Patience urged on casino money from Senecas
Localities told not to count on revenue from arbitration arriving very soon
ALBANY – Since arbitrators in January declared the Seneca Nation wrongly withheld $100 million in annual casino revenue sharing payments, some Western New York localities have been planning how to spend the coming money.
Top officials in Buffalo, for instance, are going so far as to plan possible pay raises for elected officials in the city thanks to the restarted payments.
The check is not in the mail, though.
And the new, 2019 state budget approved Monday by the Legislature makes no mention of the disputed Seneca casino payments coming before next March 31.
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, a Niagara Falls Republican, has a simple message to localities and schools – from Niagara Falls to Buffalo to Salamanca – banking on the Seneca money: Be patient.
“They should be cautious in proceeding” and start their budget “based upon reliable income without the Seneca money,” the lawmaker said.
“They need to consider the Seneca money as a potential lottery win, some kind of bonus,” added Morinello, comparing the situation to a family that can’t rely on a lottery win to balance “daily, household expenses.”
State officials, however, are THE UPSHOT confident the issue is going to be resolved soon. They believe that, by the terms of the compact and the arbitration rules itself, there is little room for the Senecas not to turn over the level of funding that will be contained in what is expected to be a soon-to-be-released final order by a three-person arbitration panel. That group began work last year to end the stalemate.
The January arbitration ruling, by a 2-1 vote, has been declared binding, as envisioned by the terms of a compact between the state and the Seneca Nation going back to the days of former Gov. George Pataki in 2002.
But the January action by the panel was merely an opinion, though an important one at that. The panel has yet to issue a final decision in the matter. Such a document is expected to include a precise number it believes is owed by the Senecas to New York State and whether, for instance, there might be a structured payment plan to resolve the financial obligation.
But some Seneca members, according to sources, are less willing to pay New York the disputed money, even if ordered to do so by the arbitration panel. The Senecas, as well as the one dissenting arbitrator who was appointed to the panel by the Seneca Nation, have been sharply criti
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