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Rep. John Katko will vote for House tax reform bill

One day after saying he was "leaning towards" supporting a major tax reform bill, U.S. Rep. John Katko told The Citizen that he will vote for the measure when it's considered by the House Thursday. 

Katko, R-Camillus, explained his position during a phone interview Wednesday. He cited the impact on his district and the potential boost to the manufacturing sector as reasons why he's supporting the bill. 

"I just can't look away from the fact that this is a healthy tax cut for middle class and working class constituents of mine, and they sorely need the relief," he said. "And the second thing is the business side of the tax relief here really provides the first opportunity in decades to really, truly make the American manufacturers and American workers more competitive on the world stage." 

The tax reform bill includes several provisions for individual taxpayers and businesses. It reduces the number of income tax brackets from seven to four and doubles the standard deduction for single filers and couples. 

For businesses, the corporate tax rate will be lowered from 35 to 20 percent. Taxes on small business income will be reduced to no more than 25 percent. 

A major factor in Katko's decision was the partial preservation of the state and local tax deduction. An earlier version of the bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would have eliminated the ability to deduct state and local income, property and sales taxes. This would impact residents in New York and other high-tax states. 

When the House voted on a budget resolution that served as a vehicle for advancing tax reform legislation, Katko opposed it because the elimination of the state and local tax deduction remained in the bill. 

The latest version of the House bill includes a compromise negotiated by several Republicans, including Katko. It will allow homeowners to deduct up to $10,000 of their state and local property taxes. 

"This is not perfect. I'd love to have (the state and local tax deduction) in 100 percent," Katko said. "But in the end, when you do the math for my district, it really is a good deal." 

For Katko, his position on the tax reform bill fulfills a campaign pledge. He has lamented the loss of manufacturing jobs in central and upstate New York. 

He believes the existing tax structure is a reason why businesses have struggled and jobs have left the region. He also said the bill could help address poverty issues in Syracuse and throughout his district that "are as real as they are anywhere in the United States." 

"The thought that we could have an opportunity to try and impact that is pretty exciting," he said. 

The tax reform effort has its share of critics. Constituents rallied outside Katko's Auburn office Monday to protest the GOP tax plan. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a Facebook ad campaign targeting Katko over his stance on the tax bill. 

The DCCC accused Katko of flip-flopping on the tax bill. The group referred to his comments explaining why he opposed the budget resolution and that Republicans "gotta make sure the middle class doesn't get screwed." 

"Nearly every New York Republican opposes this harmful tax scam, which will hike taxes on middle-class New York families in order to slash taxes on big corporations and the rich," said Evan Lukaske, a DCCC spokesman. "That Katko supports it shows his complete disregard for the people he represents." 

The DCCC's assessment of the bill is shared by other Democrats and progressive groups. They oppose the measure because they view it as a major tax cut for corporations and the rich. 

Katko disputes that claim.

"It's a myth that this is a boon to the wealthy," he said. "The reason I'm voting for this is because the vast majority of people in my district that are getting a tax cut are going to be middle class and working class people, and that is the antithesis of wealth." 

The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. The Senate is advancing its own tax reform legislation. Once the Senate acts, a conference committee will be formed to negotiate a final agreement. 

While Katko hasn't reviewed the Senate plan, he is aware that it calls for the elimination of the state and local tax deduction. If that's included in the final version of the bill negotiated by the House and Senate, he will vote against it. 

"If they do that, I'm not supporting the bill and leadership knows that," he said. 

Cayuga Community College creates new policies

AUBURN — Cayuga Community College is beefing up its policies.

The college's board of trustees approved new policies at a board meeting in Auburn on Wednesday night. The committee and policies will go into effect Dec. 1

One policy was related to the Campus Safety Advisory Committee, responsible for examining and recommending changes to safety policies, security initiatives and other relevant college policies.

The committee will specifically look at current policies and procedures related to education in the campus community, including security personnel and those who advise or oversee student and security personnel, about issues including domestic violence, stalking prevention and sexual assault.

To be reviewed are policies and procedures on reporting sexual assault and interacting with sexual assault victims during an investigation, educating the college community on crime prevention and personal safety, counseling crime victims and referring complaints to the proper authorities when necessary.

Also being looked at is the medical amnesty, good Samaritan policy, meant to persuade students to get medical assistance such as drug and alcohol overdoses without being concerned about the college's judicial consequences. The college's Office of Public Safety and Office of Dean of Students endorsed the policy. 

Another policy says the college will inform incoming students about measures to prevent bias-related crimes through programs like seminars, group discussions and workshops. The programs will include information on subjects such as state penalties and campus disciplinary actions for committing bias-related crimes and campus procedures for bias-related crime.

Bias-related crimes are when someone specifically picks to commit a crime against someone because of a belief or perception regarding the victim's race, skin, color, age, gender, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.

A policy on maintaining public order establishing standards and methods for preventing and handling different disruptions on campus was approved as well.

Prohibited behaviors include injuring and threatening to injure someone else, deliberate damage to or theft of college property and misconduct against college community members. Violations could result in disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion for students and disciplinary action for college employees.

CCC President Brian Durant said the policies are part of the college's ongoing efforts to make sure it complies with its standards and federal and state regulations.

"In the coming months I anticipate that you'll see a number of policy recommendations either updating or just affirming what exists to just make sure that we are in compliance," Durant said.

State police name victim in fatal Throop car crash

THROOP — New York State Police have identified the man killed in a one-car crash Tuesday in the town of Throop as 57-year-old Auburn resident Michael F. Murray. 

Murray was killed after his grey pickup truck struck a utility pole at the intersection of Turnpike Road and North Division Street Road. Initial reports indicated the driver was in cardiac arrest after the crash occurred. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the exact cause of death, police said.

The crash, northwest of Auburn, occurred just before 10:15 a.m. Crews from New York State Electric and Gas arrived on the scene around 10:30 a.m.

Throop and Aurelius fire departments, AMR Ambulance, Cayuga County Sheriff's Office deputies and New York State Police responded to the scene.  

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

A pickup truck crashed through a utility pole at the intersection of North Division Street Road and Turnpike Road in Throop Tuesday morning. The driver was transported to the hospital.

Locke mobile home park plagued by health violations sold, county fines paid

A Locke mobile home park cited for multiple public health violations over the last decade has been sold and county fines have been paid, the Cayuga County Health Department said.

The new owners of the former Walnut Grove Mobile Home Park on Tucker Hill Road plan to keep the property a mobile home park and current tenants are expected to remain, said Public Health Director Kathleen Cuddy. It marks the end of a long and arduous process for the county and especially current tenants of the park, who have been under a boil water notice since about 2013 due to a non-functioning sanitation system. 

"We're certainly glad to have things moving forward in a positive direction, and we have every indication to think that things will continue that way, which is good for the residents, good for the community," Cuddy said in a phone interview Wednesday.

According to property transfer records, former owner Thelma Slater-Chapman sold the park for $65,000 to Groton residents Robert G. and Deserae L. Miller. The property had been assessed at $135,000. 

Cuddy said the county granted a mobile home permit to the Millers on Nov. 7 under the name Apple-I-Acres Mobile Home Park. There are still eight occupied units on the site, all still under a boil-water notice. Cuddy said health officials will be checking in with the new owners in a month to see their progress in installing an updated water sanitation system. The Millers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Besides a non-functional UV light and a lack of chlorine to disinfect the water, records show Slater-Chapman received other public health violations over the years. Some of those included units in disrepair and standing sewage on the ground surface. 

Slater-Chapman paid off her approximately $39,000 in health code violation fines this month. Cuddy said the county received a $42,024.18 check not only satisfying the fines but also interest accrued and sheriff's office fees. 

The county had made attempts to seize the property and go through a sheriff's auction on the steps of the Cayuga County Courthouse. The day before the scheduled Aug. 10 auction, Slater-Chapman filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy effectively halting that process. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Syracuse reviewed the petition and dismissed it weeks later.