Syracuse-area state lawmakers prepare to dive into Gov. Hochul's proposed budget
State lawmakers from Central New York and their colleagues have a lot of work ahead of them after now that Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed her $233 billion dollar budget. It spends about 4.5 percent more than last year, but holds the line on taxes. For assembly Republican John Lemondes, it boils down to a simple formula.
“Our budget is increasing while our population is decreasing," Lemondes said. "That to me brings you to the salient question of who is benefiting and who's paying?”
The governor wants to spend nearly $2.5 billion to address the migrant crisis. Lemondes says it isn’t sustainable.
“People in the 126th Assembly district and people in New York State all know that our state is hemorrhaging population and the people that are leaving. The governor admitted it," Lemondes said. "The people that are leaving are wage earners and business owners and people that contribute. And the people that are backfilling them are illegal and so that never works.”
In the other chamber on the other side of the aisle, Senate Democrat John Mannion says the federal government bears the fiscal and policy responsibilities for the migrant crisis.
“This is a situation that we did not plan for and we're not expecting, but we are still a welcoming state," Mannion said. "We are a welcoming country. We are a welcoming community, and we have to treat people in a humane manner. I certainly will lend my voice to that conversation, but we need the federal dollars.”
Mannion says he does not support governor’s plan to use a half billion dollars from fund balance to address the crisis. Meanwhile, he says more funding is needed to address another crisis: Sufficient pay for the professionals who care for those with disabilities. Mannion chairs the disabilities committee.
"Where we are is in an awful position as it relates to workforce," Mannion said. "These are these are challenging jobs, they're underpaid. We've done what we can to try to support them, but we really need to do significantly more.”
Back in the assembly, John Lemondes is pleased with the roughly $75 million allocated for agriculture programs. As a farmer, he says it’s a step in the right direction. But he says education and food security are also key.
“It's our state's number one industry, it's my district’s number one industry," Lemondes said. "Very few people look at agriculture in our state that way, especially the more urban population that you discuss this with, the less apt they are to understand that.”
Lemondes was also glad to hear Hochul’s commitment to tree conservation and planting. He says translates to boosting the state’s forest products industry, in addition to environmental benefits.
Meanwhile, republican lawmakers and fiscal conservatives are likely to challenge democrats to justify spending in a state that’s losing population. Senator John Mannion says the state is building on its resume of quality education, social services, and attracting a company like Micron.
“That is the kind of opportunity that we have to make sure that we're incentivizing in Upstate New York and we did it," Mannion said. "We are on the precipice, I believe, of population growth because of this project. We made it a priority.”