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Cuomo: "New York State must face economic reality"

By PAT BAILEY

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his $133 billion spending plan Tuesday, which he hopes will be passed without question.

The Governor calls the budget "tough, but necessary."

Cuomo wants to reduce the amount of money the state spends by ten percent and says if state agencies can't meet that number, 9,800 state employees could be laid off. The Sage Group, as it's called, will then be put into place help reduce the number of those state agencies by 20 percent.

As for the state's corrections system, Cuomo has issued an executive order to create a task force that will recommend specific prison closures. Communities that depend on prisons as major employers could receive up to $100 million in assistance.

There are also several proposed cuts on the table, including wanting to reduce Medicaid's overall budget by two percent for the year, or $1 billion, with school aid going down nearly three percent.

"The money is gone and the money is not coming in and this cycle of inflated increases...14 percent, 16 percent, 12 percent...there's no such number in economic reality," Governor Cuomo said. "It's not gonna happen...10 billion dollar deficit, 15 billion. It's not gonna happen. We have to change."

When it comes to local areas, the City of Utica is looking at $330,000 less than it received last year. Rome will get $185,000 less.

In Otsego County, the City of Oneonta is taking a nearly $46,000 hit.

In Herkimer County, aid to the City of Little Falls could be cut by $17,000 if the proposed budget is passed as is.

Tuesday's presentation by the governer drew mixed reviews.

The governor was certainly very direct in his address, saying this proposed budget closes this year's massive deficit, and stops it from growing into next year

However, how he wants to achieve that is a slight concern to those who represent the taxpayers of the Mohawk Valley.

Despite a threat of mass layoffs, and a reduction to the state's Medicaid system, it was primarily a 2 percent cut to school districts that had lawmakers from Central New York concerned.

"He did throw out a shout-out to the special high-needs districts we have, especial my district, so hopefully he will give special consideration, because we have some very high needs districts in our area," said Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney of the 115th District.

"I am concerned about the Utica School district, and how they deal with this type of cut," said Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito.

It wasn't just school districts on the chopping block.

Consolidating prisons, state wage freezes and less money to local governments were all proposals.

Some local representatives say the governor was spot on.

"I think the people asked for cuts, the people said 'let's deal with the problems,'" Senator Joseph Griffo said. "I think what the Governor did today was not put any new taxes in. To me, that is significant when you look at the challenges we are facing."

Others said the governor was too vague.

"What's involved, we need more specific details," said Assemblyman Marc Butler. "But in a general sense of what the Governor is saying, I have to agree and I have to agree where he is trying to point the state."

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says there isn't much to applaud at in the proposed state budget, but he does appreciate the governor doing what county government has been doing for the last several years - and that's cutting back.

Picente says there is a big chunk of change missing in the proposed spending plan, money that our area depends on.

"What is disturbing and most noticeable, about two million dollars in aid that we have been receiving for a number of years, that is granted to Oneida and Madison County to offset losses of non-collection of taxes at the Oneida Nation and that creates a big hole in our budget right now."

So where is the governor pointing the state? He says down the right road.

Cuomo said New York State is at a crossroads and if they don't attack the $10 billion deficit this year, it could balloon to $15 billion next year.

He says his proposal is done, and now it's up to the state legislature, who has an April 1 deadline to get a budget approved.

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