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Scaffold Law reform should rise ?to the top of Cuomo's agenda

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be applauded for his administration's commitment to improved public infrastructure. His Aug. 4 announcement about the improvements to the Peace Bridge reflects a strong commitment to Buffalo and the region's economic competitiveness.

However, before the taxpayers shoulder the cost of these public projects, the governor needs to look at ways to eliminate waste and maximize the benefit of our public dollars.

One of the easiest ways to eliminate wasteful spending on the Peace Bridge project would be to reform Labor Law 240, also known as the Scaffold Law. New York is the only state in the nation with the Scaffold Law, which holds contractors and property owners automatically fully liable in lawsuits for gravity-related injuries, even if they were not at fault.

The state's deep-pockets are an easy target for scaffold lawsuits, driving up the cost of the project without adding any additional benefit, except to the local personal injury attorneys.

Estimates of the additional cost to the Tappan Zee project range from $100 million to nearly a billion dollars of unnecessary spending.

For a project like the Peace Bridge improvement, the cost would likely be in the tens of millions money that would be far better spent on other job-creating projects like new schools, economic development programs or even additional infrastructure improvements.

The powerful trial lawyer lobby defends the Scaffold Law by suggesting it improves safety. Yet this defies common sense. How can absolving workers of any personal responsibility promote an environment of safety and awareness?

The lawyers conveniently ignore the fact that when Illinois repealed its version of the Scaffold Law in 1995, workplace fatalities decreased dramatically.

Before ground is broken on the new Peace Bridge improvements, Cuomo and the State Legislature should work together to reform the Scaffold Law. Doing so would have significant benefits statewide.

It's time to stop throwing away public dollars on a handout to wealthy personal injury lawyers and start using them where they are truly needed.

Thomas Stebbins

Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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Obama is misunderstood? on possible Medicare cuts

Let's clear up the misconceptions about Medicare cuts and some misconceptions being spread about President Obama cutting $700 billion from Medicare. Let's go back to the beginning of this story and why the panic is not necessary.

Traditional Medicare is a health insurance program administered by our federal government and it is primarily to help seniors ages 65 and older obtain health care coverage.

In 2006, under President George W. Bush, a portion of Medicare was turned over to private insurance companies to run under the guise that they would make it better for their enrollees. These plans were renamed Medicare Advantage.

As a result, Medicare Advantage has created a billion-dollar profit windfall for private insurance companies that costs us taxpayers more than traditional Medicare.

Furthermore, studies have shown that enrollees into Medicare Advantage are no healthier or better off medically than enrollees under traditional Medicare.

So when Obama says he will cut Medicare, he is speaking of Medicare Advantage, which we all are paying obscenely high prices for. The money that will be saved, billions, can then be put back into his Affordable Care Act.

Cutting off Medicare Advantage makes sense. The people screaming the loudest are the uninformed, or the insurance companies who stand to lose billions in taxpayer profits.

So the next time you hear about Obama cutting Medicare, remember the cuts are to Medicare Advantage, which is not an "advantage" to anyone except the insurance companies.

Diana Butsch

West Falls

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Politicians crying poor? do not have it so rough

I feel so bad for those legislators from downstate New York who can hardly get by on $79,000-per-year, plus per diem of $171 per day while in Albany. By the way, they are not there very much, and when they are they do nothing for the people who put them there.

I am sick of their whining. This is not a "career" job, and if they can't survive on $79,000-plus, then they should resign.

If the pay is so bad, why have so many been in Albany forever?

It is almost impossible to vote these eternal incumbents out of office, since challengers can't raise the cash unless they are wealthy themselves.

To make it even harder for a challenger, Albany insiders gerrymander districts in their favor.

They should try representing the people of New York State instead of fundraising for their next election. These politicians make me sick!

Ed Clohessy

Amherst

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Fudoli is wrong to speak ?against public employees

I write in response to the article published on Aug. 8 about Lancaster Town Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli. I do not live in Lancaster, but my parents did for more than 30 years.

My comments address a few statements the town supervisor made about the government, and in particular government employees, that are offensive and untrue.

He states " People need to start waking up and realizing that the government's not their friend, the government's their enemy," and that government employees are the "nonproducing part of society."

I worked as a registered nurse at the Buffalo Veterans Hospital for 35 years on a very active medical surgical floor. We cared for veterans with asthma, lung cancer, sarcoidosis, ALS and more.

We also cared for long-term ventilator patients. I, along with my co-workers, loved our job in the nursing profession and the honor of caring for this country's veterans.

We made a decent living by doing so. We gave up some things, too. The jobs we had were 2 4/7 . We missed some holidays, weddings, birthdays and other celebrations. But we loved our jobs.

The government is not your enemy, it was not our enemy as employees and it certainly was not an enemy to the veterans we cared for!

Our patients and their families, I know for a fact, would tell you that as government employees, caring for our veterans, we were part of the most productive part of society.

The caring people who perform these life-saving jobs are not your enemy. They do not leave their professions as millionaires and they do not live excessive lifestyles on their pensions after they retire. They do productive work during their careers, for which they earn a decent living.

They are a very productive part of society, contrary to Fudoli's belief.

Ann Converso, R.N.

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