North Country Reacts To State Of The State

Jan 9, 2014

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Credit Pat Arnow

Many of the initiatives in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State are being welcomed by officials in New York’s North Country.

The governor showered praise on New York’s North Country for its economic resurgence over the past few years.  “The North Country was long ignored by Albany.  But there’s a new economic life. The Trudeau Institute is an emerging world-class biotech hub. There’s going to be a new hotel in Saranac Lake. Bombardier’s state-of-the-art  rail car facility in Plattsburgh is going great guns. The North Country has a new future.”  

Village of Saranac Lake Mayor Democrat Clyde Rabideau says the Governor comes to his community often and is very engaged in what happens in the region.  Rabideau says three initiatives in his speech will aid not only the Adirondacks, but the entire state.   “The first of which are the reductions of taxes for corporation. That’s gonna help all of upstate NY and especially in Saranac Lake.  Also helping out disabled vets. We have a few in our village that own their own businesses and they can use that small advantage. And then the concentration  on tourism throughout the state and in the Adirondacks is very exciting for us because much of our economy relies on tourism.”

The Governor’s proposal to reduce corporate tax rates is praised by most officials.  “Let’s cut the corporate tax rate to zero all across  upstate New York.”

Plattsburgh Mayor Independent James Calnon found the tax incentives particularly important.  Calnon feels if taxes can be held steady or reduced, it will boost competition. “I’m particularly interested in the business taxes. We have a very robust industrial sector here, from businesses that have been for a number of years and some of the new ones that are experiencing great success, like Bombardier did this week. The fact that we’re going to really try to reduce the corporate tax to encourage more businesses to be here and to basically eliminate the tax on manufacturing, really is a big leg up for us.”

Mayor Calnon’s enthusiasm is somewhat tempered because he feels the Governor did not discuss a  critical issue for local communities.  “I think the biggest challenge is still that we haven’t really meaningfully addressed the unfunded mandates and some of the things that really tie our hands in how we act. There’s some big money things that I think we really need to take a look at.”

The Governor discussed several tourism initiatives - including the creation of a NYS Adventure License, new signage along roads to aid travelers and a follow-up to the Adirondack Challenge, this time a fishing event in western New York.  Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism President Jim McKenna says a state’s executive has never paid this much attention to tourism. “I think it’s getting us up to a level that people and many others are recognizing that tourism can be a viable economic growth tool for the state. And when that’s recognized, other opportunities open up for tourism.”

Governor Cuomo also touched on an idea that has been lingering across the North Country since the 1950's.  “In the North Country the proposed Route 98 could reduce travel time and speed up commerce. We’ve been talking about it for years. Let’s get DOT to undertake a study and see if we can make this project happen.”

The so-called “Rooftop Highway” would connect Champlain in the east with Watertown. Mayor Calnon is glad that a feasibility study is finally in the works.  “The more things that we can move east and west to go along with our north and south I think will make a big difference in the economy of the entire North Country. So I’m glad that we’re going to look at it objectively.”

While he likes many initiatives in the State of the State, Central Adirondack Partnership for the 21st Century Executive Director Nick Rose has concerns about the idea of the Rooftop Highway.  “What does it mean to all the small communities?  That really has to be part of that analysis, part of that study.  You may have seen some of that when the Northway  was built. For some communities it definitely meant a downturn in their  economic status.”

State Senator Betty Little, who represents the North Country,  released a statement noting that property taxes will be her focus this year and she will push for a circuit breaker provision to limit increases.