Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell: Assembly’s Budget Proposal Includes Big Victories for the North Country
“The Assembly’s budget proposal includes great news for the North Country. Our advocacy for the issues that matter most to our region has not fallen on deaf ears in Albany. We were successful in our efforts to keep the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility open, as well as the state parks and historic sites throughout the Thousand Islands Region.
“In addition, the Assembly’s resolution modifies the proposal to create a small business revolving loan fund from money swept from NYPA. Our resolution will dedicate $1.5 million of the loan fund specifically for St. Lawrence County. This is the access to capital that our small businesses need to make it through this recession. Other victories for the North Country include restorations to agricultural, school and higher education programs, as well as softened cuts to the healthcare sector and a rejection of the proposal to steal money from the snowmobile fund.
“This is a great step forward, but we have not crossed the finish line yet. I will continue fighting until the last drop of ink is dry on a final budget that does not disproportionately hurt the North Country.”
- Keeping the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility open will retain 287 jobs and $22 million in payroll for the Ogdensburg. In addition, corrections officers who are currently working downstate awaiting the opportunity to be transferred back to the Watertown hub can rest a little easier knowing their transfer will not be pushed back even further. (See Language Below – A9706-B, Pg.235, Part TT)
- keeping the parks and historical sites open, including Canoe-Picnic Point, Cedar Island, Keewaydin, Mary Island, Eel Weir and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Site will help to retain the $63 million in local spending and the 882 jobs created by the parks in the Thousand Islands Region. Keeping the parks open to the 1.7 million visitors who use and support them will help our surrounding small businesses. Our parks’ benefit-to-cost ratio is more than 5-to-1, returning over $5 for every $1 spent on parks.
- Restorations to our agriculture programs will aid the entire agriculture industry in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, from the struggling dairy farmers to the wine, cheese and maple producers to the growing agri-tourism industry.
- Our budget proposal restores over $600 million to education. This restoration will help school districts hold the line on property taxes and reduce the number of positions districts are being forced to cut.
- Our budget proposal creates a small business revolving loan fund using money swept from NYPA. This loan fund will dedicate $1.5 million specifically to St. Lawrence County. This funding, which has never been dedicated to NYPA’s host county in the past, will offer loans of up to $125,000 to businesses with 100 or fewer employees in a time when our small businesses need a little help to make it through the current recession.
- Our budget proposal restores $2.9 million to the state’s snowmobile fund. This is not only good news for our local snowmobilers, but good news for our local small businesses, which see an influx of tourists who come to the North Country looking for some of the best snowmobile trails in the state.
- Our proposal restored the cuts to community colleges and rejected cuts to the TAP program. This will help our working families keep their children in college.
- Our budget proposal rejects the elimination of EPIC wraparound coverage, softens cuts to the healthcare sector to help our struggling seniors afford the medications they need, and keeps our hospitals and nursing homes open.
Section 1. Legislative findings and intent. The legislature finds that the state inmate population has drastically declined since 1999 and continues to decline; as a result, the Department of Correctional Services maintains thousands of vacant beds in medium and minimum security facilities. At the same time, with the enactment of comprehensive drug law reform, and other sentencing reforms, the need for shock incarceration facilities will increase. The Governor has identified various correctional facilities for closure to achieve certain savings. The legislature finds, however, that greater cost savings could be achieved by identifying state correctional facilities for closure other than Ogdensburg Correctional Facility and Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility. Therefore, the intent of this legislation is to mandate the continued operation of these two facilities so that alternate facilities may be identified for closure that will maximize cost savings, maintain the availability of the shock program and appropriately reduce prison capacity to reflect the current inmate population.
Section 2. Notwithstanding section 79-a of the correction law, the commissioner of correctional services shall not close either the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility located in the city of Ogdensburg, county of St. Lawrence, and state of New York, or the Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility located in the city of Mineville, county of Essex, and state of New York during the state fiscal year beginning April 1, 2011, and all notices issued pursuant to section 79-a of the correction law before such date directing closure of such facilities during the state fiscal year beginning April 1, 2011, are hereby declared null and void.
Section 3. This act shall take effect immediately.