North Country Assemblymembers react to newly passed budget
Although North Country state representatives are not happy about the process, they are encouraged by the potential impact the new state budget should have on northern New York.
The $229 billion budget came in more than a month late. This is the seventh budget 115th District Assemblyman D. Billy Jones has voted on and the Democrat says it’s the most frustrating.
“But at the end of the day I think it delivered to a lot of organizations here in the North Country and we were able to get some good stuff in the budget for the North Country," said Jones.
In the Assembly district just to the south, 114th District Republican Matt Simpson says there is no rational excuse for the late budget nor the lack of time given rank and file to review the proposal once there was an agreement.
“I think all of the other members are in the same situation where they have kind of a conceptual idea of what’s in the budget and maybe particular priorities that they’ve been tracking," Simpson said. "But as we’ve seen over the years a lot of policy pops in and out of the budget and that’s where it gets very difficult and ultimately I think our constituents suffer from that process.”
Democrat Jones counts a number of items he supported or proposed.
“We did increase funding to the hospitals and nursing homes at a higher rate than they’ve been at in several years. Infrastructure is always very important to me," Jones said. "We added a $100 million fund to help out with CHIPS and roads and bridges. You know and agriculture and small businesses. A lot of the Adirondack initiatives I fought hard to get in the budget. Tourism, helped to get funding for that in this year’s budget. So there’s a lot of things. I know it’s a big budget.”
While Jones cites increases for nursing homes, Republican Simpson criticizes the budget for failing to reach higher nursing home reimbursement rates that had been proposed.
“I’m disappointed to see that it was funded at 6.5 percent knowing that our nursing homes were facing a crisis now with retention of providers in the facility as well as being able to recruit providers," said Simpson.
Simpson, whose district includes a substantial portion of the Adirondacks, is pleased that record funding for the Environmental Protection Fund was a priority in the budget.
“I’m very pleased to see that this has mass support in the legislature," Simpson said. "There are a lot of programs that are going to be sustainable into the future, protecting our natural resources, and I’m very pleased with that. It’s important for my region and it’s important I believe to all New Yorkers. There was an emphasis in this budget to address the child care issue that we’ve been facing as well as workforce development. We saw significant funding and focus on that. Those programs are widely supported and important for the future of New York.”
Jones says one critical area that did not receive appropriate funding stands out.
“I’m happy that we didn’t raise taxes on New Yorkers," Jones said. "But we didn’t get anything in housing in there. We had a chance to do something. We didn’t. We have to tackle this. I mean we can’t just put our heads in the sand. People need to be able to afford to live here.”
According to the state Constitution, the New York budget must be approved by April 1st. The budget passed on Wednesday, just over a month overdue.