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Onondaga County Legislature's Democratic leader heads into budget talks with optimism

County legislature Democratic Floor Leader Chris Ryan speaks at a session earlier last month where lawmakers voted on the aquarium.
Scott Willis
County Legislature Democratic Minority Leader Chris Ryan speaks in the legislature's chambers during a vote on a proposed aquarium, Aug. 2, 2022.

Onondaga County lawmakers this week are diving deep into Republican County Executive Ryan McMahon's proposed budget, closely reviewing the spending plan line by line, and the Legislature minority leader's initial reaction suggests the process is off to a positive start.

County Legislature Minority Leader Chris Ryan said he doesn't have any immediate objections to the $1.4 billion plan presented to the legislature late last week and specifically cited McMahon's emphasis on youth and seniors.

"I'm going into it, and colleagues in the democratic caucus are going in with some optimism a willingness to work across the aisle to get a good budget for the citizens of the county," Ryan said. noting he and his caucus have long called for more emphasis on human services.

However, he said there are still more details to be learned during this week's budget hearings.

"There's always going to be an abundance of questions getting into the particulars on the district and the numbers and the micro level," Ryan said. "But, you know, on a macro level, kind of seems good. We're investing in our youth were investing in our seniors. We're lowering property taxes. So, the overall it sounds kind of promising, but we'll have to wait and see once we get into it."

McMahon is proposing several million dollars for lead abatement and testing, youth development and senior center improvement programs. At the same time, he wants to slash property taxes by 11%.

After an agreement last week, all legislature review session discussions will now be live streamed on the internet. Ryan has pushed for the streaming of the budget meetings as well as committee meetings, where important details are often hashed out.

Members of the Legislature Ways and Means Committee agreed last week to put forward a plan to spend $50,000 on upgrading the county’s existing equipment to improve meeting and even audio and video quality. Ryan said it’s a good start.

"We just want to make sure it works," Ryan said. "The legislative chambers can echo it's not that easy. It's the expectation that we will be in the other room or where the committees usually are. We just want to make sure we're getting it right. We want to make sure we invest in that transparency. We want to make sure the general public, that when they're being streamed that everybody can hear it and everybody can understand it."

For now, though, the legislature will use its existing equipment and Facebook page to stream this week’s budget review sessions.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at