Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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October 27, 2013

To be, or not to be, one of Majority?

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — In the heavily Republican 15th Legislative District, the candidates for Niagara County Legislature have starkly different views of what it means to belong to the majority.

Eight-year incumbent Michael Hill, R-Middleport, cites as accomplishments of his tenure various measures that were put up and adopted by members of the legislature’s GOP-led Majority Caucus.

It’s a super-majority these days, since legislature membership was trimmed to 15 seats in 2012 and 12 of those seats are now held by Republicans and affiliates. Three Democrats rarely can get a word in edgewise, or their proposals taken seriously, in the hyperpartisan legislature chambers. 

Hill’s county Democratic committee-backed opponent, Joshua Walker of Gasport, doesn’t think Hill’s belonging to the majority caucus is anything to brag about. Walker’s campaign signs are two-parters, one message board encouraging people to vote for him and the other urging “end puppet government.”

Ahead of the Nov. 5 election, here is a look at the 15th District candidates’ views on the current state of county government.

Hill: Majority caucus is ‘right sizing’ government

Through four terms of office, and always as part of the GOP-led majority caucus, Hill said he has been involved in helping reduce the county tax levy by 12 percent.

“In 2003 and 2004 the legislature turned over from Democrats to Republicans. In 2004, the (average) tax rate was $8.78 per $1,000, and this year it’s $7.72,” he said.

Hill considers himself part of a team that’s been working to “right size” county government.

Since 2004, the county workforce has been reduced to 1,400 employees from 1,700, “and we provide the same services,” he said.

Now the team has set its sights on increasing the use of shared services within the county. It’s a goal Hill says he fully supports.

“We’ve created an ad hoc committee to look at shared services between the 12 towns and the county. There are similar agreements in Orleans County, where each town is essentially a substation for the county,” he said.

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