More than $2 million is at stake for Saratoga Springs during the ongoing budget negotiations.
The item up for debate is support payments to communities that host electronic gaming in a racino. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Assembly majority have proposed continuing this payment to most upstate communities at about half what they’re due, but the state Senate has budgeted full payment.
Saratoga Springs would receive about $1.5 million and the county would receive about $500,000 under the partial-funding scenario, which has been the norm for the last two budgets. The Senate’s plan commits $7.6 million to host payments across the state, which would more than double what the city and county get.
“It’s important,” said state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who has advocated on this issue since the funding was completely stripped after the 2008-09 fiscal budget. He is also the co-sponsor of a bill, along with Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, calling for the full restoration of funding.
The payments from the state are supposed to reimburse the host community for costs related to the racino, like police and road work. Currently there are nine racinos in the state. Eight of the host communities receive about half what they’re owed under an existing formula — Yonkers gets nearly all the money it is owed and this continues in all proposed versions of the 2013-14 budget.
Farley said he is pleased the governor and Assembly plan on maintaining the current level of funding, but he stressed that it’s not enough. “These communities do provide all the services,” he said.
The Senate and Assembly have begun meeting in their budget subcommittees, which are tasked with hammering out differences in their proposals. Farley said the negotiation on this issue could be “problematic,” although he didn’t rule out the possibility of the Assembly majority embracing full restoration.
The funding was wildly unpredictable until the last two state budgets. Now the city and county budget for what they’ve received in recent years.
Farley is the co-chair of the General Government & Local Assistance budget subcommittee, which oversees the host payments. They met Tuesday night and will meet behind the scenes this week, before updating the public on remaining issues that are up for debate.
The state’s budget is due by April 1.