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Northern New York state representatives weigh in on legislative session

NYS Capitol
Dave Lucas
New York State Capitol

Following the adjournment of the New York legislative session, the Republican and Democrat representing areas of the North Country are expressing disappointment with where key issues ended up.

Republican Dan Stec served four terms in the Assembly and in 2020 was elected to represent the 45th state Senate district, which includes Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Warren Counties and parts of St. Lawrence and Washington counties. It is the largest Senate district, geographically, in New York. He criticizes the Democratically-controlled chambers for the record budget.

“It really came in at a whopping $239 billion, significant increase year-to-year and a huge increase in the last five years. Since we’ve had one party rule the spending has just gone off the rails,” asserts Stec. “And the end of session got sidetracked because of the congestion pricing kerfuffle between the governor and the two majorities. She hits the pause button and just opens a hornet’s nest with the Democrats in the Legislature. And so the end of session kind of got sidetracked and a lot of things that I was hoping to get done did not happen.”

Democrat D. Billy Jones was first elected in 2016 to represent the state’s northernmost 115th Assembly District, which includes Clinton and Franklin Counties and four towns in St. Lawrence County.

He says Governor Kathy Hochul’s pause in the congestion pricing plan has implications for the North Country.

“What this would have done with the congestion pricing is would have come up with a billion dollars to further bond for capital projects at the MTA,” says Jones. “And of course that has significant effect in our area because our manufacturing here in the Plattsburgh region depends so much on MTA and MTA contracts. And I will say on top of that pulling of that congestion pricing formula the MTA still needs to come up with that money so that they can bond for capital projects. So you know we have our work cut out there.”

A $15 toll set to take effect June 30th for drivers entering lower Manhattan was put on indefinite pause by Gov. Hochul in the closing days of the session.

As for the overall session, Assemblyman Jones expressed disappointment that a bill to register UTVs or Utility Terrain Vehicles and a package to further aid EMS providers failed to move forward. He finds that few bills passed at the end of the session will impact his district.

“A lot of the big issues were dealt with in the budget,” recalls Jones. “I can’t think of anything right now that is earthshattering that did go through or didn’t go through. But you know every year it’s the same. It’s a rush towards the end. But we’ll continue to push for legislative agendas that are going to benefit the North Country.”

Jones and Stec had been working on a constitutional amendment that would remove three closed prisons from the Adirondack Forest Preserve in order to accelerate potential sale of the properties. Senator Stec points to Camp Gabriels, which has been closed since 2009.

“I was hopeful and I’m certainly not opposed to a constitutional amendment for all three prisons,” notes Stec. “But I’ll tell you this. It’s not clear that one is even legally necessary for Mount MacGregor in Saratoga County because that prison’s not located in the Blue Line. And then in the case of Moriah Shock, that one’s the most recently closed one and it’s not clear that the state isn’t going to use it for its own purposes. But we know we do for Camp Gabriels. That’s been around for five years. Everyone’s on board with it except for some unknown party in the Assembly. I think we have a right to know who’s holding it up in the Assembly and what is their reason.”

Among the positive bills the representatives cite from the session are passage of continued routine infrastructure and CHIPs funding.

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