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Legislators discuss state budget, marijuana, Cuomo

A record-breaking state budget, legalized recreational marijuana and the scandals connected to Gov. Andrew Cuomo were just a few of the topics discussed during the online Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce 2021 state legislative breakfast.

On Friday, Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, was joined by John D’Agostino, The Post-Journal and OBSERVER editor and moderator, state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, for the annual meeting to discuss state and local issues.

Both Borrello and Goodell criticized the $212 billion state budget and its record-high spending plan. Borrello said there are many burdens being placed on small businesses in the state budget, which includes a significant increase in unemployment insurance.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of back-breaking changes that will hurt our small businesses,” Borrello said.

Goodell said spending increased by $35 billion, which is a 15% hike. He said all of the work that has been done in the last five years to try and keep spending down via the state 2% tax cap has been eliminated because of the increase in spending for 2021-22.

“It’s really an expensive state,” he said.

Both Borrello and Goodell are against the legalization of recreational marijuana. Borrello said the new law now makes it extremely challenging for the police to enforce against driving while under the influence of drugs.

“This law specifically says the police can’t take action unless there is an accident or damages,” he said.

Goodell said the governor is the dominant player in state budget negotiations, but this year he was distracted because of the duress he is feeling from the alleged sexual abuse allegations and the investigation into the COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

“(Cuomo) was absent because he is under stress and pressure because is under multiple investigations,” Goodell said.

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