State reps relay priorities as budget deadline looms

A deadline approaches for state lawmakers in Albany to approve and enact an on-time budget.

More aid for schools, tax relief and increased infrastructure investments are among the priorities for state Sen. Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell.

State lawmakers’ efforts to obtain funding through the state’s Mitigation Fund will be vital to the city of Dunkirk and the Dunkirk City School District as NRG works to repower its plant. Young, R-Olean, told The Post-Journal she’ll be working on that front as the budget deadline approaches Friday.

“I am fighting for additional resources to be available through the power plant mitigation fund I established last year, so that Dunkirk’s school and city and Chautauqua County taxpayers are not negatively impacted while NRG’s plant repowers,” Young said.

This year, NRG reduced its PILOT payment to the city, school district and county – going from $8 million to $1.4 million to the three entities. The state stepped in to provide $2.7 million to the school district, $1.7 million to the city and just over $1 million for the year to cover a gap.

Transition assistance was scheduled to be phased out over a five-year period. Goodell, R-Jamestown, said the Assembly and Senate are working to make transition assistance last over a longer period.

“Instead of another 20 percent loss of revenue from NRG, it would be a much lower reduction,” Goodell said. “In the Assembly one-house proposal, it was 10 percent instead of 20 percent. Basically, it’s a significant improvement for transition aid for the city of Dunkirk.”

In the educational realm, Young acknowledged a push for more aid for high-needs districts and tuition assistance for those pursuing a higher education.

The governor’s budget proposed $465 million in increased base funding for schools. The Senate and Assembly agreed that amount will be higher this year, Goodell said.

Young said the Senate’s also working to secure tax relief for residents and employers while safeguarding initiatives like the Joseph Dwyer Peer-to-Peer program to support veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Having a fiscally responsible, on-time budget that keeps state spending in check, grows jobs and the economy, reduces the tax burden and improves people’s quality of life remains my utmost priority,” she said. “While budget discussions continue on a variety of topics, I continue to be a staunch advocate for issues that are a priority for the people of my district.”

Goodell said he’s working to support funding for the 2-1-1 program, which helps those with an unexpected social service issue. Goodell said its particularly valuable during floods or other emergencies. Goodell said he’s also working to retain funding for agricultural programs and local libraries.