By John Ceretto
Niagara Gazette — Western New York faced a lot of challenges heading into the New Year. Before I went to Albany for this year’s legislative session, I asked myself what can be done to improve the quality of life for all residents of Western New York? Now that this year’s session is over, I can look back and say that we took some positive steps. We passed the third consecutive on-time budget in my three years in the Assembly and kept taxes at their lowest rate in 60 years. While more steps can be taken to improve Western New York, I believe we are headed in the right direction.
The best news for Niagara Falls and Western New York this year is the agreement with the Senecas over casino gaming revenues. The Senecas were withholding from Niagara Falls $89 million in casino gaming revenues over a contract dispute with the state. As a result of the agreement, the Senecas will pay back Niagara Falls the $89 million in full. This influx of cash will go to pay down Niagara Falls’ debt and be invested in the local economy, both of which will help create jobs for residents of Niagara Falls and its surrounding communities.
Another major victory was the restoration of the $90 million cut in funding to people with developmental disabilities. This cut would have been devastating to the developmentally disabled and would have severely limited the services that they depend on to maintain their quality of life. I took an active role in getting this money restored by attending rallies and delivering constituent emails to the governor asking for full restoration. The push was successful, and the money was restored. It is comforting to know that the services that people with developmental disabilities and their families rely on will still be there.
There is one very important piece of unfinished business that needs to be addressed when the legislature meets again. The Senate passed nine women’s equality bills that address fair pay, protection from sexual harassment in the workforce, human trafficking, domestic violence and all forms of discrimination against women. However, the Assembly did not pass any of these important pieces of legislation. The Assembly leadership is playing political games with women’s equality, and it needs to stop.
As the father of two daughters, it is appalling to me that my girls may not have the protections they deserve because of political posturing. The nine women’s equality bills were passed almost unanimously in the Senate and would pass the Assembly as well. We need to return to Albany to pass these nine bills and give women the protections they deserve.
Overall, the 2013 Legislative Session was a good one for Western New York. We brought more money to Western New York for economic development and job creation. While this will go a long way to improving our quality of life, more can be done. I have long been pushing for a redesign of the Robert Moses Parkway that opens the waterfront for economic development. I will continue to push this and other economic development initiatives to improve the quality of life for Niagara Falls and all of Western New York. We still have room to improve, but this was a good year for the people of Western New York, and we are just getting started.Assemblyman John Ceretto represents the 145th District, which includes parts of Niagara and Erie counties.