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North Country representatives react to Governor Hochul’s budget proposal

Governor Kathy Hochul visits Plattsburgh on December 29, 2021
Pat Bradley
Governor Kathy Hochul (file)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivered her budget address on Wednesday, outlining a $227 billion plan. Representatives from the North Country say what really matters are the details of the 162-page proposal.

The Democrat calls the budget thoughtful, progressive and balanced.

“Our $227 billion budget will include unprecedented investments in areas that will make a positive impact in peoples’ lives, that’ll make the New York dream real, make it safer, more affordable, more livable.”

State Senator Dan Stec, a Republican representing the 45th district, is doubtful that the proposal promotes affordability.

“I don’t know how she can talk about making it more affordable when her proposal for total spending is a $227 billion budget, up 2 ½ percent, up over $5 billion from last year. The Senate and the Assembly will likely try to push that number over $227 billion. And as I’ve said many times New York’s budget is more than Texas and Florida’s combined and both Texas and Florida have more people than New York. So this budget does not make it more affordable for New Yorkers.”

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat from the 115th district, says there are some promising proposals, but the full budgetneeds to be closely examined to determine how it will impact North Country residents.

“The Governor had said she is putting money into child care. That’s one of the biggest issues that I have heard. Especially here, we are a child care desert up here in the North Country. We’ll have to see what’s in there and how that’s going to affect residents here in the North Country and throughout the state. And I think she was extending the tax credit to help our farmers pay for the overtime wages. That’s promising. But if there is one thing that I have learned from hearing budget proposals and then actually seeing what’s in the budget is that we should be a little leery and certainly find out what’s going to actually affect families, affect residents that I represent.”

Matt Simpson represents Assembly’s 114th District. The Republican says there are good items like funding for schools, mental health and affordable housing, but thinks numerous items critical to the state’s future miss the mark.

“Since I’ve been in the Assembly the budget spending has risen over $50 billion. And in those 3 years we still have a housing crisis. We have a workforce crisis. We have an overall affordability issue in New York and people are at their breaking point. So we need a sustainable plan to deal with those issues.”

This is the 11th budget Senator Stec has reviewed during his time in both the Assembly and Senate. This year is the first time the Senate was in session during the governor’s budget speech, something Stec perceives as an omen for budget negotiations.

“I thought it was very unusual that we were in session when the Governor was giving her presentation. And I think that and the argument over Judge LaSalle I think that has created a lot of tension or bad blood between Senate Democrats and the Governor and the fallout of that. And you certainly have the Senate Democrats flexing their muscles with the second floor. And I think it’s shaping up to be probably a very contentious budget process. So I think everyone’s probably preparing to buckle their chinstraps here. I think this one is likely to be a hard fought or difficult budget process.”

The new fiscal year starts April 1.