MAYVILLE - Lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously passed a motion of support against a toll hike plan on the New York State Thruway.
The motion, which had the full support of the Republican caucus going into the meeting, managed to garner full support of the legislature.
"I think because of motions like this from us and other counties we managed to get the governor to take a position on this," said Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry. "I suggest each one of us support this and let New York state really know that we can no longer stand for further increases."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced he would support a toll hike, but he directed the Thruway Authority to find ways to cut down on operating costs. A series of public hearings were held in Buffalo, Syracuse and Newburgh regarding the increase.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, meanwhile, has blasted the authority, and said the hike should be a last resort to raise funds.
"Imposing a large toll increase could have damaging effects on consumers and businesses at a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to recover from the recession," DiNapoli said.
The authority said a "modest" increase for trucks with three or more axles was necessary in order to raise $90 million a year in project funding. If approved, the hike would take effect Sept. 30.
Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the county Chamber of Commerce, said recently: "This is a tax that hits businesses particularly hard. Anything that increases the cost of moving product is not good for business."
In other business, the legislature Wednesday approved a rent restructure agreement with Runway 7 restaurant manager Teel Wolcott. With approval from lawmakers, the four-month-old restaurant will see its rent reduced from $600 a month to $200 a month plus 5 percent gross sales.
The decision, however, was not universally approved.
"I guess the biggest concern I have with this situation is that two legislators in this room set out on their own (and) negotiated a new deal without the authority of the legislature," said Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton.
DeJoe said that the airport commission, which recommended the rent reduction, should not have the power to negotiate lease agreements with tenants. He added that by allowing the resolution to pass it would set a bad precedent for future agreements with the county.
The resolution was sponsored by Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point, and David Himelein, R-Findley Lake. Horrigan, who sits on the airport commission, said reducing rent would help the struggling restaurant.
"During the summer months, with so many things going on, business has dropped off," he said. "We had a discussion with myself and the airport manager with the proprietors and we talked about the rent (and) how they were doing."
Horrigan said Wolcott is "a couple of months" past-due in rent, which prompted the commission to seek a lower payment.
"During that discussion it became apparent that the current rent agreement of $600 a month does not account for fluctuations in business," Horrigan said. "And while they are very optimistic and very committed to that restaurant, it became apparent to me that there was a better way to restructure their rent."
Victoria James, D-Jamestown, questioned why rent was established at $600 a month when previous restaurants at the airport had their rent around $200 a month.
"It kind of sounds like we set them up for failure a little bit," she said.
When reached by phone late Wednesday, Wolcott declined to comment, noting she was not made aware of the legislature's decision.
The legislature voted to adopt the rent restructuring by a vote of 19 to 6. Those voting against include: DeJoe; Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; Rod Rogers, G-Forestville; and John Runkle, R-Stockton.
The legislature also approved a resolution to hold a public hearing next month. A new local law being pushed would give first-time homebuyers for newly constructed and rehabbed properties tax breaks.