March 2, 2013

Business leaders lobby state lawmakers

PLATTSBURGH — Municipal pension costs, affirmative action, gun control and cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled highlighted the Legislative Forum breakfast on Friday morning.

“I believe with every fiber of my body that we absolutely have an obligation to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves,” Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) told the crowd gathered at the Holiday Inn.

Duprey was lamenting a proposal to cut funding for some developmentally disabled assistance programs by 6 percent, which would mean a loss of about $1.5 million for North Country nonprofits that serve that population. 

It was one of the many issues discussed during the two-hour forum that the North Country Chamber of Commerce hosts annually.

The event gave Duprey and the North Country’s other state representatives — Sen. Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec — a chance to sound off on issues central to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.


The governor’s proposed “pension smoothing” raised some eyebrows as the legislative trio weighed in on the plan to give municipalities an opportunity to fix State Retirement Fund payments for 25 years at lower rates than they are paying now but higher than what is expected in the future.

Municipalities have been hit hard in recent years by large contributions to the pension fund, which is dependent on stock-market performance.

The smoothing plan would allow municipalities that decide to opt in to realize immediate savings and give them stable figures to plan on for the long term.

But some fear the plan might cost more in the long term if the market underperforms.

“I think it is a good deal, and hopefully people will look at it that way,” Little (R-Queensbury) said.

Duprey said the plan could certainly help municipalities budget better.

“They can stabilize and structure their rates, and it will stay that way for the duration, so they can budget accordingly,” she said.

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