MALONE –– New York must encourage growth, state Sen. Betty Little said in response to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address Wednesday.

The Republican lawmaker, who is retiring at the end of the year, and Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, provided North Country residents with a sampling of their take on the governor’s annual address.

“Overall, our state’s focus has to be on encouraging growth,” Little said. “The outmigration of New Yorkers is a trend that has to be reversed. Losing representation in Congress, as is expected following this year’s census count, is not a good thing. But that pales in comparison with the real impact of families leaving our communities and living many miles apart from loved ones because someone couldn’t afford the taxes any longer or needed to look to another state for a job opportunity.”

In his speech, Cuomo cited what he said were positive indicators that New York’s economic picture is improving, citing a significant drop in the unemployment rate, job growth and lower taxes. He proposed cutting taxes for the middle class and small businesses even further in the coming year, despite a looming $6 billion budget deficit.

For his part, Jones said he will work to make sure efforts to address that budget gap don’t include cuts in services that North Country families rely on.

“Although we face a significant budget deficit, I will help ensure that our families don’t lose out on vital resources and services.”

Jones pointed out that many North Country communities lack reliable internet and cell coverage, stressing that the Upstate Cellular Task Force’s work is crucial. He said he was pleased that Cuomo specifically said he would make cell coverage for all New Yorkers a part of his 2020 agenda and hopeful that the task force’s recommendations make that reality for North Country families.

Jones indicated he’ll support initiatives that benefit North Country residents and the economy.

“This includes the build out of electric transportation, which we know has had a positive effect on the region’s economy in the past which we hope to see benefit our region’s transportation manufacturing cluster in the future.

Jones further touched on the governor’s three-part plan to reduce prescription drug costs, and said that while he supports efforts to assist people with purchasing pricey prescriptions, he’s disappointed Cuomo vetoed legislation that would provide state entities the power to investigate pharmacy benefit managers and drug manufacturers. Jones feels they must be held responsible for extreme increases in drug costs.

The legislation would have held pharmacy benefit managers to the same regulatory policies as insurance agencies when determining drug prices. Jones said he hopes Cuomo reconsiders the proposal introduced in the Assembly.

The assemblyman appreciated the governor’s plan to support craft beverage brewers, saying it is good for tourism, agriculture, and the overall economy.

In her response to Cuomo’s address, Little said her concern for the North County is sustainability. The state must reverse the trend of New Yorkers leaving for better opportunities elsewhere, Little said, stressing that families should not have to be separated by great distances because loved ones cannot afford to pay taxes nor find adequate jobs.

“We need more full-time residents and the jobs and economic opportunity that makes that possible,” she said. “Ecological protection is important, but I really want to emphasize economic prosperity.”

Cuomo devoted a portion of his speech to call for passage of a $3 billion “Restore Mother Nature Bond Act” to address a variety of ecological concerns, including fighting algal blooms that have struck many North Country water bodies and addressing nitrogen runoffs into local streams and rivers.

Like Jones, Little called for internet and cell coverage for everyone while touching on an additional investment in water and sewer infrastructure, the cleanliness of lakes and rivers and the need for schools and hospitals to receive the funding they need.

“Funding these and many other important projects and services will be a challenge given the $6 billion deficit,” Little said. “Tough decisions will need to be made. What I will fight against is any region of the State being unfairly targeted by cuts.”

Little also vowed to fight any decisions to address state-level financial challenges that come “at the expense of local governments and property taxpayers with more unfunded mandates.”

The senator also pledged to join lawmakers, law enforcement and district attorneys across the state in calling for repeal of bail reform.

“Clearly the new law isn’t working and is putting innocent people at risk,” she said. “Getting rid of it and starting over with the expectation of the Legislature taking its time to get it rights is what’s needed.”

At the start of his speech, Cuomo singled out Little for her service in Albany, noting the nine-term senator is “the longest serving female Republican senator ever.”

“Betty Little will be missed by everyone, myself included,” the governor said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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