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Hochul brings Cuomo's State of the State message to Auburn; local leaders react
STATE OF THE STATE

Hochul brings Cuomo's State of the State message to Auburn; local leaders react

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AUBURN — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul brought Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2020 State of the State message to Cayuga County Monday. 

Inside the Equal Rights Heritage Center, Hochul presented a condensed version of the address, which outlines the governor's legislative proposals for the year. While there was a focus on issues of statewide importance — combating hate crimes, addressing climate change, an inclusive equal rights amendment and a $300 million plan to "reimagine" the Erie Canal — a significant portion of the lieutenant governor's presentation highlighted Cuomo's economic development agenda. 

In his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed a 10th round of the regional economic development councils and a fifth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. There are 10 regional councils across New York. Central New York's council consists of representatives from Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties. 

Central New York has been a leader in the regional council initiative. Since 2011, the region has received $789 million to support 801 projects. 

"The collaboration among the neighboring counties is extraordinary," Hochul said. 

Auburn has benefited from the regional council process, but it will directly benefit from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. In 2018, Cuomo visited the city to announce it had won $10 million in the third round of the annual competition. Last year, Hochul traveled to Auburn to announce the projects that will be supported by the state grant. 

The funding proposed by Cuomo — $750 million for the regional councils and $100 million for downtown revitalization — will allow the state to continue its investments in cities like Auburn, Hochul said. 

"There's so much going here," she added. 

Several Auburn and Cayuga County leaders attended Hochul's presentation. Cayuga County Legislature Chairwoman Aileen McNabb-Coleman lauded Cuomo and Hochul for proposing a progressive agenda for 2020. She also likes that upstate New York would benefit from several of the plans outlined in the State of the State. 

McNabb-Coleman, a Democrat, is seeking more information about two issues that weren't addressed in Hochul's remarks. She expressed concerns about the new bail reform law. Many local leaders across the state have asked Cuomo and lawmakers to consider improvements to the law. 

Another topic that wasn't covered by Hochul: How the state will close a $6.1 billion budget deficit. Cuomo hinted that the state may ask counties to pick up some or all of the growth in Medicaid costs. Since 2013, the state has been covering increases in Medicaid spending. 

"Any time you have unfunded mandates it's a huge concern to us," McNabb-Coleman said. 

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill also praised Cuomo and Hochul for setting an "aggressive agenda." But he said city officials have their own concerns, including state aid and arterial maintenance funding. 

Arterial maintenance funding has been a problem for years. The state reimburses Auburn and other cities for maintaining state-owned arterial highways. But the reimbursement rate hasn't changed since 1987. 

State lawmakers approved a bill that would raise the reimbursement rate, but Cuomo vetoed the measure in November. 

"We've complied with the governor's tax cap," Quill said, referring to the property tax cap that was one of Cuomo's earliest legislative achievements. "We've done it year after year after year. But we're being punished on the other end because we can't afford these other projects by keeping it within the 2 percent." 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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