BY JOE OLENICK email@example.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Incumbent Legislator Rick Updegrove asks voters to look at the progress Niagara County has made under the GOP-led Legislature, while challenger Anthony Molinaro says they should take a look at a tax bill and find any change.
Molinaro and Updegrove are squaring off in the race to represent the 12th District in the Niagara County Legislature. The district covers the city and town of Lockport.
Updegrove, a Buffalo lawyer seeking his sixth two-year term, has served as the Legislature’s Republican majority leader since 2007. He is also carrying the Conservative and Independence lines.
The GOP majority took over 10 years ago, a year after the county saw a double digit increase in taxes, Updegrove said. Over that time, Updegrove says the county tax rate has been reduced by 12 percent and the size of the government by 16 percent, mostly by privatizing certain services such as long-term and home healthcare.
And since 2008, the county Industrial Development Agency has approved projects totaling $887.4 million in capital investment, leading to the creation of 1,421 jobs, Updegrove said in a letter to County Manager Jeffrey Glatz. Updegrove was asking Glatz to use any budget surplus to reduce the tax rate.
Molinaro, a Democrat who is also carrying the Green Party line, said the move was a shortsighted financial one, but one that was intended to produce some kind of political impact.
Increasing the tax base is how to reduce taxes, which is what the county has done over the last decade, Updegrove said in a Niagara USA Chamber candidates forum on Oct. 18.
“I’m proud of our record,” Updegrove said. “But we need to partner with other taxing jurisdictions.”
Molinaro is a Lockport Board of Education member, having been elected in 2011. He has worked extensively on two school district budgets. He is also a building trades teacher for the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Taxpayers haven’t seen any reduction in their tax bill, Molinaro said. The county is among the highest taxed in the nation, he said, and residents pay some high utility costs as well.
Molinaro said he would like to see some conditions that would benefit the county’s youth tied in with business incentives. Conditions that would, for example, allow Niagara County youth to intern with those companies, Molinaro said.
A self-described family man, Molinaro said his interest in politics isn’t career-based, but rather because his special interest group is his family and the community.
Molinaro said he would be available for residents with questions who may not be able to attend Legislature meetings.
“I’m invested here,” he said. “I want to help them as much as I can.”Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.