It looks like one group came out on the short end of a recent budget agreement between the state and the New York Power Authority -- the millions of people who use four state parks, including one of the busiest parks in the nation.
State budget-makers who decided to "sweep" $550 million out of the coffers of the state-controlled utility, to help address a budget crisis, decided to soften the blow for the Power Authority on the back of state parks.
The deal-makers allowed the authority to skip some of the payments it had promised to provide to help cover the costs involved in running parks near its major hydroelectric stations in Lewiston and Massena.
The spots that will feel the financial loss are Niagara Falls State Park, Artpark and two other state parks near the St. Lawrence River.
State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, discovered the arrangement in a state budget bill and in minutes of a Feb. 3 special meeting of the authority board.
"Nobody's seeing this coming," Maziarz told The Buffalo News.
In exchange for the sweep of authority money into the state general fund, the state will "relieve" the authority of the $8 million in payments to the four parks from 2011 to 2017, not to exceed $43 million, according to a memorandum of understanding between the state and the Power Authority.
A month after this deal was hammered out, Gov. David A. Paterson rolled into the Falls for a Town Hall meeting. One of the promises he made was to help the city with more resources to spur tourism.
Apparently he forgot to share that strategy with his budget team.
- News Niagara Editor Scott Scanlon