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January 17, 2014

 

Seward pushes tax, mandate relief

Senator says his 2014 legislative priorities also include flood aid

SewardJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
State Sen. Jim Seward presents his 2014 legislative priorities to Cortland County officials on Thursday at the Cortland County Office Building.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
State Sen. Jim Seward wants to push for relief from unfunded state mandates, a state takeover of Medicaid and more relief for local flood victims this year.
Seward (R-Milford) outlined his 2014 legislative agenda priorities on Thursday at the Cortland County Office Building.
Seward addressed a group of legislators and community members, saying there are certain things he wants to see changed in state government.
Seward said that as he enters 2014 he will push for more mandate relief to counties and assistance in the event of flooding or other natural disasters and he also wants to encourage upstate business development in the form of broad-based tax relief.
Seward urged localities to use the state mandate relief task force, a mechanism for appealing state mandates.
Legislature Chair Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) praised Seward’s plan after the news conference, saying she will have the county’s Budget and Finance Committee pursue the idea of mandate relief by filing appeals with the task force.
“We’re going to test the system,” Briggs said.
She mentioned the approximately 40 percent funding shortfall First Transit has faced since October when Medicaid changed the way it assigns rides.
It is unclear whether this would qualify but officials want to try.
“Maybe that would be an ideal project to test the system with and see if we can get them relief,” Briggs said.
Seward also decried the lack of assistance to local victims of flooding during two storms last summer, saying he wants to establish a flood mitigation task force comprising Soil and Water Conservation District and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials, among others, to come up with flood mitigation projects.
He also wants to create a fund that would provide assistance to residents whose flood damages do not qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid.
He said money in the state’s $135 billion budget could be redirected to fund these initiatives, as well as dipping into the surplus fund of about $2 billion, which the governor has said he will use to cut taxes.
Seward also plans to push for passage of an income tax credit, which would pay homeowners the difference between the full and diminished value of their property after floods.
Briggs said the flood relief is needed, given the pervasive flooding the county saw, especially in parts of Cortlandville and other areas.
Seward also wants to see “across the board tax cuts” for homeowners and businesses, though he said a program for the implementation of such a plan must still be developed.
He touted a zero percent corporate tax rate, saying that would be an incentive for businesses to come into the former Buckbee-Mears plant on Kellogg Road, for example, which is scheduled to be auctioned in February.
Seward also wants the state to take on more of the cost of Medicaid, saying although a complete takeover of Medicaid is ideal, that is not a realistic goal immediately.
Other priorities included eliminating the gap elimination adjustment, which the state has used since 2009 to strip schools of billions of dollars in school aid to balance the state budget, as well as establishing a plan to provide broadband Internet service to rural areas and cutting back some provisions of the highly disputed gun control law passed last year known as the New York Safe Act.
Seward said when it comes to gun laws, the emphasis should be on keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill and criminals, rather than penalizing law abiding gun owners.
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Legislative District) praised Seward for his priorities, especially in the area of mandate relief.
“Mandates take up about 68 percent of the budget,” Troy said. “It gives us another avenue we didn’t know we had before,” he said referring to the appeals process.

 

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