It’s state of the state day: Here’s what local legislators are looking for

State legislators at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address today will be listening to hear

State legislators at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address today will be listening to hear if he touches on their priorities, which almost universally include mandate relief, no new taxes in a lean state budget and a variety of local interests.

“I think 2012 is the year to build on the momentum that we established in 2011,” said state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford. “State government is actually functioning again and New York is back on track.”

On mandate relief, Seward and fellow Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, are co-sponsors of a plan that would phase out the counties’ role in Medicaid over eight years. Medicaid is regarded as the largest mandate on the counties, McDonald said, adding: “Eliminating this unfunded mandate, which on average can account for 50 percent of a county’s tax levy, would create an opportunity for tax relief to individual taxpayers.”

Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, described the phase-out as a good first step, but said it has to include cost controls.

His main focus is finding ways to allow municipalities and school districts to comply with the property tax cap passed in 2011 without making drastic cuts. “We better do something this year in Albany to help their situation,” he said.

Echoing this call was state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who argued that the mandate relief package last year came up short. Beyond that, he said he will be heavily involved in the budget review process. Farley said he wants a budget that is on time and contains no new taxes.

This was in keeping with the second priority of Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, who said: “I think we have to protect property tax dollars, and that means better spending priorities and continue to reduce taxes.”

“My hope is that we follow a similar [budget] model,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to the altered reality that it is always a revenue problem.”

Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, said new taxes should be avoided in the budget because of the “fragile economy.”

In 2012, Amedore said he hopes the state can build on the flood package it passed in November, by covering any holes created in local budgets due to new property assessments. He added that there should be a vested interest in aiding municipalities in cleaning up streams and creeks impacted by flooding.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, plans to propose legislation that would offer job retention tax credits to more businesses impacted by flooding. “We could be doing it for agricultural programs and more exhaustively for economic development programs,” he said.

Another bill from Lopez would offer a tax credit of up to $30,000 to businesses and homeowners that invest in energy conservation and alternative energy sources.

As chairman of the Senate’s Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, McDonald said he wants to move legislation that deals with group home abuse.

As chairman of the Senate’s Insurance Committee, Seward has his sights set on fraudulent insurance claims, particularly with automobiles.

Seward will also be monitoring the U.S. Supreme Court’s handling of the Affordable Care Act, as he has legislation that creates a health exchange in the state, which is necessary only if the court upholds the act. The bipartisan bill passed the Assembly in 2011, but was held up by Senate Republicans. “I’m sure it will come up again,” he said.

Tedisco is planning to host a second animal advocacy day, wants to see more openness in state government, is pushing for transparency with a “Truth in Borrowing” bill and would like the corporate franchise tax reduced.

Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, who is chairman of the Assembly’s Libraries and Education Technology Committee, said he is committed to halting five years in cuts the state’s library systems have endured.

Additionally, he will oppose funding formulas that send money to low-performing inner-city schools, will introduce a bill that creates a livestock standards board, continue to oppose mixed martial arts competitions in the state and might propose legislation that would tax gift cards at the time of purchase.

As a big picture goal in 2012, Reilly said he wants to refocus state institutions on their core mission, which is to serve the people of the state. Citing the state’s jails and the collapsed New York City Off-Track Betting organization, he said: “We have empowered bureaucracies that were supposed to serve people. They have morphed and atrophied into simply serving themselves.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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