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Hochul says governor making Upstate a priority

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul stopped by the Legislative Luncheon for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce on Friday at Tillman’s Village Inn.

GAINES – New York State is making billions of dollars available for upstate infrastructure and economic development, bringing attention to a part of the state that had been largely neglected by state officials for many years, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said at an Orleans County Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday.

The governor’s proposed budget includes a multi-year plan with $22 billion for upstate roads and bridges, another $750 million for economic development through the regional economic development councils, and a cap on Thruway tolls until at least 2020, with tolls eliminated for agriculture vehicles.

Hochul said Cuomo’s efforts in his five years as governor are paying off with a shrinking unemployment rate and rising job numbers. She said the unemployment rate in Orleans is down from about 9 percent to 5 percent with Cuomo as governor.

“The governor has done an amazing job,” Hochul told about 100 people at the Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn. “He has been making up for years of neglect.”

Orleans County has received some of the funding through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. Municipalities, businesses and organizations apply for the funds, with the council directing dollars to projects that will create and retain jobs.

Albion and Holley have both received grants through the NY Main Street program, and Medina was just approved for that grant.

The latest announcement in December included $600,000 to the Orleans Economic Development Agency for a new building in the Medina Business Park; $335,000 in a Main Street NY grant for Medina; $220,000 grant for Bent’s Opera House stabilization, facade improvements, asbestos abatement and interior renovations at the three-story building in Medina; $200,000 to the Orleans EDA for microenterprise support; $126,210 for the chapel restoration at Hillside Cemetery in Holley; $40,000 for the Kendall-Yates-Carlton Local Waterfront Revitalization Program; $36,000 to Orleans County for a law enforcement shared service and efficiency study.

The state also approved $1.5 billion in an Upstate Revitalization Initiative with three regions getting $500 million. Orleans County is in the Finger Lakes region which was awarded $500 million last month.

Hochul said the funds will create many economic development opportunities for businesses and communities.

“The $500 million is a once-in-a-lifetime grant,” Hochul said.

She likes the governor’s approach, where regions need to develop plans for economic growth.

“The old way there was a pot of money that went to those who were politically connected,” she said.

She highlighted other parts of the 2016-17 proposed budget from the governor:

An increase in the Environmental Protection Fund from $177 million to $300 million;

An overall state budget that limits the budget to an increase of 1.7 percent;

$250 million in support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the state, predominantly in upstate;

$500 million to dramatically expand and improve access to high-speed Internet in communities statewide;

$200 million to revitalize upstate airports;

$100 million for downtown revitalization, funds that would be available to villages and not just cities, Hochul said.

“It’s ambitious,” she said about the governor’s budget. “The governor views no challenge is too great. He’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.”

Hochul arrived at 1:30 p.m. for the Legislative Luncheon and went through a PowerPoint presentation on the governor’s budget. She missed comments from State Sen. Robert Ortt and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who said the governor and state Legislature need to direct more dollars to upstate projects and communities.

Hawley said many of the big projects announced in the governor’s budget were directed at New York City, including a new airport to replace LaGuardia, a $3 billion transformation of Penn Station, and a redeveloped Javits Convention Center at an estimated $1 billion.

“Pieces get thrown out all the time by downstaters,” Hawley said. “But the bridges on the canal, where’s the money? The Lake Ontario State Parkway, where’s the money?”