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Senate challenger shares take on state budget

Kimberly Davis (Photo provided)

PLATTSBURGH — While state Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, last week characterized the 2020-21 state budget as “an example of one-party control that misses the mark,” his Democratic opponent for the 45th State Senate District, Clinton County Treasurer Kimberly Davis, argued that the state, not counties’ sales tax revenues, should fund a pool for distressed hospitals and nursing homes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stec voted against all budget bills last week. He said in a statement that the budget was negotiated in “complete secrecy” and gives Gov. Andrew Cuomo “unprecedented new powers” to have his budget director make his own cuts to essential services throughout the ensuing fiscal year.

Davis agreed with Stec that the $250 million fund for distressed hospitals and nursing homes needed to be created.

“But that is something that the state should be funding, not passing that onto the counties.”

The state had also elected to take a portion of counties’ sales tax as part of last year’s budget for Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding.

“Treasurers and finance directors from around the state, when we all talked, it was our concern that if the state starts diverting our sales tax, they may do it again in the future,” Davis said.

“Here we are a year later, granted in extraordinary circumstances.”

States were being pressured not to raise taxes to address the coronavirus crisis, Davis continued.

“They’ve just shifted the financial burden to the counties, which in essence is doing exactly the same thing.”

Davis estimates that the counties in the 45th State Senate District will end up contributing $2.3 million to this fund over the next two years.

“We’re already going to suffer a huge amount by the loss of sales tax revenue and to have that kind of hit, … it’s hard to fathom how badly that’s going to affect us when we’re already going to see this major decline in sales tax revenue.”

Davis expressed concern over cuts in funding for community colleges, to which she feels the state has not been paying its fair share.

But she was glad to see some changes to bail reform as well as expanded assistance, such as housing and support services, for homeless veterans.

Prior to the pandemic, Davis would have planned to focus on infrastructure and cell broadband during budget negotiations and making sure the state was living up to its legal requirement for education funding, but it’s a different world now.

“Certainly I can’t imagine that we’re going to be able to fund almost anything in the way we have in the past. And there are going to have to be hard decisions.”

Speaking as a treasurer, Davis said Clinton County’s department heads do an extraordinary job of keeping budgets in line, so there really is “no fat to cut off.”

“We’re going to have to look at where we spend the majority of our money and really how are we going to cut enough so that we don’t have to institute major raises in property taxes.”

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