PLATTSBURGH — Staff Writer
As state leaders attempt to tackle a $10 billion budget deficit, they are hearing from just about every agency or service provider that is worried about losing funding.
Unfortunately, the message legislators have to tell them is not good.
"You have to realize that there is just no money," Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward said at Friday morning's North Country Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Forum breakfast.
Sayward (R-Willsboro) and fellow legislators Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) and Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) told the crowd that this year's budget process will be painful for many.
"We hope we can find a way, but there is just no money," Duprey said.
"For every program that comes back in, something has to go out."
The trio of lawmakers fielded questions from the crowd of about 175 people, many of which focused on the budget process.
Duprey said she met with 18 different groups in her office on Tuesday, and they all were concerned about losing funding.
"They all made great points, and there is a need for everything, but there is no money, and people will suffer, I'm afraid, for the next few years," she said.
All three legislators expressed hope that the private sector would continue to recover from the recession, which would help ease the budget pinch.
But that won't happen unless Albany reduces regulations that hamstring businesses, they said.
"Taxes are bad, but for many businesses, regulations are the real killer," Little said.
She pointed to changes in the state Liquor Authority that have reduced how long businesses have to wait to receive a liquor license — that's an example of how lightening restrictions can help, she said.
Little, who serves on the state's Task Force on Mandate Relief, said the state needs to get rid of many mandates that just don't make sense.
She also called for an independent outfit to come up with a cost analysis of any mandates instead of getting estimates from those who propose them.
"We need to be more reasonable," Little said.
"A lot of these things are good ideas, but they shouldn't be mandates."
Sayward said the state also needs to do a better job of reducing duplication of services.
"There are so many agencies that provide similar services, and we have to look at that and talk about it," she said.
"Talking about it is what will drive that change."
The three lawmakers all said that new Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been sending the right message so far in that he is willing to make major changes in the way the state does business.
Little said that is welcome news.
"Nothing drives change more than a lack of money," she said.
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