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The Citizen staff / Associated Press 

Syracuse's Marek Dolezaj, left, and Frank Howard reach for the ball against Virginia's Braxton Key March 4 in Syracuse. 

Fire destroys mobile home in Cayuga County

VENICE — Several Cayuga County fire departments responded to a structure fire in the town of Venice Monday morning that destroyed a mobile home. 

The fire was reported at 1597 Mc Allister Road near the intersection with East Venice Road. Fire departments were dispatched to the area at 9:36 a.m. for a fully involved fire at a mobile home. Flames and heavy smoke were observed.

"It's going to be a total loss," Genoa Fire Chief Doug LaFave said at the scene around 11:15 a.m. "We're still investigating."

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Firefighters try to put out a mobile home fire on Monday.

LaFave said the fire unfortunately got a big head start, but the four adults and a cat living in the home were already out safely when the first units arrived. Once on scene around 9:50 a.m., firefighters knocked the bulk of the fire down in about 30 minutes.

Personnel from multiple agencies worked together, surrounding the home to combat the fire from different angles as smoke billowed into the air. Once the steam and smoke settled, only a charred frame of the home remained.

The American Red Cross is assisting the family, LaFave said. One resident who was experiencing shortness of breath was treated on scene, no other injuries were reported. 

The fire departments at the scene included Genoa, King Ferry, Moravia, Long Hill, Scipio and Poplar Ridge. Other departments were asked to provide engines and tankers to support the firefighting operation. Ambulances from Southern Cayuga and Four Town were also on scene and New York State Electric and Gas arrived around 11 a.m. The Cayuga County Emergency Services Office was also present.  

Genoa Firefighter Ed Robinson said at least eight tankers were on scene since there are no fire hydrants in the area.

"They're here in case it flairs back up," Robinson said, adding that the large response to the fire was good considering the time of day.

Portions of McAllister, East Venice and Myers Road were closed down.

LaFave said Cayuga County fire investigators are in charge of determining the cause of the fire. While the investigation is still ongoing, he said the most likely cause of the fire is a faulty heating system.  

Gallery: Fire destroys mobile home in Cayuga County

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Auburn introduced to new federal tax incentive program

AUBURN — As an effort to get private investment flowing into low-income communities, New York state is participating in the new Opportunity Zone development program. New York has more than 500 Opportunity Zones, and one is in Cayuga County. 

Opportunity Zones are census tracts with an individual poverty rate of at least 20 percent and a median family income no greater than 80 percent of the area median. Auburn's northwest quadrant qualifies as an Opportunity Zone. 

Here's how the program works: An Opportunity Zone can receive funds from Opportunity Funds. Those Opportunity Funds provide investors a chance to put that money to work by rebuilding poorer communities. To invest in Opportunity Funds, investors must hold 90 percent of their assets on a property within a designated zone. 

Why would investors do this?

There are two main incentives. Investors can defer taxes on any prior gains invested in an Opportunity Fund until it's eventually sold. If the investment is held for longer than five years, investors pay 10 percent less on those taxes. If the investment is held longer than seven years, that 10 percent becomes 15 percent. 

As for the other incentive, investors can permanently exclude capital gains from the sale or exchange of an investment in an Opportunity Fund if held for more than 10 years. 

The zones, according to the IRS website, are designed to "spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities." But there's a couple catches. 

So far, the program's draft regulations have been promulgated, but final regulations were hung up due to the government shutdown. 

Also, the program lacks a way to monitor its job creation.

Michael N'dolo, the vice president of Camoin Associates, provided an informational presentation on Opportunity Zones Monday at Auburn's city hall. He said that although there's nothing in place now, he does anticipate some way of monitoring the impact of these investments on poor communities will come about soon. 

But even that could be questionable. Opportunity Funds are self-certified, meaning IRS approval isn't needed. For investors, this is one less step they have to worry about, but this could make tracking Opportunity Zone progress tricky. 

"You don't have to go to the IRS and say 'Hey, I think I'm a fund, can you stamp me.' You just say 'I'm a fund,'" N'dolo said. "In fact, a lot of deals out there that will be done, no one will ever know that they're Opportunity Zone deals because this all happens internally."

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NY budget: Cuomo, legislators fail to reach agreement on revenue forecast

Despite one-party rule in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on a revenue forecast for the 2019-20 budget — an indication that negotiations for a new spending plan will be challenging over the next few weeks. 

The consensus economic and revenue forecast report is an important element of budget negotiations. It represents an agreement between the governor and state Legislature on the revenues available for the budget. 

State Budget Director Robert Mujica said in a statement Saturday that experts who participated in the revenue forecasting conference warned the economy is slowing. Other factors, such as the limits on state and local tax deductions, are affecting the state's revenues. 

Describing the revenue forecast as "an essential starting point for the state budget," Mujica revealed that the governor's office, Assembly and Senate didn't agree on a revenue estimate. The Senate, he added, insisted on higher revenues than the executive and Assembly. 

"While the budget discussion always has differing political priorities and opinions, facts are still facts and numbers are still numbers and the numbers must govern a legitimate budget," Mujica said. "The governor has said getting the budget done on time is important but it is more important to get the budget right. Because of our record of prudent budgeting, we have never had to do a mid-year budget correction, and we are not about to start now." 

In February, Cuomo and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that the state was facing a larger budget gap than anticipated due to a $2.3 billion decline in income tax receipts. Cuomo blamed the drop on the 2017 federal tax law that capped state and local tax deductions at $10,000. 

Other factors contributed to the decline in tax receipts, including the volatility of the financial markets. 

With less revenue for the budget, some funding priorities may need to be scrapped or reduced. In his executive budget proposal, Cuomo called for multi-billion dollar investments in education and health care. He also wants to continue some of his top initiatives, including $750 million for the regional economic development councils. 

The Assembly and Senate will release their one-house budget plans this month. 

"It is unfortunate that we could not come to an agreement on a revenue consensus with the governor," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. "It remains the intention of both the Assembly and the Senate to reach a fiscally responsible, on-time budget that meets our priorities." 

After not reaching an agreement on a revenue forecast, the law requires that the state comptroller formulate a binding revenue estimate for the governor and legislature to use. 

Rep. John Katko rated one of most effective lawmakers in Congress

U.S. Rep. John Katko has been ranked as one of the most effective lawmakers for work during his second term in Congress. 

The Center for Effective Lawmaking, which is supported by the University of Virginia's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University, rated Katko, R-Camillus, as the fourth-most effective member of Congress and the most effective from New York. 

Katko's legislative effectiveness score was 4.897 for the 115th Congress, which spanned the 2017 and 2018 sessions. 

"I've always been committed to working across the aisle to achieve results for central New York. In a time of hyper-partisanship in Washington, I'm proud to be recognized by the Center for Effective Lawmaking for my efforts to move bipartisan reforms through the House," Katko said in a statement Monday.

The Center for Effective Lawmaking calculated the score based on 15 indicators, including the number of bills sponsored by a member of Congress, the numbers of bills that received committee consideration and how many measures became law. 

Katko introduced 29 bills during the 115th Congress, 14 of which the House passed in 2017 or 2018. Three of his bills were signed into law by President Donald Trump. 

The Katko-authored bills signed by Trump include the Fort Ontario Study Act, which requires the Department of the Interior to conduct a special resource study to determine whether Fort Ontario in Oswego should be designated as a national park. 

Trump also signed legislation sponsored by Katko to ensure Secret Service agents receive overtime pay. 

The Center for Effective Lawmaking noted that Katko sponsored a bill that would delay a biometric screening requirement for workers at U.S. ports. Trump signed the bill in August. 

Katko was one of three subcommittee chairs who secured spots in the top 10 of the center's most effective lawmaking ratings. For four years, he chaired what was known as the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security. As chair of the panel, he provided oversight of the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Secret Service. 

Katko's effectiveness will be tested in the new Congress. As a Republican, he's now a member of the minority party in the House. The Democrats' top scores calculated by the Center for Effective Lawmaking were lower than Katko and other top Republicans when the GOP held the majority. 

Despite being in the minority, Katko hopes he can continue to usher legislation through the House. 

"I remain committed to advancing the priorities of our community in Congress, and am encouraged by some of the bipartisan measures we've already begun work on this Congress — including bolstering our nation's infrastructure, improving cyber protections, and providing proper funding to address the heroin and opioid epidemic," he said. 

U.S. Rep. John Katko represents the 24th Congressional District comprised of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties, along with the western portion of Oswego County.