St. Lawrence County state legislators weigh in on Cuomo's budget with praise and caution
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 11:53 am

Two of St. Lawrence County’s Republican assemblymen have responded positively to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to reduce unfunded mandates and the $1.3 billion deficit included in his executive budget proposal, released Tuesday.

However, they also caution that weigh in with a full review of the proposal is needed before final decisions can be made.

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R – Black River), who represents the western portion of St. Lawrence County, was more reserved in his comments.

Rather than focusing on specific portions of Cuomo’s speech, Blankenbush said, “I am pleased to see that Gov. Cuomo’s 2013-14 budget proposal would close the $1.3 billion deficit without raising taxes on working families.”

“It’s incredibly important that we continue to invest in our economic recovery by supporting small business owners and family farmers. I can’t say this enough; we need unfunded mandate relief to help our local schools and governments and to lower property taxes for good,” he said.

Assemblyman Marc Butler (R-Newport), who represents the central strip of St. Lawrence County, made similar comments.

“I can appreciate that Gov. Cuomo’s 2013-14 Executive Budget proposal closes the $1.3 billion deficit without raising taxes on hardworking New Yorkers. We’re at a critical point where every dollar spent in our state must go toward creating jobs and lowering the tax burden on families and job creators,” he said.

Butler echoed the sentiments of Ritchie and Blankenbush, citing the need for “meaningful unfunded mandate relief for local schools and governments.”

Last night Sen. Pattie Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) said that Cuomo’s focus on job creation and mandate relief will help continue a “trend of fiscal responsibility.”

“The inclusion of $150 million for a third round of Regional Economic Development Council funding will build on the success of this program and help spur the economies in central and northern New York,” Ritchie said.

“The governor’s pledge to do more when it comes to doing away with unfunded mandates will help municipalities struggling to make ends meet,” she added.

Ritchie also noted Cuomo’s mention of increased education aid to rural schools. “I look forward to studying his proposal with a goal of making the aid formula more equitable and making sure our schools get their fair share,” the 48th District senator said.

The Business Council and the Public Employees Federation also chimed in following Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Comments from staffers at the Business Council, a business lobbying group that represents businesses in the state, also reacted positively toward plans to close the budget gap and mandate relief. However, the group expressed concern regarding the extension of the section 18a energy tax, new energy initiatives, the proposed increase to minimum wage and tighter controls on carbon emissions.

Staffers at the Public Employees Federation, which includes members in St. Lawrence County, also expressed concerns. Specifically the group opposed the expansion of the Close to Home Initiative, which focuses on placing youth from outside New York City in facilities closer to their home communities. The group also mentioned concerns regarding Cuomo’s plan to close two prisons, as well as greater reliance on private consultants rather than state employees for infrastructure improvements.