North Country politicians give gov’s goals thumbs up
PLATTSBURGH — North Country government leaders were pleased to hear Gov. Andrew Cuomo call for making the property-tax cap permanent on Tuesday.
“We’ve been able to manage it here in Clinton County, and it forces us, and all governments I think, to carefully consider each decision we make,” Clinton County Legislature Chairman Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain) said after the governor’s State of the State and budget address.
“I support it.”
The cap, which was implemented in 2012, calls for local tax levies outside of New York City to go no higher than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
The cap can be adjusted for a variety of factors.
If a government wants to exceed the cap, the local governing body must approve it by at least a 60 percent majority vote.
For school districts, overriding the cap calls for approval of at least 60 percent of all voters.
State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, also wants the cap to be permanent.
“Republicans in the Senate have pushed for that for years, so I was happy to hear that,” she said.
Democrats took control of the majority in the Senate after last November’s election.
Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said he looked forward to hearing more details about a permanent cap, “specifically what is meant by ‘permanent,'” he said.
“Overall, as someone with a long history in local government, I understand the challenges that the tax cap presents to municipalities. However, we must do all that we can to reduce the tax burden on our North Country families.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read said the city should be ready to take advantage of economic benefits forecast for the potential legalization of marijuana in the state.
“The governor recognizes that our state is surrounded in the north, toward the west and to the east with governments that have legalized cannabis,” Read said. “He implies that, in 2019, it’s high time (no pun intended) to stop jailing and start taxing users of recreational marijuana.
“That industry will need cheap power and water, all things that our city can provide once we have some land to develop. I’d like to see our city and region benefit from job creation in such new industries, should we be able to respond nimbly enough.”
Little said she is not sure yet how she will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana. She said she needs to consider law enforcement issues, social ramifications and revenue sharing before making a final decision.
“There is so much to look at,” she said. “It’s a tough one.”
Jones said the governor’s pledge to have full internet and broadband service in the North Country is important.
“Here in the North Country, many still struggle to not only have basic internet services but are even faced with the inability to place a cellular call,” he said. “I’ll make sure to hold the governor to his word and work to expedite these long-delayed projects. Our families and businesses need these services now.”
“Need to reel in spending”
Assemblyman Daniel Stec, R-Queensbury, was not as impressed with the governor’s speech.
“As always, it was a very ambitious and progressive agenda aimed at meeting the needs of downstate interests. This agenda is expected to cost New Yorkers roughly $175 billion, an increase of state spending again this year,” Stec said.
“Every year, the governor increases spending, and every year more and more New Yorkers and small businesses vote with their feet, fleeing high taxes, over-regulation and outdated infrastructure. Rather than spending billions of dollars investing in new programs and economic development initiatives and start-ups, we should be focusing on fixing the problems we already face.”
Stec said the state’s infrastructure desperately needs addressing.
“New Yorkers endure some of the highest taxes in the country, and our infrastructure remains outdated and in dire need of repair,” he said. “We need to reel in spending, cut taxes, remove the red tape that is forcing residents out of our state and invest in repairing and updating our roads and bridges.”
Trudeau and tobacco
The governor’s proposed budget allots $5 million to support a partnership that the state, Clarkson University and Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake have created, with the money going toward forming “a world class biotechnology enterprise and further establish the North Country region as a premier center of biotech research and development,” the summary said.
The governor also called for raising the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.