Press-Republican

March 4, 2013

Cuomo supporter in town to sell budget plan

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s soldiers was in town recently to tout the strength of his budget plan.

“I think this says a lot about the fiscal side of this state, and it lets businesses know that there is fiscal stability in this state, and that is important for those thinking of investing here,” Dierdre “Dede” Scozzafava, the deputy secretary of state for local government, told the Press-Republican Editorial Board.

The governor’s $142 billion budget plan closes a $1.3 billion deficit, Scozzafava said, noting that the gap had been about $10 billion when he took office two years ago.

The plan is designed to create jobs by avoiding new taxes and keeping spending under control.

The state budget deadline is April 1, and Scozzafava is hopeful that a final deal can get inked with the legislature by then.

“It looks good so far, and we are hoping,” she said.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Scozzafava noted that the budget plan is up only 1.6 percent, which is less than the 2 percent tax cap on municipalities and school districts that the state imposed two years ago.

The cap, she said, seems to be a good idea so far.

“There still are provisions for an override (of the cap), and it is still local government and home rule, and it brings about more (public) participation,” Scozzafava said.

“They (local governments) have to make their case and be accountable. They have to take a longer look at things and not just assume they are going to do things as they’ve always been done.”

She said the state is trying to get rid of redundancies and streamline where it can.

“But these things don’t happen quickly,” she warned.

STATE MANDATES

She said efforts continue on providing mandate relief for localities, but that also is a work in progress.

“Some of these mandates were put there for good reason,” she said.

She pointed to Tier 6 savings and the governor’s pension-smoothing proposal — where communities can pay a fixed rate over time — as forms of future mandate relief. And she said that school districts can seek waivers from certain special-education reporting requirements.

“For relief to occur takes time,” Scozzafava said.

MINIMUM WAGE

The governor is proposing raising the minimum wage in the state from $7.25 per hour to $8.75. The move has hit stiff resistance from the business community so far.

Scozzafava said that most states that border New York have higher minimum wages, and the governor wants to bring New York more in line with them.

An increase would also mean people would have more disposable income, which should help local economies, she said.

She believes some kind of increase will be approved.

“The last time it happened (2009), we survived it.

“I think the governor has a pretty good track record on getting his legislative highlighted agenda passed.”

At the North Country Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast on Friday, Chamber President Garry Douglas also indicated a minimum-wage hike was probably inevitable.

“We remain officially opposed to it,” he said, “but with a growing resignation” that it will happen.

He said chamber officials hope the increase will be phased in and that it will be “balanced with other cost relief for small businesses.”

Email Joe LoTemplio: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com