Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, admittedly a possible challenger to incumbent County Executive Mark Poloncarz in November, shot back at Poloncarz on Monday for his criticism last week of Jacobs' plan to dedicate excess funds from his office for the upkeep of roads and bridges in the county.
Poloncarz called the clerk's plan an election-year gimmick, but Jacobs said on Monday the real gimmick is what goes on now, when auto bureau revenue from local motorists is dumped into the county's general fund "and we don't know where it goes."
Jacobs said under his proposed local law, $15-to-$20 million would be generated in four years beginning in 2016, "a significant increase in the amount of dollars devoted to our roads," and motorists would be assured that part of the revenue from fees and taxes collected on vehicle registrations "would be dedicated to maintaining roads, the appropriate use and the way it should have always been."
Jacobs said in announcing his proposal last week that the goal of his proposed law "is to increase sorely needed road repair funding on an annual basis," and the results would be that additional road projects would be completed every year.
Republican Legislator Ed Rath said that by approving the law, "the Legislature would ensure that the County Road Fund would receive a boost in funding," without any increased costs to taxpayers. "I think one of our biggest challenges is maintaining more than 1,200 lane miles and the extra funding will go a long way to ensuring safe roadways and bridges for residents."
Legislator Lynne Dixon, who represents Hamburg, Lackawanna, Blasdell and a portion of South Buffalo, said the pothole-ravaged county roads are clear evidence that more resources are needed to deal with the problem although Dixon and the narrow Republican majority may not be able to put together the two-thirds vote needed to override a Poloncarz veto of the proposed law should it come.
Anyone driving the county roads these days in the wake of the brutal winter can certainly attest to the pothole danger that confronts motorists across the county. Some potholes--for example several on Jennings Road in the Town of Eden—are big enough to cause severe damage to any vehicle unfortunate enough to find them in the dark of night or during a rain storm.
Jacobs, a Republican, looms as the strongest possible challenger to Democrat Poloncarz in November if he decides to run. Republican County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw took himself out of the picture last week, citing what he called family obligations. Amherst Republican Ray Walter is reported to be waiting in the wings in the GOP bullpen in case Jacobs opts not to run. Sources say Jacobs could make his plans known in the next few days.