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North Country state representatives have mixed reactions to New York’s newly passed budget

NYS Capitol
Dave Lucas
NYS Capitol Building

The New York state legislature approved a budget over the weekend, about three weeks after the start of the new fiscal year. Legislators in the North Country have mixed opinions on the fiscal plan.

The $237 billion package is an $8 billion increase over last year and North Country representatives wonder if the increase will adequately support the needs of New Yorkers.

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat from the 115th District, says he’s frustrated the budget came together late, but is pleased that some funding will benefit his district.

“I wasn’t happy to see the prison closures remain in there but it did,” Jones said. “We had taken that out of our one-house. Also there’s a lot of money in this budget that are going to different places and I want to see a little more accountability on it. But we do have a budget and I was happy to deliver money for my district that supports education, agricultural, economic development, veteran’s services, organizations that are very important that provide services to our people here.”

Assemblyman Matt Simpson is a Republican from the 114th District.

“There were good things in that budget. Full funding of the Environmental Protection Fund, restoration of the clean water funding,” Simpson said. “But there are a lot of negatives as well. A lot of programs that are very costly such as the $2.4 billion to address the migrant issue in New York. You know, I was very disappointed that there weren’t any efforts whatsoever to address the affordability issue and the high taxes. This budget doesn’t do anything in my estimation, my opinion, to address any of those issues.”

Simpson noted that while affordable housing provisions made progress, the idea was contentious throughout the budget process.

“Fundamentally it doesn’t address the underlying issues which is we need people making wages that can afford the housing that is here and that we have an environment that is inviting to developers to build starter homes, which we don’t see that very often now,” noted Simpson. “And then the affordability. How do we get there? And that’s missing out of the governor’s plan. But it’s part of a bigger issue within the budget. We need those good paying jobs here in New York, in our communities. We need them in the North Country. And I don’t see anything to address that whatsoever.”

Senator Jake Ashby, a Republican from the 43rd District, calls the budget a missed opportunity that fails to incentivize people to say in or move into the state.

“We should have seen tax relief on here,” asserted Ashby. “And we’ve actually proposed legislation that I helped, that I think would help secure this in being able to limit or really make New York state more accountable for its Medicaid funding. But it would have saved potentially up to $2.4, $2.5 billion and it would have created the opportunity for the largest property tax decrease in our state’s history. I think that would have not only sent the right message to our residents but also delivered on it.”

Senator Dan Stec is a Republican from the 45th District.

“I have been historically been a supporter of the Environmental Protection Fund and that maintained flat funding at $400 million,” Stec said. “ORDA (Olympic Regional Development Authority) is continuing to get a significant investment. But on the downside up to five prisons can be closed with 90-day notice. We’ve seen this before. A lot of people were hoping would be included in the budget and it was not would regard EMS and EMS service. The other thing that did not make any versions of the budget or the final budget are broadband and cell towers. You know another thing that was a disappointment in the budget is Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals and nursing homes.”

Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul swiftly signed the budget bills after government was kept operating with a series of short-term extensions.