In the midst of state budget negotiations for 2017, one local Senator is giving the legislature an ultimatum on the second phase of the Buffalo Billion.
“Nothing is guaranteed in this budget and nothing is safe,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy. “We have seen our community bargained out of budgets in the past, and I refuse to see that happen once again in this upcoming budget.”
Kennedy said his message to his colleagues in Albany is clear: approve the $500-million earmarked for Western New York, or lose his vote for budget approval.
On Wednesday, Kennedy sent a letter to Governor Andrew Como, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democrat Conference. In it, he told them of Buffalo Billion II's importance and said, "I cannot in good conscience vote for a final budget that does not include it."
In his stand, Kennedy has the backing of a score of leaders from various sects of the community. Business, medical, tourism, education, and residential representatives joined him on Friday morning to call for the funding they say is critical to the region’s development.
“This is something that’s vitally important to the continued growth and momentum in the City of Buffalo and in Western New York,” said Kennedy. “And so, we’re staking our claim to this funding for our community.”
Also joining Kennedy’s call is Executive Director Kimberly Minkel of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Minkel said without the $25-million earmarked for the NFTA, the company will not be able to pursue hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for project like the Metro Rail expansion to Amherst and the DL&W Terminal.
“This funding will be the catalyst for providing the needed connections between the population centers, the jobs and education. It will also help provide better connections for tourists and students to destinations such as Canalside, downtown Buffalo, and our colleges and universities.”
Minkel said the expansion of the Metro Rail and NFTA services will help attract new residents and millennials who are looking for better transit options.
As to where the $500-million will come from, Kennedy said budgetary dollars come from the taxpayers.
“So it’s important that we in our community get our fair share and, quite frankly, we get a specific focused effort on our community that has been ignored for generations.”
Kennedy said the impact of the funding will not only be for present day residents, but for generations to come.
State Senator Tim Kennedy sent the following letter to Governor Andrew Como, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democrat Conference: