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North Country News

North Country State Representatives Update Chamber Members During Legislative Breakfast

At a pivotal time in state government, the North Country Chamber of Commerce held its annual Legislative Breakfast forum Friday morning to hear updates from the region’s representatives in Albany.
A sold-out crowd of 180 business, political, law enforcement and social service leaders from across the region gathered in Plattsburgh to hear from Republican Senator Betty Little, Republican Assemblyman Dan Stec and Democratic Assemblyman D. Billy Jones.

Before the representatives spoke, Chamber President Garry Douglas provided an overview of their just-released annual survey on state and federal issues. Senator Little of the 45th District then stepped up to the podium. She said the current focus in Albany is unsurprisingly the budget.  “We’re having hearings.  In the area of education there’s almost another billion dollars but for some of our schools the minimum they’re getting is a quarter of one percent. In the area of taxes collecting all the internet sales tax it makes a level playing field for our local retailers. There is a proposal for a middle income tax cut and then there’s a continuation of the millionaire’s tax. So there’s a lot of things in the budget.”

Democratic Assemblyman D. Billy Jones reported that while a lot of legislation has been dealt with in the first few weeks of the session, a lot of work has focused on Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal.  “There are some significant things that he has put in there we don’t like. He’s cut some aid formula. CHIPS we’d like to see increased a little more, that’s the infrastructure dollars., Winter recovery he cut out as well and our education higher learning institutes have taken a hit in the last couple of years in these budgets and we need to restore that.”

Republican Assemblyman Dan Stec expressed concerns over Albany’s changed dynamic after Democrats won back the Senate.  “There’s less leverage, or less interest maybe, for upstate issues rural issues North Country issues. And so that concerns me. And now the go to is going to be what does Long Island want? What does Buffalo want? What does New York City want?  With the state budget we have a new dynamic there and we don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out yet but my concern my fear would be that we are more at risk now than we were in the past.”

The question and answer period raised a number of issues. Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman was the first to weigh in.  “Two things in particular: CHIPS can you talk about where you see it going and in particular the AIM funding is currently under attack.”
Chamber President Garry Douglas: “Bill Farber."
Farber: "I’m obviously heartened by the growing understanding of the need for rural cellular. But we need the tools to work with the industry to really get this worked out and make it work.”
Douglas:  “I’ve got hands popping up all over. Harry."
Harry McManus: "Could we just revisit decriminalization. As a county official I’m concerned, I don’t know where it is on the legislation, about counties buying in or opting out and how that would possibly work.”

Other questions focused on workforce development, substance abuse treatment support, and small pharmacy losses to Pharmacy Benefit Managers.