The Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Legislative Breakfast today. It’s an opportunity for the region’s officials and business interests to hear from and question their representatives in Albany. This year, much of the focus was on the proposed state budget.
The Chamber hosts the NYS legislative forum annually as part of its ongoing efforts to bring key officials and decision makers to the North Country.
Republican state Senator Betty Little of the 45th district praised the governor’s announcement a day earlier that broadband service will be expanded in the North Country and called for similar work to enhance cellular. A member of the Finance Committee, she then discussed the state budget deliberations. “Two things I think that we are focusing on: the deficit. And the deficit I think can be resolved. The other thing is the federal tax thing. That’s a big issue for all of us. I was absolutely shocked that it actually went through because I thought New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut had a lot more clout. That’s tough for us especially because we’re an area that relies, our tax base, a lot on second home owners and those taxes can really get very high. So New York state is still one of the highest taxed states in the country so that is our goal is to eliminate that and reduce those taxes. Certainly not add any new ones.”
114th District Assemblyman Dan Stec, also a Republican, noted this is the sixth budget he will be reviewing. “My frustration that the budget is not a budget at the state of New York. Everybody that is involved in a school budget or a town budget or a city budget or a county budget your budget is dollars and cents, revenues and expenses. In New York state it’s $160 something billion of that AND it’s a lot of policy and a lot of programs. I don’t think it’s a good way to do business. I think it clouds the budgetary issues and that frustrates me. I don’t think it’s going to change just because I say I don’t like it but you know if I was going to have my criticisms of the state budget process that and the fact that this year April 1st is Easter Sunday. The calendar has been like that for forever. There is absolutely no way on God’s green earth that we should be in there on Easter Sunday working on a budget. But I suspect we will.”
Democratic Assemblyman D. Billy Jones of the 115th District expects legislators to focus on passing the budget before any other proposals. “We continue to work on legislation fine tuning some stuff that I’m going to introduce. We’re working on some legislation in regards to seniors. Our senior population is near and dear to my heart. Health care is of huge concern to them. I have my bill in for Medicaid transport reimbursement. We live in a very rural area here. We’re having a home health care aide crisis here. We want to see people age in place. So we continue to work on that bill to help with the cost of transportation for our home health aides. I think that’s a major a major issue right now as far as seniors and our disabled community and the overall health and well being of our North Country.”
Questions posed from the business community included the role of the Adirondack Park Agency in the newly announced broadband expansion plans, marijuana legalization, the opioid crisis and the tax cap.