By Tom Precious
ALBANY – Strange, maybe, that it came down to a liberal Manhattan Democrat to defend a near $60 million item in the state budget plan to keep the Buffalo Bills from leaving Western New York.
“Buffalo has got a lot of hard times. I don’t think it would be a smart thing to let that team leave because it would really do damage to that city and the mentality of that city," said Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Herman Farrell.
The lawmaker’s comments came this evening during a floor debate over the Assembly’s one-house budget resolution when a Putnam County Republican, Assemblyman Steve Katz, raised concerns about the Assembly accepting a budget provision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide nearly $60 million in capital and operating cost aid to the Bills. The money is part of a deal made earlier this year by the state, county and the team to remain in Western New York.
“Aren’t they wealthy enough that they can handle their own operating support?’’ Katz asked Farrell, who ran the floor budget debate on behalf of the Assembly Democrats. Katz suggested the team was leveraging a threat to move as a way to get a taxpayer bailout.
“The New York Giants said that one day and now they are the New Jersey Giants," Farrell responded, noting the loss also from New York over the years of teams like the Jets and Brooklyn Dodgers. He said the Yankees remained in the city, in part, because of the government aid package.
“I don’t want to get beat up because they left Buffalo," Farrell said.
“I don’t see that this is the financial boon to the city of Buffalo," Katz said. “Honestly, no offense to my colleagues in Buffalo." He said the state should not be giving “$60 million to billionaires who can more than afford to stay right here.