New York Governor Urged To Maintain State Aid To Towns With Video Lottery Terminals

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BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – Facing a projected $6 billion budget deficit and an April 1 budget deadline, the Cuomo administration is proposing the elimination of $6.9 million in state aid for municipalities where video lottery terminals are played. Leaders gathered in one affected community to say that would be economically devastating to that municipality.

From left to right, Erie County Legislator John Gilmour speaks while Hamburg Town Supervisor James Shaw checks his notes and State Assemblyman Sean Ryan listens. The lawmakers were speaking in opposition to a proposal to cut nearly $7 million in aid from video lottery terminals, a move proposed by the Cuomo administration to help close a projected $6 billion budget deficit. Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Since 2006, New York State and more than a half-dozen municipalities and the counties in which they are located have held a revenue agreement, in which Albany would provide annual financial aid to those communities while they host state-approved raceways or gaming facilities that include video lottery terminals (VLTs).

As one step toward closing a budget shortfall, the Cuomo administration has proposed a state aid funding cut. The Town of Hamburg, one of the locales where VLTs may be found, stands to lose an estimated $866,000.

“So if indeed the budget is passed by the state in April and these funds have been eliminated, we’re going to have severe impacts (in) May, June, July, the summer of 2020,” said Hamburg Town Supervisor James Shaw. “Not to mention, having to deal with drafting a budget for 2021 without 865,000, our second largest revenue stream.”

Shaw says the services and funding at risk of compromise includes its allocations toward seven area fire companies. Tax increases would be one of the other possibilities in the event the VLT funding is cut.

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan is in support of Shaw, and says local governments at risk of aid cuts held up their part of the agreement and so, too, should Albany.

“We know we have fiscal problems in New York State. We’re endeavoring to put a deal together to make sure that our state’s budgets balanced. But we’re not going to do it on the backs of small towns like Hamburg and we’re not going to do it on the backs of Erie County,” Ryan said.

The Erie County Legislature on Thursday passed a resolution urging the Cuomo administration to back away from the plan. The county, under the Cuomo proposal, stands to lose $288,560.

“I knew when there was a $6 billion deficit announced in the state budget that it was going to be an issue for the towns and the counties and local municipalities. I had no idea that it would be taken away the second biggest revenue source in Hamburg. So that’s obviously a great concern,” said Legislator John Gilmour, who lives in Hamburg.

Shaw announced that the Village of Hamburg had passed a similar resolution supporting his position and that the Village of Blasdell was expected to follow in short time.