Assemblywoman Russell Responds to Governor’s Budget Proposal

January 19, 2010
“The governor’s budget proposal is evidence that he is out of touch with the North Country and our community. The governor’s proposal turns its back on working families by making across-the-board cuts – jeopardizing essential public programs – instead of making strategic cuts and basing decisions on sound data.

“One area I am specifically upset about is the governor’s initiative to close the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility. The governor has apparently not considered that fact that St. Lawrence County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire state, and was recently hit hard by the closing of the GM plant, the idling of Alcoa and the potential closure of P&C supermarkets in Canton, Potsdam, Massena and Gouverneur. He also failed to consider the ripple effects caused by this closure to Ogdensburg and its surrounding communities, including the loss of local contracts that were being used by the prison, and the hit to our housing values and tax base if these employees are transferred to facilities in other areas of the state.

“I have already started advocating for a final budget that considers cutting Department of Corrections administrators and identifying cost-saving-measures and shared services within the Watertown Correction hub as alternatives to the prison’s closure. The close proximity of North Country prisons presents us with an opportunity to consolidate services, such as sharing prison counselors and administrators as well as maximizing our economies of scale to achieve significant cost savings.

“Another area of concern is with the governor’s higher education proposal. The governor’s proposal to allow SUNY unchecked authority over tuition increases combined with deep cuts to the TAP program will put future generations at a disadvantage by making a college education unaffordable for working families. His cuts to community colleges will also undermine the employee retraining efforts taking place in the North Country right now, and the educational pursuits of our young adults.

“The governor also proposed new taxes on cigarettes and sugary drinks, including sports drinks and soda. At face value these efforts appear socially responsible, but I cannot support these two new taxes placed on our already over-burdened working families. We must break the culture of raising new taxes to feed our already bloated budget. Until we make significant cuts to the bureaucracy of Albany, I will not support these taxes.”