Counties won’t face welfare hike

Gov. David Paterson on Friday said he is giving up on proposals in former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s execu

Gov. David Paterson on Friday said he is giving up on proposals in former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s executive budget to shift some welfare and juvenile justice costs onto the counties.

The Spitzer plan, which had drawn opposition from county governments and state legislators, would have increased the county share for welfare benefits from 50 percent to 52 percent for adults and families on public assistance for more than five years (meaning they have exhausted federal welfare benefits). For families on public assistance for less than five years, Spitzer had proposed increasing the local share from 25 percent to 27 percent.

Those county shares will now stay at 50 percent and 25 percent, said Jeffrey Gordon, spokesman for Paterson’s Budget Division. Spitzer had hoped to save the state $40.5 million by making the changes.

Also withdrawn is the proposal to shift costs for juvenile detention facilities. Counties now pay 50 percent of the costs, and Spitzer had proposed requiring them to pay 100 percent, for a state saving of $35.4 million.

At a news conference, Paterson also expressed frustration that legislative leaders are unwilling to restrain spending and finalize budget agreements.

Much of the budget has been passed by the Legislature, including $1.15 million for the Albany Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics.

Also approved is $550,000 for the Homeland Security Consortium at Schenectady County Community College.

SCCC Associate Professor David Hennessy, chairman of the Business and Law Department, said that will permit the Consortium to proceed with current projects, including construction of a training center in Glenville and “distributive learning” for emergency first responders at SCCC. The money was obtained by Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, Hennessy confirmed. Last year, Farley obtained $548,000 for the Consortium.

Farley also released a partial list of his member items. The largest were $50,000 for the Montgomery County Agricultural Society to install wash racks and a sprinkler system at the Fonda Fair, $50,000 for the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy in Schenectady to do repairs and improvements, $50,000 for the Schenectady County Historical Society for construction of an educational center at the Mabee Farm, and $40,000 for the Montgomery County Office for the Aging for heating and air conditioning, renovations and improvements at its new building, and moving costs.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, also released a partial list of member items, the largest of which was $20,000 for a Lake George Opera at Saratoga program in local schools.

Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County will continue to get a share of revenues from video lottery terminals at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, announced.

Spitzer’s budget proposal had proposed phasing out the revenue stream over the next two years. Spitzer also tried to eliminate the local revenue in last year’s budget.

Last year, Saratoga Springs received $3.8 million, while Saratoga County received $1.3 million, according to Bruno’s office. A Bruno statement said both are projected for similar payouts this year, “But, those revenues will be reduced by a planned 2 percent cut proposed by the governor’s Division of Budget.”

Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson issued a statement thanking Bruno, but adding, “the reality is we cannot indefinitely rely upon such funding in meeting our future needs.”

Matt Anderson, another Budget Division spokesman, confirmed that the governor has withdrawn the proposal to phase out local VLT revenues.

The transportation, economic development and environmental conservation budget legislation passed both houses Friday. A Senate news release said the bill, which is expected to become law, accepts the governor’s recommendation to cut funding for the state Lottery Division by 9 percent, but “rejects the Executive’s proposal to monetize the New York State Lottery to establish future funding for higher education programs.”

The Lottery Division has its headquarters in Schenectady.

Anderson said the Lottery Division cut looks steeper than it really is, because $9 million for the New York Racing Association was passed through last year’s Lottery budget. The Lottery is, however, getting about 2 percent or $3 million less than Spitzer proposed, as part of the new governor’s across-the-board economy measures accepted by the Legislature.

Anderson said the administration has not yet given up on the proposed partial privatization of the Lottery. Elements of that proposal are in another budget bill not yet acted on by the Legislature, he said.

The environmental protection fund will be $255 million, about $5 million higher than Spitzer proposed, according to John Sheehan of The Adirondack Council.

The Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission is getting $300,000 in operational funding, up from $283,075 last year, said David Smingler, spokesman for Farley.

The Senate blocked the proposed expansion of the bottle bill that would have included more types of containers and taken unclaimed deposits for the state to spend.

Categories: Schenectady County

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