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State budget has $144.5M for Lake Placid Olympic venues

Stec votes no, Jones mixed; they explain

This design image shows what the exterior of an overhauled Lake Placid Olympic Center’s box office entrance is expected to look like after an expected $100 million upgrade to the complex. (Provided image — ORDA)

New York’s 2020-21 budget includes $144.5 million to continue major upgrades at Lake Placid’s 1980 Olympic facilities.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said that although his organization disagrees with some of the budget’s policies, the funding of improvements to the Olympic sports venues in preparation for the upcoming 2023 World University Games is a big plus.

“This is an historic level of investment in sports and recreation infrastructure in the Adirondacks, and we thank Governor Cuomo for this major support, and Senator Betty Little who can look to this as another major legacy of her time in the State Senate,” Douglas wrote in a press release.

The capital funding will go to the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which was given more than $80 million for upgrades in last year’s budget, $60 million the year before and $20 million the year before.

The chamber also praised language aimed at resolving the records access disagreement between the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which resulted in New Yorkers not being able to obtain Trusted Traveler border crossing status, including NEXUS cards.

“While attention has turned away from this issue, with temporary restrictions on cross border travel, it remains important that an agreement be reached between DHS and the state to stop the expiration of existing NEXUS cards and to be ready for the anticipated resumption of active cross border travel, hopefully by summer,” Douglas wrote. “While there is not a guarantee this new language will lead to a resolution, it is a step in the right direction.”

Little, a Republican from Queensbury who will retire from the Senate after this year, said Thursday that she voted no to the budget bills because they were arranged too secretly, and she believed she was not given enough information about it in time to make an informed approval. The area’s two Assembly members explained their votes Friday.

Stec: “a lot more bad than good”

Assemblyman Dan Stec, a Republican from Queensbury whose district includes Essex County, said he voted against all of the budget bills and believes this year’s budget “misses the mark,” especially in a time of need.

He said while the state faces “the biggest public health crisis in history” this budget is an example of “one-party control.”

“This budget, negotiated in complete secrecy, gives the governor unprecedented new powers to adjust the budget during the year,” Stec wrote in a press release. “Through the guidance of the governor, his budget director now has the ability to unilaterally make his own cuts to essential services throughout the ensuing year. Education, health care, infrastructure and support for our local highway departments, services to support older New Yorkers, people with disabilities and our most vulnerable residents are all potentially on the governor’s chopping block.”

Stec praised how a projected $15 billion deficit was closed without new taxes on the middle class.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot more bad than good in the budget,” Stec wrote.

Stec said during the budget process, Republicans offered a budget amendment to provide assistance to our small business owners, but the Assembly majority rejected it.

“There’s a $425 million tax credit for the Hollywood film productions that would be better used to help small businesses struggling to survive the COVID-19 crisis,” Stec wrote. “Then, there’s almost $10 million in pork-barrel spending for pet projects and a new, costly, taxpayer-funded political campaign system.”

He also said he was “disturbed” that required notice for prison closures went from one year to 90 days, saying it does not give enough time for correctional families to “uproot their lives, take their kids out of schools, and possibly move across the state to another facility.

“This shows a complete disregard for our correctional staff.”

He also said bail reform has made communities “safe havens for dangerous criminals” and that new changes didn’t go far enough.

“Rather than listening to our district attorneys and law enforcement officials and fully repeal these laws, they put forth weak half-measures,” Stec wrote. “Judges still do not have discretion, which is crucial in order to keep our streets safe, and sadly too many violent offenders will be able to walk free.”

Jones’ mixed bag of votes

Assemblyman Billy Jones, a Democrat from Plattsburgh whose district includes Franklin County, said he is “disappointed” in the overall budget having too much policy, and that he cast both “yes” and “no” votes on the various budget bills.

“There was just so much policy in this budget,” Jones said Friday. “I shake my head at how much policy is in it. … We should have focused on the numbers.”

Jones said he voted yes on the final bill, which included changes to bail reform laws. He said these changes make more offenses eligible for bail but still do not go far enough, though they are a good start.

He said he voted to keep the government running, but against what he saw as unnecessary policy.

Jones, a former corrections officer, said he voted no on the public protection bill because it will shutter prisons. He said he voted no on the transportation-economic development bill because it contained too much policy.

He said he voted yes on the aid to localities bill because it gives aid to organizations and projects in his district. He also said it includes $65 million in extreme winter recovery aid, which he fought to get put back in.

Like Stec, he said he was glad that taxes were not significantly raised, especially during a crisis.

“Unfortunately, this budget includes unnecessary agenda items proposed by the governor,” Jones said in a prepared statement. “This year’s budget takes what should have been a strictly fiscal document and glues it to an enormous amount of policy. As a legislator, this was extremely frustrating because now more than ever I needed to be sure that our organizations get the funding they need to deal with this statewide (coronavirus) crisis, and what we did was strap more burdens on our counties. Further, we should have done more for our small businesses and provided more funding for our schools.”

Also, he said he was able to include $1 million in funding for North Country programs, “such as the North Country Chamber of Commerce Quebec-New York Corridor Initiative, Older Adults Technology Services, and the Northern New York Agriculture Development Program.”

On Jones’ to-do list, he noted that he has “long been an advocate for broadband and cellular access, and with more North Country families working and learning from home, the need is even greater. Further, as we deal with the financial stress of this pandemic, now is the time to implement policies that help, not hinder, small business.”

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