Horrigan joins county leaders in Albany

County Executive Vince Horrigan concluded a visit to Albany on Wednesday for the annual state Association of Counties Legislative Conference.

During the visit, Horrigan said he was able to discuss safety issues on Route 60 and shared services while retrieving information on state budget initiatives and grant opportunities.

Every year, county officials across the state convene in Albany to get the latest read on proposals and discuss problems facing local governments. Unfunded mandates proved to be a significant topic of discussion, especially with the vetoing of the indigent defense bill by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Legislation approved last year by the Senate and Assembly would have made the state assume costs for those who cannot afford legal defense. Cuomo said legislation would move costs from county to state taxpayers.

“Indigent defense will be pushed again,” Horrigan said. “Maybe it’ll garner the support it needs this time.”

Medicaid expenses and an increase in preschool transportation costs were also notable discussion topics. Tuition-free college also came up during the conference, but Horrigan said they don’t know what the financial impacts will be at this point on counties.

“We’re reserving our final opinion based on how that’s going to impact the budget,” he said. “There’s concern about the impact on counties.”

Horrigan said he had the opportunity to discuss Route 60 safety with state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and a state Department of Transportation representative via phone. Horrigan also had a separate conversation with Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown.

“We talked a little bit about strategy and how to improve traffic and safety issues,” he said.

Recently, the county submitted a grant application in a bid to obtain $20 million as part of the governor’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. Horrigan had a chance to discuss the grant, which includes consolidation and shared service projects, with members of the governor’s staff.

“I’m very optimistic about that grant submission,” he said. “We are working several projects. I know tonight there’s a vote in Cherry Creek. We’re looking to be able to advance some of our consolidation and shared service projects, so that was helpful.”

A proposal this year by Cuomo detailed the development of plans among county officials that finds property tax savings. The plan would then be put to taxpayers for a vote in the November general election.

The topic came up as the governor addressed county executives, and Horrigan placed concerns with the idea.

“To get something done and on the ballot this November I see as a significant hurdle,” he said. “At the same time, he believes giving county executives the authority to work with towns and villages and others to bring together opportunities for shared services, and take that to the voters, is an important step. We did bring up the point that we have to have the buy-in of our towns, mayors, supervisors and most importantly the people who actually vote.”

While the Forestville dissolution proved successful, Horrigan said it took time. Despite the village of Sherman voting against dissolving, getting the voters prepared with the necessary information took time.

Talking to other county executives, Horrigan said many are dealing with budget issues. On balance, Horrigan said Chautauqua County’s doing well.

“There’s exciting things going on,” he said. “I do intend to take some of the information I learned and put it into the State of the County Address this month. The reason is I think we are seeing all over Western New York some real opportunities. That coupled with work being done in Chautauqua County with our local governments and shared services I think bodes us well. There will be more to come as we put together a very exciting opportunity brought forth later this month.”

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