State of the State doesn’t focus much on upstate this year

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address Wednesday afternoon included few mentions of upstate New York, instead focusing on criticism of the federal government and tackling what is expected to be a difficult budget year.

The Adirondack Park, which has been named more in past State of the State speeches, was only referred to a couple of times in relation to tourism funding and environmental initiatives.

Through the I Love NY tourism campaign, the state-owned Whiteface and Gore ski centers will receive funding for solar farms, powering lifts, snowmaking and lights with renewable energy. Gore Mountain’s solar farm in the town of Whitehall was unveiled in December and is already operational, according to Jon Lundin, spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority that runs the ski centers. Both solar farms would sit just outside the Adirondack Park.

Cuomo also said that the state will invest $63 million in upstate state parks. In his speech booklet, but not his verbal address, he expressed support for Lake Placid hosting the 2023 winter World University Games.

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said Cuomo’s speech was comparable to past ones, but he was expecting to hear about the governor’s plans to put the brakes on train storage in the Adirondack Park, given that it was one of his 22 proposals for the year.

Stepping in after months of complaints from environmental groups in the Adirondacks and beyond, Cuomo has pledged legal action to stop the Iowa Pacific Holdings Company from storing hundreds of cleaned oil tankers on the ancillary rails of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway.

“The complaint to the federal government is the important thing,” Sheehan said. “Whether it becomes a national issue or not isn’t really as big of a concern as getting the problem solved.”

According to the governor’s written proposal, “The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is filing a petition for waivers and exemptions with the federal Surface Transportation Board to support the state’s filing of an application for ‘adverse abandonment.'”

Cuomo declared that toxic algae creeping into bodies of drinking water around the Adirondack region must be taken care of in this legislative year.

The algae is created when untreated waste water from septic tanks and inadequate municipal systems gets into water bodies or when runoff from lawn chemicals and fertilizer is not blocked by vegetation before entering the water.

“In the future we’d love to see this expanded to water bodies that need protection before they become impaired, but we understand the focus being on Lake George and Lake Champlain because they are both drinking water supplies,” Sheehan said.

Though the Adirondack Council expressed concern that fiscal constraints may curb some of the governor’s agenda, it is supportive of his plans and the fact that he committed $300 million in environmental capital projects through the Environmental Protection Fund and more than $2.5 billion in clean water project funding for public water and wastewater treatment projects.

“At a time when the federal government’s environmental agenda is heading in the wrong direction on clean air, clean water and wild lands, it is reassuring to see the governor of New York express a vision clean energy, green jobs and pollution controls,” Executive Director of the Adirondack Council Willie Janeway said in a press release. “That’s what the national agenda ought to be.”

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said in a statement that she supports many of the initiatives Cuomo is taking — including plans to simplify voting and address algal blooms in drinking water — while raising some concern over a gap in the state budget and a concurrent expected drop in revenue in 2018.

“Clearly, raising taxes isn’t the answer,” Little said. “Restraint is needed, so I’ll review all of today’s proposals as well as those to come in the Executive Budget with that in mind.”

State Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said in a statement that Cuomo’s priorities are a good starting point and that he will work with the proposals to improve broadband internet access in the Adirondacks, close the LLC loophole which brings corporate money into elections, and fully fund schools.

While Cuomo called for prison reform, Jones, who worked as a correctional officer at the now-closed Chateaugay Correctional Facility, said he will continue to fight to keep the facilities.

“I will continue to be a strong advocate for my brothers and sisters in our state correctional facilities,” Jones said. “The misconduct and irresponsibility of some should not affect the jobs of our fellow correctional officers.”

“As in years past, [the proposals are] a mixed bag of both good and bad propositions,” Assemblyman Dan Stec, R,C,I-Queensbury, wrote in an email. “With the state facing a possible $4 billion deficit this year, I believe we should be aware of how much we are spending, and instead focusing on reducing costs for taxpayers.”