Saratoga County

City wants cut of VLT money

City officials are headed to Albany today to lobby for their share of revenue from video lottery

PHOTOGRAPHER:

City officials are headed to Albany today to lobby for their share of revenue from video lottery terminals to be included in this year’s state budget.

Although both houses of the state Legislature have passed legislation this month in favor of the municipalities getting the funds, the final battle will be fought in the state budget talks between the Legislature and the governor.

The state Senate passed a resolution and the Assembly a bill two weeks ago giving host municipalities 3.5 percent of the proceeds from VLTs.

That’s the same level as past legislation and an encouraging sign for city officials grappling with how they would make up the $3.8 million that flows into the general fund from the VLT revenue now.

“It’s very good news. It’s a good step forward for us,” said Ken Ivins, commissioner of finance.

In his preliminary budget this year, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer had proposed axing the municipalities’ share of the tax to feed a state deficit.

Matt Anderson, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson, wouldn’t say whether the VLT revenue is part of budget negotiations or where the governor stands on the issue.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, said he is optimistic it will be included.

Spokesman Scott Reif said he expects the VLT revenue to be discussed as part of the budget talks. “As Senator Bruno has said, we think it’s important that municipalities that host VLT facilities receive some additional aid to help defray the costs of some of the services they provide because of having that facility,” Reif said.

“It has been recommended that that aid be scaled back or done away with previously. We’ve managed to fight back those efforts in the past.”

Reif said budget talks are making progress. “I think we’ve made some progress on how much money the state has to spend, and once final agreement has been reached on that, they’ll know how much they have to spend in each individual area.”

Just to be sure, some city officials are on their way to Albany today to meet with state officials and lobby for the revenue to be included.

It’s become a yearly battle for the city, although legislation giving them the funds is intended to remain in place unless the Assembly, Senate and governor all agree otherwise.

Local officials lobbied last year and this year to get their share of the funds.

This year the City Council passed a resolution about the matter, Ivins wrote an open letter to Spitzer and Mayor Scott Johnson has been in contact with Bruno’s and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s offices.

Saratoga Springs shares its portion of the funds from Saratoga Gaming and Raceway with Saratoga County.

The state budget is due April 1.

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