BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A new Siena College poll out Monday shows a majority of New Yorkers are against the state using tax dollars to pay for a new Buffalo Bills stadium.
The poll found voters disapprove, 63-24%, of the state spending $600 million on a new stadium.
Researchers found the funding is opposed by at least 55% of every demographic group, and upstate New Yorkers approve less than voters downstate.
On the same day the poll results were released, Governor Kathy Hochul, who led the charge for the stadium deal, appeared in Buffalo Monday.
“How about keeping the Buffalo Bills for 30 years?” asked Governor Kathy Hochul.
Governor Hochul received a standing ovation at Buffalo's Kleinhans Music Hall Monday where she touted the decision to give $600-million in state money for the construction of a new Bills stadium.
During Monday's visit, she also unveiled additional parts of the state budget saying millions are coming to the City of Buffalo to quote “right the wrongs of the past on the east side”.
Afterward, the governor answered reporter questions about that Siena Poll, emphasizing the state's share for the stadium is 43-percent of the total costs.
Hochul argues against the polling results, saying billions of dollars were put into Penn Station and other projects across the state.
“This is what I deal with as governor. I have a large state with a lot of different interests and I know that this is important for the identity of Western New York — I will stand by that — Just as I said when I was on Broadway — Broadway is to New York City as Buffalo Bills are to Western New York and it's part of our identity,” Hochul remarked.
Hochul noted more than $400 of the state's share is coming from casino revenue owed to the state by the Seneca Nation.
She defended that decision when I asked her about the state freezing Seneca Nation bank accounts forcing them to release that money.
“As far as applying $418-million to the stadium, I stand by that — this is an opportunity for us to take money that was generated exclusively in Western New York, mostly by Western New York residents — not the state taxpayers. This was local money and we decided to dedicate this toward something that I mentioned would be a significant regional asset,” Hochul noted.
The governor says people can disagree but insists the stadium deal is good for the taxpayers and it will pay for itself in the long-term by keeping the Bills here.
“That fact that we're to be able to collect income tax on the very high salaries of these professional athletes,” Hochul explained.
“We know the county is getting out of the football business. We are going to save millions in the long run,” declared Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.
Poloncarz attended Hochul's budget event, also responding to the statewide poll.
The county executive says he also wants the community to know that the new stadium will not be owned by Bills owners, the Pegulas, but by New York State.
Polonccarz became defensive when asked if he was giving money to billionaire owners.
“No! There's not a penny that goes to the billionaires. There's not a penny that goes to the Pegulas. It goes into a construction account, so I wish media would get the message correctly — it’s owned by the people,” replied Poloncarz.
Poloncarz says the state or the county is not writing a check to the owners. He reminds us when the stadium was first built in Orchard Park in the early 1970s there was no investment from the team.
The county executive says if Buffalo lost the bills, it would have affected everyone.
“Psychologically, it would have been a big blow and the second thing is the economic impact that the Bills have in the great community,” Poloncarz stated.
The poll also found New Yorkers strongly support new bail law changes and the suspending of the state's gas tax.