WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo's traveled to the Buffalo area on Thursday to lobby support for his plan to cut into New York state's high tax rates.
"It keeps coming back to taxes and it's an issue that we've been grappling with for decades but we've never really gotten hold of it," Cuomo said.
Cuomo says addressing the issue will help maintain and expand economic development across the state. He held up Western New York as an example.
"I've never seen a city, a county a region come back the way Western New York has."
Cuomo says he won't stop his call for development on Goat Island in Niagara Falls, despite a petition calling for the park to remain focused on nature and having funds instead go toward other parts of the city. Cuomo says the state is still pushing forward with a request for proposals for projects that could help boost tourism there.
"The engine, the economic engine is tourism. That is the fundamental engine that we are reving up. We're building hotels, we need to get people to come to Niagara Falls to fill those hotel rooms. The question is what do we do, what's the activity, what's the attraction? And that's what we're putting out an RFP for, which will include Goat Island."
Cuomo says funds are still going into the city for other projects, but activities on Goat Island is the priority.
The governor also defended state signs erected along highways and the Thruway system, which he asserts have boosted tourism in New York. The federal government claims the advertisements are illegal, since they do not direct drivers to a specific location, but Cuomo contends the 500-plus signs have contributed to a $9 billion boost in tourism spending.
“You're darn right I'm going to advertise New York and I Love New York and tourism because we're making money at it."
Meanwhile, many Western New York Democrats give the governor and his Buffalo Billion initiative a lot of the credit for the revitalization of the city's downtown and waterfront. For that reason, the party honored Cuomo as a special guest Thursday night at the annual Chairman's Council Reception.
"We host one big high-end event in the beginning of the year where we raise the operating expenses for ECDC and we're just happy to have the governor here," said Jeremy Zellner, the Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman.
Cuomo's appearance at the fundraiser was news in itself. It's the first time he's attended an event for the Erie County Democrats since Zellner became chair in 2012. Zellner said the relationship between the local party and the governor has grown closer over the last few years.
Cuomo rejected the idea there was ever any sort of chasm between him and the committee, and the relationship appears to continue to benefit both sides. The party planned to raise roughly $300,000 on Thursday while Cuomo enjoyed support from local leaders like Erie County Executive Poloncarz for his tax plan.