SALAMANCA — As the Senate Transportation Committee chairman, State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy of Buffalo was invited to Salamanca on Monday to view the bad condition of state highways leading into and through the city.
The 63rd District senator from South Buffalo soon discovered the condition of the roads was clearly related with “the disagreement between the Seneca Nation and the (Cuomo) Administration playing a pivotal role in the lack of action here.”
Kennedy, who was invited by Cattaraugus County Minority Leader Susan Labuhn, R-Salamanca, to inspect city streets the state is responsible for maintaining pledges to try to “get past the disagreements, find common ground and advance the needs of the community.”
Labuhn said she invited Kennedy to look at the road situation because the 57th Senate District is without representation since the March 10 resignation of former Sen. Catharine M. Young of Olean.
“The blame game has to stop and we have to move forward,” Labuhn told Kennedy at a luncheon at her Broad Street home after the infrastructure tour. “I appreciate you coming.”
Earlier, Kennedy met with Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Seneca Transportation Director Jody Clark and members of the Seneca Tribal Council.
Kennedy said Armstrong and the Seneca Council “want to rectify their relationship with the governor. When that happens, other issues that are intertwined” can be addressed.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest to move forward,” Kennedy told Labuhn, Legislator David Koch, D-Salamanca; City Councilman Tim Flanigan and City Public Works Superintendent Rob Carpenter.
“It’s a matter of communicating,” Kennedy said. “Both sides realize it’s in their best interests. Both sides have indicated a desire to resolve things. My goal is to get both sides coming together.”
Labuhn said she was glad Kennedy spoke with Armstrong and the council, as there is “more involved than just roads and bridges. Once we can take care of this compact dispute” other issues will follow.
“It’s important everyone’s voices are heard,” Kennedy said. “I’ll be happy if I can bring people together and resolve some of these issues.”
The latest compact issue dates back two years to when the Senecas stopped making casino revenue sharing payments to the state, saying it made no mention of continuing payments after the 14th year of the compact. This came after the compact was automatically renewed for an additional seven years.
An arbitration panel ruled 2-1 earlier this year that the Seneca’s owed New York State $225 million and needed to resume making the revenue sharing payments.
Municipalities and school districts across Western New York receive a portion of the state’s revenue sharing funds from the Seneca’s casinos in Salamanca, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
Salamanca, for example, was receiving about $6 million a year from the casino revenue sharing, while Cattaraugus County and the Salamanca City Central School District were each receiving more than $1 million a year to help make up for the loss of property tax revenue on land sold to members of the Seneca Nation who are immune from paying property taxes on their territory.
More than 90 percent of the city is located on the Allegany Territory.