The massive clean-up following last month's storm has forced revisions on how the $1 billion in economic development aid Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged for the Buffalo Niagara region will be used.
Cuomo, who announced the aid in January, had hoped to have a detailed plan for how the aid would be spent during the next few years by this year's holiday season. However, the devastation created by last month's so-called Superstorm Sandy to metropolitan New York City has delayed that process.
"The 'Buffalo Billion' is being worked on," said Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy following a news event at Rich Products Corp. headquarters Monday. "I think we are getting closer."
Duffy admitted state officials have been so focused on Hurricane Sandy-related issues that other initiatives around the state have been forced to the background - albeit for a brief period of time.
Duffy, however, stressed Cuomo remains committed to seeing his economic development aid pledge to the Buffalo Niagara region fulfilled.
"Unfortunately, the damage from Sandy was so great, it has taken a collective effort by a lot of people to help out," Duffy said.
The lieutenant governor stressed the $1 billion remains committed to the Buffalo Niagara region and will not be diverted downstate to help pay for storm repairs. Also, Cuomo will continue to keep the $100 million pledged to the region under last fall's Regional Development Council initiative in Western New York.
Cuomo is expected in Buffalo next week to give an update on the regional council economic development plan.
"His commitment on the 'Buffalo billion' will be held as he (Cuomo) stated," Duffy said. "Western New York will not be forgotten."
In other issues addressed by Duffy:
• Negotiations between the Buffalo Bills, New York state and Erie County for a new lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium are continuing. Duffy said he remains confident a new lease will be struck, although he did not put any time frame on when the talks will be concluded.
"We are in a very good place," Duffy said. "Both sides are working very hard to get it done."
Duffy said he talks regularly with top Bills executives Russ Brandon and Jeff Littmann, outside of team owner Ralph Wilson Jr., the key negotiators for the football team.
"Everything has been very positive," Duffy said.
• It remains unclear if Cuomo will sign legislation that will increase the ceiling on state-backed tax credits for historic restoration projects - raising the cap to $12 million from $5 million.
Developers, especially in Upstate communities like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, have been pressing Cuomo for the tax credit increase. The measure, this summer, cleared both the state Assembly and Senate and remains on Cuomo's desk, awaiting his signature.
"Before he signs something, Gov. Cuomo wants to make sure New York can pay for it," Duffy said.
With New York facing a fiscal crisis, which has been made worse by Superstorm Sandy-related issues, Duffy said Cuomo is moving very cautiously when it comes to the state giving up potential revenues.
"We'd like to make sure, New York has the ability to pay for this without raising taxes or forcing new fees on people," Duffy said. "But, the fact that he (Cuomo) has not voted the bill and it is still sitting on his desk says something."