County, state officals meet to discuss revenue sharing

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WAMPSVILLE — Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John M. Becker and other county officials were heading to Albany for an afternoon meeting today to discuss a revenue sharing formula between the state and the county.

The discussions follow State Gov. Andrew M Cuomo’s September 30 veto of legislation that would have amended the 2013 gaming compact between the state, the Oneida Indian Nation and Madison and Oneida counties.

Madison County had sought additional money under the compact to receive compensation for use of its infrastructure by the OIN. It is the only one of eight counties in New York that hosts an Indian-owned gaming operation but does not receive host county status.

“I spoke with the governor by phone and he said he was agreeable to meet and discuss the issue,” Becker said at the supervisors’ meeting Oct. 11. “He said he wants to resolve the issue very quickly.”

Cuomo has instructed the state Division of Budget to find money from the state’s share of the compact that will compensate sue of their infrastructure.

“(We will) review and explore a revenue sharing formula that would provide Madison County with an appropriate portion of the revenue generated from slot machine gaming devices,” Cuomo wrote regarding the veto.

That status would allow Madison County to receive an additional amount of money beyond the $3.5 million they receive each year. They also received one-time payment of $11 million to settle past tax claims against OIN-owned property. Becker estimates the county is losing up to $6 million each year.

Cuomo vetoed the bill because he felt it would compromise terms of the compact, which was designed to settle longstanding tax and property issues among the four parties.

Becker said since 2014 the county has followed Cuomo’s direction to settle the issue.

The governor’s office told the county to meet with state gaming commission to draft a supplemental agreement. This approach failed.

The county was then told the disparity would be handled through the state budget process, although the issue was not addressed during budget talks.

The governor’s office then recommended legislation to change the issue, and it passed in both the state senate and assembly by a total vote of 183-5.

Sen. David J. Valesky, D-53, Oneida, and state Assemblyman William D. Magee, D-121, Nelson, joined Madison County’s Board of Supervisors September 22 to urge Cuomo’s passage of the bill.

“We will continue to support Madison County’s fight to get what they deserve,” Magee said Tuesday evening before his debate with Republican assembly candidate John Salka. “This is a matter of fairness.”

Salka serves as supervisor for the Town of Brookfield in Madison County. He voted against the compact in 2013.

“It’s a matter of opinion on whether the compact was legal,” Salka said.

Becker, Magee and Salka all said the county was not aware of the potential for gaming in Madison County.

“To be clear, there was gaming at SavOn prior to the compact being signed,” OIN Vice President for Communications Joel Barkin said. “There was gaming in Madison County as early as the mid-1990’s.”

The Canastota SavOn first opened 21 slot machines in November 2014. The Yellow Brick Road Casino opened in Chittenango in June 2015.

Oneida County officials have opposed any amendments to the compact. Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, was the lone member of the state Senate to vote against the legislation, sponsored by Valesky and Magee, to name Madison County as host county.

“I don’t know what else there is to say about the issue,” Griffo said. “If discussions continue, I’d think at some point they would include Vernon Downs in them.”

The additional payments would not have detracted from Oneida County’s revenue, Madison County officials said, because Madison County is seeking more money from the state’s share. Oneida County receives 25 percent of the state’s slot machine payment and an annual $2.5 million payment to settle past tax claims.

“Sadly, in recent weeks it’s become clear that too many decisions made in Albany are not based on the merits,” Becker said. “We aren’t looking for a billion; we are just looking for our fair share.”

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