New York Governor Andrew Cuomo briefed the media on his budget proposal Tuesday night. This morning, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul appeared at the Glens Falls Civic Center to explain to local officials what it means for their region.
Kathy Hochul visited the Glens Falls Civic Center almost one year ago to announce $2 million in state funding for upgrades to the arena.
“Good morning, everyone. It is great to be back in this building,” said Hochul.
The lieutenant governor returned Wednesday morning to present Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 budget and how it would affect the North Country and Greater Capital Region.
A major component of the education budget for next year is a $163 million plan to provide public college education to students of households that make less than $125,000 a year.
Hochul said about 75 percent of families in the Capital Region would qualify. Currently, student loan debt for the average New Yorker sits around $29,000 as tuition prices keep rising.
Asked about the cool reception to the idea from the state’s private schools, Hochul said the state already gives “significant” tuition assistance to students attending private colleges.
“I think we ought to recognize how much we already do fund the privates in the State of New York, probably more than any other state, so that commitment will continue. And it is competition, but we do have to state somewhere,” said Hochul.
Kristine Duffy, president of SUNY Adirondack, a two-year college in Queensbury, said the plan will help even more students in the region get an education. Despite 54 percent of students graduating debt-free currently, she said it’s still difficult for many working people to afford tuition.
But Duffy wants to be sure that the school’s academic programs wont’ suffer under the plan.
“When you’re left with less public funding, whether it’s from the state, whether it’s from your local municipalities, tuition is where you have to go to be able to just meet your operating costs. So one thing we hope is that this proposal is funded but that we also make sure we have the funding we need to be able to support the students when they arrive,” said Duffy.
A familiar item from last year, Hochul said the budget would again encourage local governments to share services.
Ron Conover, who chairs the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said he would continue to push for savings there.
“I think it may take a little time and convincing, but I think it requires a continued emphasis, so I was happy it was there today. But I’m particularly interested, you know being from a municipality, the infrastructure proposal: the clean water proposal and the emphasis on sewer and water. I mean, communities all across our county are in need of help,” said Conover.
For example, Lake George is looking at a costly replacement for its sewer system. The state budget includes a $2 billion fund for sewer and water upgrades.
One proposal Hochul was particularly excited for is the Empire State Trail, which would connect and expand bicycle and pedestrian paths in the state. One section would connect the Canadian border with New York Harbor.
Hochul said the trail would follow Route 9 and would incorporate Lake George and Fort Ticonderoga. Phase 1 of the project would cost $53 million.
Hochul said the trail could bring international tourists and drive the local economy.
“I think there’s incredible untapped potential for the tourism industry to start embracing this now,” said Hochul.
Hochul predicted a tourism and hospitality industry built on the bike path, similar to what exists in European countries.
Hours before the state budget was released to the media Tuesday evening, supporters of the horse racing industry testified in Senate chambers about what they say is the need to re-privatize the New York Racing Association. With NYRA under state control that has been extended by Governor Cuomo, there have been numerous calls over the years to return the organization to a private non-profit.
Hochul says there is a re-privatization plan that would be in place before the April 1st deadline.