Members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet were in Skaneateles on Friday, Feb. 1, to present and discuss the proposed state budget and give an overview of the governor’s State of the State address.
Matthew Driscoll, former Syracuse mayor and current President of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, gave the presentation in the Skaneateles Library in front of a crowd of about 10 people.
Under Cuomo’s plan, the state will balance the budget without raising taxes for the third consecutive year, in a continued effort to deal with the $1.3 billion budget deficit that he inherited when he took office.
The governor wants to spend money on developing business in Upstate New York particularly, Driscoll said. State initiatives include grants for alternative energy, new businesses and advertising campaigns promoting tourism.
Tourism should be a big link between New York City and the rest of the state, Driscoll said. Places like Skaneateles or the Adirondack Mountains would benefit greatly from more tourism revenue.
“The plan is to get people out of New York City and get them to see other parts of New York State, because, to be honest, when they come here they spend a lot of money,” he said.
Another big money-maker for the state could be legalized gambling. Driscoll said that if passed by the state legislature, there could be a referendum on next November’s ballot to build one to three new casinos in the state.
The other main concern in the new budget is increasing funding for education. The budget includes a 4.4 percent increase for education which factors out to $303 more per student across the state.
The state will provide funding for full-day preschool and expanding the school calendar to include more school days, like is the norm in many other countries.
Other provisions in Cuomo’s plan include raising the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour, reforming gun control and repairing and rebuilding the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, which Driscoll called a “massive undertaking.”
Driscoll fielded questions and comments from the audience after the presentation. A common sentiment seemed to be that the state government needs to be able to do more on a smaller budget to be able to compete with other states and keep people from leaving.
The budget must be approved by a vote of the state legislature before April 1.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.