PLATTSBURGH — The governor’s State of the State address resonated well with North Country leaders.
“I am very pleased that the governor mentioned upstate several times during his speech,” Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak said.
“He is correct in mentioning that upstate needs business investment and a marketing plan, and that is something I fully appreciate and support.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s speech included mention of creating an Upstate marketing plan to promote regions and special events, as well as regional businesses.
At one point during his speech, a picture of several bottles of Ubu Ale, a specialty beer brewed by the Lake Placid Brewing Company, appeared on the screen behind the governor as an example of regional products worth promoting.
He also mentioned a hot-air balloon festival in Glens Falls, which brought applause from State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) — that the governor noticed.
“Calling attention to the beauty and tourist attractions of the Adirondacks was definitely appreciated,” Little said.
The governor also said he wants to see regions of the state competing against each other to come up with the best marketing plans for attractions and special events, rather than have counties compete against each other.
Mayor Kasprzak said such a plan could benefit Plattsburgh and the surrounding area as the bicentennial of the Battle of Plattsburgh in September of 2014 draws near.
“I would think that the Battle of Plattsburgh is a perfect example of what the governor believes will help upstate and regions like ours,” he said.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) agreed.
“Who is better suited to put together a marketing plan than those of us in the North Country?” Duprey said. “We have so many events to promote, and a program like that will put them all together.”
Duprey particularly liked the governor’s idea of creating an Adirondack whitewater rafting challenge, where teams of politicians race against each other. The idea was highlighted by cartoon pictures of state leaders in rafts.
“What are people going to be talking about? They are going to be talking about those guys in the rafts, and it will be linked to the Adirondacks,” Duprey said.
“How clever is that?”
Plattsburgh/North Country Chanber of Commerce President Garry Douglas liked the marketing plan, as well as the move to help businesses deal with costly mandates.
“We applaud the commitment to again avoid tax increases and to work toward cost-saving reforms in key programs such as workers comp and unemployment insurance,” Douglas said in a statement.
“We also welcome the stress on the particular needs of Upstate, including competitions for greater tourism marketing and for efforts to spin off and retain more job-creating ventures from our universities.”
Kasprzak said that while he also welcomed the idea of reform for workers comp and unemployment insurance, he wished the governor had more to say about providing mandate relief to municipalities, which have been struggling to deal with the state’s property-tax cap, which was implemented in 2011.
“I was disappointed to not hear anything about mandate relief and no mention of repeal of the Triborough Amendment and binding arbitration,” he said.
The Triborough Amendment allows union contracts to stay in place once they’ve expired, and binding arbitration has arbitrators decide contract disputes between unions and municipalities.
The New York State School Boards Association also raised the issue of mandate relief.
“While the governor appears to support local control, his speech was notable for its omission of any mandate relief for schools whatsoever,” the association said in a statement.
“We realize that the State of the State is a time of vision. That’s why we eagerly await the governor’s upcoming budget proposal to see if these initiatives are supported with adequate resources.
“Without adequate state funding or meaningful mandate relief, the governor’s ambitious proposals will fall victim to the budget realities facing New York schools.”
Little said the idea of creating incubator programs, where technology-based businesses will be given the incentive of paying no taxes to start or expand businesses, could also benefit the North Country.
“I think that could help our area, especially in the bio-med industry, and I would like to look into that more,” she said.
The governor also talked about gun control and getting rid of assault rifles.
Duprey, who would also like to see stricter legislation on assault rifles, said she would not be surprised to see a gun bill introduced within the next few weeks.
“When we see the actual bill, it will all play out from there,” she said.
Duprey said it will be interesting to see how the governor’s idea of pursuing a constitutional amendment to allow casinos is received.
“Put it up to the voters and see what they say,” she said, referring to the governor’s plan for a statewide vote on that issue in November.
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