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Cuomo appointee leads 'regional' State of the State in Herkimer

By GARY LIBERATORE

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - As mayor of Schenectady for seven years, Brian Stratton says he heard a lot of what was said inside the Herkimer Chamber of Commerce Headquarters on Friday, before.

Stratton was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011 to the post of Director of the New York State Canal Corporation.

This year, Cuomo asked Stratton to be one of several state officials to tour the state and listen to people's concerns following his State of the State address he gave on January 4.

Stratton says it truly has been a whirlwind tour.

"I've been doing these all week," he said. "I was in Glens Falls on Tuesday, I went to Columbia Greene Community College on Wednesday, went to R.P.I., and I'm here today, but this is one of 70 presentations around the state."

Last week, the Commissioner of the Office of General Services, RoAnn Destito made a stop in Utica on behalf of Governor Cuomo. Both Destito and Stratton heard a number of comments regarding mandate relief.

The state mandates that counties and municipalities implement certain programs, but does not help with much of the funding of those programs. For example, Medicaid.

Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent J. Bono was one of those on Friday who spoke out about mandate relief. Bono told Stratton, "around 55% of Herkimer County's budget is based on Medicaid programs. We can't continue. Every year we try to re-invent ourselves."

Assemblyman Marc Butler was also in attendance Friday morning.

He says on top of the lack of mandate relief, the Governor's 2% property tax cap which was instituted last year makes it even harder for counties and municipalities to somehow balance their own budgets, "when we implemented the 2% property tax cap last year, it was with the belief that there would be substantial relief that would accompany that, that did not come to pass, rightfully so, our schools, our counties are concerned, we're putting a lot of pressure on them to provide these services and pay for them and we're limiting their ability to raise the revenues to support those services. You can't have it both ways."

Bob Wright is a board member with the Mohawk Homestead Nursing Home in Mohawk.

He asked Stratton a question he's heard before. Wright asked, Stratton, "is there anything in the Governor's budget for non profits, in that area, nursing homes, places like that? Because the revenue is just not there and our costs just keep going up."

Stratton told Wright there have been no decisions made on the 2012-2013 state budget, but he will be bringing back all of the concerns he has heard about, including his, back to Governor Cuomo, so the Governor can take them into consideration before releasing his proposed budget next Tuesday.

Stratton says the major decisions that will be made will take place over the next two months, "the State of the State really lays out in a very broad way, what the plan is. Now the budget really tells how to achieve it, so it's really a two part process."

The state budget is due to be in place by April 1.

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