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NYSAC official speaks positively about state budget

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LOWVILLE — A New York State Association of Counties representative painted a fairly positive picture of the state budget to an 11-county Adirondack legislative group Thursday.

“We didn’t do too bad this year, considering again the state was in a deficit situation,” said David Lucas, NYSAC’s director of finance and intergovernmental relations, at an Inter-County Legislative Committee of the Adirondacks meeting at Tug Hill Vineyards.

Medicaid payments from the counties are to drop by about 1 percent, which should provide a little relief, even though it may not seem like much, Mr. Lucas said.

“When we’re sending $7 billion to Albany, 1 percent adds up over the course of the year,” he said.

The state budget also included an increase in Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funding, Mr. Lucas said.

However, some mandate relief proposals from NYSAC, including giving counties the latitude to raise the local portion of sales tax rates to 4 percent without state approval, were not adopted, he said.

Mr. Lucas said his group will continue to push that agenda and is once again asking its member counties to participate in the “Mayday for Mandate Relief” initiative by holding a promotional event in May to raise awareness of the need for state mandate relief.

“The message is resonating with the Legislature,” he said. “They understand the pressure that is on the counties.”

Outgoing Lewis County Manager David H. Pendergast asked about the status of legislation that would require counties to set up sites for early voting.

“It’s not doing anything right now,” Mr. Lucas said, noting state government ethics is dominating talks in Albany.

If the early voting issue ever gains traction, NYSAC officials will try to make sure the state provides funding to cover additional costs to the counties, he said.

Lewis County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, his county’s representative on the regional committee, also asked if there was any chance of further legislative changes to the New York Safety and Firearms Enforcement Act.

“Only what they did in the budget,” Mr. Lucas said, noting several minor changes were made. “They don’t want to go back into that law.”

About 35 people attended the session, including six of the 10 Lewis County legislators.

Prior to the luncheon meeting, the group — consisting of legislative representatives from the counties with Adirondack Park acreage — visited the 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm. Legislator William J. Burke, R-West Lowville, a participating landowner and part-time employee of the wind farm, served as tour guide.

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