Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state of the state address offered little for North Country residents.
The governor outlined a new economic development blueprint that invests billions of dollars in public-private sector partnerships and plans to rebuild infrastructure as a means of creating new jobs across the state during his hour-long speech Jan. 4, but did not present any initiatives specifically for the region.
Cuomo only mentioned the Adirondacks twice — once when announcing a second round of Regional Economic Development Awards and again when discussing the “New York’s Open for Business” tourism promotion effort.
A highlight of the speech for many local officials was a call for mandate relief. Noting the success of the 2-percent property tax cap passed by the state legislature last year, Cuomo said the next step is for the state to aid local governments by ending many costly mandates.
The governor said he will appoint a commission to hold hearings around the state and study mandate relief. He asked the commission to report to the state legislature in time for action before the end of 2012.
“We’ve been lobbying for mandate relief for a long time,” said Randy Douglas of Jay, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors. “Medicaid alone costs $6-7 million in Essex County. Forty eight other states have taken Medicaid costs away from counties. It’s time for New York to do the same.”
Douglas, who attended the speech at the invitation of the governor, said he will ask the Cuomo to schedule a mandate relief commission meeting in Essex County.
“I believe the governor is listening to us,” Douglas said. “I have a good rapport with him and think he cares understands our concerns.”
State Sen. Betty Little was also pleased the governor is serious abut mandate relief.
“I expect to see a greater focus this year on mandate relief, she said. “There were a lot of ideas put on the table for discussion, but not much acted upon last session. Behind every mandate is a special interest and many of them are laudable. But some are not needed, or are unaffordable or simply not appropriate for all regions of the state. The tax cap has created an urgency to act and find agreement on relief measures that will provide our local governments and schools the flexibility they need.”
Cuomo also talked about the damage resulting from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. He praised volunteers who responded to the emergencies and touted the state’s multi-million response.
“I’m glad he mentioned flood relief,” said Douglas, whose county and town were hard hit by Irene. “The governor and his staff have been extremely helpful as we recover. I can’t say enough, but we need grant funding to fully recover — not loans. We need major work on our roads, bridges, water, sewer, youth facilities...and we’re in debt. We can’t afford more loans. We need grant money.”
Other highlights of the speech include a call to build the world’s largest convention center hotel at a New York City racetrack; a push to expand gambling in a bid for more state tax revenue and jobs; and a project to replace 100 bridges and repair 2,000 miles of roads.
Little believes the proposed road work is a good idea.
“I like the governor’s ideas to invest in road and bridge infrastructure as well as energy use and transmission and look forward to more detail in the budget proposal,” she said. “These are worthwhile investments that will create economic activity today while building for the future. And, I am eager to learn more about increasing tourism promotion, which will benefit the North Country and all of New York.”
The governor spent much of his speech touting the accomplishments of state government in 2011 — the property tax cap, ethics reform, gay marriage, a middle class tax cut and more.
“By all accounts, last year was a tremendous success.,” Cuomo said. “There are many reasons why, including one simple one: We changed our attitude. We had a constructive impatience for government dysfunction and a disregard for the political extremists on the left and the right, we believed in the people, and we had a mutual respect, both institutional and personal.
“By the end of the year, we were not first Democrats and Republicans, we were first New Yorkers and we acted that way,” he said. “We put the politics aside and put the people first. And it worked. And we worked. We delivered for the people — and we made this state a better state and I was honored to be a part of it with you.
“Cynics will say we can’t do it again, that we can’t do any better, the governor concluded. “Well, cynics don’t know us, and they don’t know New York. Today, I am telling you this: we are going to reach even higher.”