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Local officials lash new state budget

Alexis Manore
Staff writer
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Posted 5/4/23

After more than a month of delays, the New York State Fiscal Year 2024 budget has finally been passed. Local legislators weigh in.

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Local officials lash new state budget


ALBANY  — After more than a month of delays, the New York State Fiscal Year 2024 budget has finally been passed. Local legislators are unhappy with its passage, with many feeling that it does not address issues that New Yorkers care about. 

The New York State legislature passed the $229 billion spending plan after over a month of disagreements and negotiations. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she and the legislature had come to a conceptual agreement on the budget on Thursday, April 27. On Tuesday, May 2, the legislature finally approved the budget. 

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. panned the budget, calling it bad overall for the county and for Upstate New York.  

“Look at the priorities of this legislature and then what we’re dealing with on the local level, and they just don’t blend, and that’s a tragedy,” he said. 

A specific part of the budget that Picente objects to is the interception of Medicaid funding that is shared among the counties. The Enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (eFMAP) passes enhanced benefits to the states to offset Medicaid expenses. In New York, the Medicaid costs are split with the counties, so the state used to share its eFMAP savings with the counties. 

“Not only are they keeping money that we’re entitled to, which creates a hole, they’re creating another deficit over time by enhancing benefits that we need to pay for, for which we have no say in,” Picente said. “They’re spreading it out over a few years, but if I’m taking money from you, it doesn’t matter how that happens, the bottom line is I’m taking money from you.” 

Picente said he’ll be meeting with other county executives next week to determine if they will be taking legal action.  

He also took issue with the change to the bail reform law. Although judges no longer have to impose the “least restrictive” pretrial conditions for people who commit offenses that are both eligible and ineligible for bail, local lawmakers say the change isn’t substantive and won’t make residents any safer. 

“I think just changing a word or two to make everybody feel better and really believe that they’ve made significant change, is just that. It’s designed to make everybody feel like they changed something when really they just rearranged the words to make it sound more forceful, or give judges more discretion,” Picente said. “They can tout it all they want that they did something, I think you’re going to see that even with the change, very little is going to be accomplished when it comes to this situation.”    

He did praise the removal from the budget of a proposed new Housing Compact, an initiative that would have mandated the construction of 800,000 homes over the next 10 years and given the state the power to override local zoning ordinances.  

“Well that’s one good thing, I don’t know who wised up and realized that that was a violation,” Picente said. “We’ve always been a home-rule state, and that means that local governments like the county of Oneida, the cities of Utica and Rome, the towns and others have the ability to do that. That was a stretch from the governor.” 

Picente said he is also concerned about the energy policies, like the ban on natural gas and other fossil fuels in new buildings.  

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-53, Rome, said he had been hoping that Hochul and the legislative majorities, who negotiated the budget behind closed doors, would have used the extra time to concur on a plan that benefitted New Yorkers. 

He said that while there were parts of the budget that he agreed with, like investments in education, funding for mental health and improvements to infrastructure, the budget doesn’t reflect the concerns of the people of New York.  

“Stifling energy mandates, including a ban on gas hookups in newly constructed buildings, will result in increased utility and housing costs. New mandates will cripple small businesses and family farms,” Griffo said in a statement. “Medicaid aid for local governments was slashed, which could lead to significant property tax increases. The insignificant tweaks made to the state’s bail law amount to nothing more than a clarification as opposed to a correction and will not make New Yorkers feel safer.”   

In a statement, Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy, said, “​​We finalized the 2023-24 budget in the New York State Assembly last night. This budget approved many budget request from the residents of my district. However, there is much more work to be done to meet the needs of our communities in regards to policy and accountable spending.”

Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-118, Meco, said he voted no on the budget because it focused too much on social policy and not enough on fiscal issues. 

“We have a tidal wave of New Yorkers who are frustrated and are leaving the state, and what are we doing to keep them here? We are banning gas stoves and funding progressive programs that are unsustainable in the long run,” Smullen said in a statement. 

Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-122, New Hartford, said, “Spending is out of control in this $229 billion downstate-centric budget that ignores upstate needs,” Miller said in a statement. “Failing to provide essential direct care workers a competitive living wage or offering little relief to the state’s hardworking taxpayers while continuing handouts to the Hollywood rich is inexcusable.” 



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