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Local officials react to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s address

A number of local officials are reacting to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address.

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sunquist, a Democrat, said he wasn’t too surprised at what Cuomo talked about.

“I think first and foremost, we have to recognize that the largest part of this is the COVID-19 relief. Economic recovery or vaccination efforts or expanded rapid testing or even social and racial justice, that’s going to be the biggest thing for New York to move forward,” he said. “A couple things I was glad to hear that were made part of the platform: increased funding for childcare options; we’ve worked in our administration as to what we’re doing with our children. There’s so much more need.”

Sunquist was also excited to hear more funding for broadband, additional rent and mortgage relief and efforts to curb domestic violence.

The big question for Sunquist is how is Albany going support local governments like Jamestown. “Time and time again, when we see aid coming from the federal government to the states, we don’t see that trickle down to municipalities,” he said.

According to the Associated Press, Cuomo has held back at least $2.4 billion in state payments to localities as of September: that includes $486 million in aid to higher education, $475 million for transportation, $289 million in health care, $252 million for human services and housing, $300 million in school aid and $362 million in education and arts funding.

The funding issue looms large for Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas as well.

“As far as funding goes, I’m hoping that the federal government does provide some support that the governor is asking for and if they do I’m expecting that the local governments will receive their share of funding from both federal and state,” Rosas said. “I know that that will be an issue as we move forward. If the federal government does not provide the financial support that the governor is hoping to get that then all that’s going to fall to the local governments and our city will take a hit on that.”

Rosas, who is a retired state trooper, supports Cuomo’s efforts to address police reform.

“I’ve been working with our police chief on this and that’s something that Gov. Cuomo mentioned, every municipality has to create their own pla,” he said. “We’ve been part of the county’s effort, their survey and the chief and I have been looking at meeting with community members so that we can hear from them as well. That’ll probably be happening within a month.”

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, noted that New York has greeted 2021 with an imperative: to rebuild and reset the state in the wake of the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“To that end, there were areas of the governor’s address that suggest common ground with several of the priorities advanced in the ‘Reset New York’ agenda unveiled last week by myself and my Senate Republican colleagues, which is encouraging,” he said.

Borrello wants the state to address its “culture of overspending and its burdensome tax and regulatory environment,” which he believes are persistent obstacles to our economic strength. “Before COVID descended on our state in 2020, we were facing a $6 billion budget deficit. Now is the time to revisit and reform our spending,” he said.

Borrello said he was glad to hear Cuomo say New York cannot afford another statewide shutdown while we wait for full distribution of the COVID vaccine. “The economic damage, job losses and educational harm to our children that resulted from our spring shutdown were catastrophic and will take years to recover from. Another wide-scale shutdown at this point could set us behind for a generation,” he said.

Another positive Borrello said of Cuomo’s address included the importance of accessible, affordable broadband service for New Yorkers. “While I agree with his position that broadband needs to be more affordable, the best way to achieve that goal is to reduce the ever-increasing taxes, fees and regulations that he keeps piling on providers. Those burdens are harming the goal of broadening access to still unserved, rural areas of the state as well as the goal of making internet service more affordable. It was disappointing to hear him still insist that broadband coverage in the state is at 98 percent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” he said.

Borrello also believes the spiking crime rate in our cities is unacceptable and must be addressed. “From day one, my colleagues and I predicted that the disastrous criminal justice reforms passed in 2019 would set public safety back decades and result in the rising victimization of innocent individuals. The governor acknowledged this horrific problem as well as the reality that 94 percent of shooting victims have been from black and brown communities – the same communities who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. However, there were no specific proposals mentioned, so we will have to reserve judgment on his solutions until we know more details.”

Borrello said he will continue to study Cuomo’s proposals as they become available. “At this critical time for our state, I will be scrutinizing each one for its potential to rebuild our economy, create jobs, improve our weakened public safety efforts and close the dangerous educational gap that has resulted from the loss of in-school learning. Our ability to successfully address these problems will determine our future,” he said.

Cameron Hurst and Jo Ward contributed to this report.

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