preparing to give Niagara Falls a loan to relieve its mounting fiscal crisis that stems from non-payment of Seneca casino money, an Assemblyman said Tuesday.
John D. Ceretto, who represents Niagara Falls, told The Buffalo News that a senior Cuomo administration official has pledged to find "creative solutions," particularly a short-term bridge loan, to help the city deal with a $58 million revenue shortfall.
Such a loan, which the state has previously given to the City of Salamanca, was first suggested earlier this year, Ceretto said.
"In April, they told me they would not promise me anything," he said. "Now they're looking at it. That's more of a commitment than before. Now they're being proactive, they're looking for, 'How can they do it?' "
The dire fiscal situation of Niagara Falls' government, which has been operating without $58 million in revenue from its Seneca Indian casino, has pressed the issue forward, he said.
Ceretto, R-Lewiston, said his office was contacted Tuesday afternoon by Robert Williams, special assistant counsel to the governor, who indicated the state was looking for ways to finance a loan or other forms of relief. Williams said he would meet with local officials when an arrangement was formed, Ceretto said.
"It sounds like the governor's office is taking more of a proactive approach to help the City of Niagara Falls than they were in the past six months," Ceretto said. "They're energized now, that's the feeling I got. ... We've got the governor's ear now - that's what makes me so excited."
When contacted by a reporter, Williams declined to comment about the state's plans, and a spokesman for Cuomo had no immediate comment.
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster said his office has been in contact with state officials but declined to comment about the possibility of a loan.
"We're working with the governor's office to try to come up with a short-term solution here, but we all learned last November that sometimes the less that is said, the better," Dyster said.
The Senecas have withheld more than $100 million from Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca because they believe the state violated an agreement that prohibits non-Indian gambling in Western New York.
A proposal to allow the Senecas to pay the cities directly, without first transferring the funds through Albany, seemed imminent in November but was scuttled later by the Seneca Tribal Council.