North Country Assembly members disagree on quality of state budget; Republicans say bipartisan effort needed
Friday, March 29, 2013 - 2:50 pm

North Country State Assembly Member Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) said the state budget offers many benefits for St. Lawrence County residents, but Republican Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush and Marc Butler said it could have done a lot more.

Assemblywoman Russell, who represents the several towns along the St. Lawrence River, said the budget closes the state’s $1.4 billion budget gap, strengthens education funding, increases the state’s minimum wage, restores vital agricultural programs and provides businesses with tax credits to spur job creation.

She said the budget delivers for North Country families.

“This marks the third straight on time budget which helps North Country families and businesses, including our farmers,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “We continue to make progress by investing in our children, job growth and infrastructure.”

Assemblymen Blankenbush, who represents eastern St. Lawrence County towns, agreed that budget does some things right. However he said it could have been better for the North Country if there was more of a bipartisan effort.

“In this budget, we see some important investments that will support our upstate economy and communities. I am especially pleased that after a lot of work and negotiations, our efforts to fight for better local agricultural aid were successful. We increased farm aid by $4.5 million over what the governor proposed. We ensured that this funding would go to programs like the Northern New York Agricultural program and other programs that would boost our region’s economic engine. Additionally, we increased our investment to our struggling rural upstate schools to $20.8 billion. I am pleased that we were able to continue to make the future of our children a priority," he said. “While these were great opportunities to support Northern New York and the Mohawk Valley, this budget still left much to be desired. We made every effort to make this a better budget for every New Yorker; we offered several amendments that would have restored funding for programs that support those with developmental disabilities, relieved mom-and-pop shops from excessive regulations, and lowered income taxes, saving taxpayers real dollars. Each solution offered, however, was rejected by the Assembly Majority. Overall, we need a better process to protect our taxpayers and ensure the best possible services are offered to our state residents.”

Assemblyman Marc Butler, who represents centrally located St. Lawrence County towns, said the budget should have restored funding to developmentally disabled programs and addressed problems with the SAFE act.

“This budget could have done so much more for the people of New York State. Its policies and spending could have shown compassion when given the opportunity to restore funding to programs for those with developmental disabilities, it could have shown integrity when addressing the governor’s ill-conceived gun control law, and it could have offered mom-and-pop shops and hardworking families real relief," he said. “Unfortunately, Albany has fallen back on some of its old habits, closed door negotiations, disingenuous efforts to help the taxpayer and pork barrel spending. When my Republican colleagues and I offered solutions to make this a budget that would better serve New Yorkers, our amendments were met by resistance from the Democratic majority.

For details on the budget see earlier story.