By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer
SIGNING THE BILL — RoAnn M. Destito commissioner of the office of general services shakes hands with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo at the Utica College Economic Crime and Justice Building. State senator Joseph A. Griffo, left, and assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi watch. (Sentinel photo by Stefan Matwijec)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continued his tour of ceremonial budget signings Monday with a stop in Oneida County.
In conjunction with the governor’s appearance, it was announced that the state will invest $35 million over the next two years for upgrades to the North-South Arterial in Utica.
Cuomo told the crowd of invited guests, including local elected officials, at Utica College the $132.6 billion budget maintains his commitment to fiscal responsibility while creating jobs and strengthening communities across New York.
"The budget was really a reform plan," he said. The state Legislature passed its second straight on-time budget March 30. Cuomo since then has been making appearances outside of Albany talking up what he sees as the spending plan’s successes and accomplishments. The state’s fiscal year began April 1.
Cuomo said his top priorities since becoming governor 15 months ago have been the economy and job creation. The new spending plan closes a multi-billion dollar deficit with no new taxes or fees, limits spending growth to 2 percent or below for the second year in a row, and launches the New York Works Task Force to invest billions of dollars to rebuild the state’s roads, bridges, parks and other infrastructure while creating temporary construction jobs.
Mandates on local governments like Medicaid and pensions costs, and state aid for school districts were some of the high-interest issues this year, like in other years. The new budget does offer some relief in these areas.
-- Medicaid growth takeover: Counties and New York City will see a reduction in the growth rate for local Medicaid payments starting April 1, 2013. Over five years, the Mohawk Valley benefit is estimated at $18 million.
-- Pension reform: A less generous pension program was adopted for new public employees. The long-term savings for Oneida County over the next 30 years is projected to be $93.4 million.
-- Additional school aid: School districts in the Mohawk Valley will receive $739.3 million in aid, an increase of 5.2 percent from the current school year.
The spending plan maintains video lottery terminal aid of $405,000 to the county, and town and village of Vernon.
The budget also provides $1 million to the county in miscellaneous financial assistance, a slight increase from 2011-12. This money compensates for the impact of the Oneida Indian Nation and its operations, such as Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona.
Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-116, Utica, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome and RoAnn M. Destito, current state Office of General Services commissioner and former Assembly member from Rome, all had high praise for the governor in their remarks prior to Cuomo speaking.
Elected officials at the event but not speaking included Rome Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr., Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., county Board of Legislators Minority Leader Frank D. Tallarino and Utica Mayor Robert M. Palmieri.
Cuomo was at SUNYIT in Marcy a little more than a month ago to urge Mohawk Valley residents to support his proposed executive budget.