Lawmakers choose not to sell tobacco settlement
LITTLE VALLEY - Cattaraugus County legislators Wednesday followed a path with other small counties across the state by opting not to sell its tobacco settlement money for a $14 million lump sum.
After several legislators returned this week from a conference of the State Association of Counties, they said many other counties were now taking a wait-and-see stance on selling their money in favor of taking annual payments over the next 25 years. That could bring Cattaraugus County as much as $42 million.
Majority Leader Mark S. Williams said, "I think we need to see what happens. The word at the conference was most counties decided not to take a settlement."
Allegany, Chautauqua, Erie and Monroe counties have opted to take up-front settlements.
The only opposition was voiced by Paul J. Schafer, R-Olean, who noted the county has not received the amount of tobacco money anticipated last year, estimated at $2.02 million. The amount the county has received thus far, he said, is $1.85 million.
"My view is that we should take the $15 million and invest it along lines suggested by our county treasurer," Schafer said.
"We all know that the continuation of receiving the tobacco money relies solely on tobacco consumption in the United States. Considering the mountain of lawsuits against tobacco companies, the discouragement smokers are receiving from all sides, the rising popularity of generic-brand cigarettes, the report that teenage smoking is down and the question of propriety of a county government risking public funds, I think it would be irresponsible for us not to pass this law," Schafer said.
The law was tabled, 20-1, with only Schafer in favor.
Legislators also made several appointments to the newly formed Southern Tier Railroad Authority.
Legislator Gerard J. Fitzpatrick, R- Ellicottville, will serve three years, county Planning Director Thomas Livak, two years, and former legislator Joseph K. Eade of Olean, one year.