OSWEGO, NY – On Thursday, several members of Governor Cuomo’s administration scattered around the state to deliver regional budget briefings.
Only one, Brian Stratton, the director of the NYS Canal Corporation, was hardy enough to brave snow-weary Oswego.
In a homecoming of sorts, Stratton delivered his briefing in one of the historic classrooms of iconic Sheldon Hall at SUNY Oswego.
Stratton, a communications major, graduated in the late ‘70s from Oswego.
“It is delightful to be here. I graduated in December of 1979. I worked at WOCR (college radio station). I had the midnight to 3 a.m. shift on WRVO, all of five people listening. That was really cool, I loved that!” Stratton said.
His career also spanned state and local politics. He now manages the canal system, which is celebrating its bicentennial year – July 4, 1817 ground was broken in Rome to build the Erie Canal.
“I don’t know why it has taken the Governor’s Office so long to send me back home here. I’ve been doing these presentations for six years,” he said. “I am proud to say I was featured in a 2015 alumni magazine – on page 36. Not only was I featured, but my photo was the ‘Find the Founder’ photo (with Edward Sheldon secreted in a corner).”
His years on campus in Oswego, perhaps, had a deep psychological affect on him. “I yearn for snow,” he quipped.
Stratton began his briefing with highlights from the State of the State, pointing out how much progress has been made since 2011 when Cuomo first came into office.
“Every indicator for the past six years has been pointing up. We want to keep them pointing upward,” he said.
In fact, the state has a $100 billion program going on to reconstruct and rebuild facilities throughout NYS, that includes state funds and that includes federal funds, he added.
Included in that plan are renovations for Penn Station and NYC airports.
“We have reinvented economic development from the ground up. That is certainly helping Oswego and all of Central New York,” he said.
As examples, he cited improvements at the State Fair, the Hotel Syracuse, Onondaga Lake, the Lakeview Amphitheater and others.
“And, of course, Super Dirt Week is coming back to Oswego,” he said. “There was $12 million in direct spending; it was a big deal.”
There has been a drop in unemployment in every region of the state over the last six year, he pointed out.
The state has the most jobs in its history, he said.
“So, jobs are on the rise. That includes 7,500 jobs here in Central New York since 2010,” he said.
He also cited moral progress such as marriage equality, paid family leave and increasing the minimum wage.
“We’ve made great progress because we’ve taken dramatic action. And, we’ve kept state spending in check. Today everyone pays a lower tax, the lowest middle class tax rate since 1947. The lowest manufactures tax rate since 1917 and the lowest corporate tax rate since 1968. Taxes are down for everyone and in the meantime, credit ratings are going up.”
“We know we need to do more to protect the middle class and working class,” he acquiesced.
A GLIMPSE AT THE BUDGET PLAN
The Governor wants a budget that creates jobs, revitalizes infrastructure, provides access to education and lower taxes, Stratton said.
Several projects will target CNY infrastructure.
• Hancock International Airport
• State Fair (including a gondola and tramway projects)
• The Empire State Trail (Buffalo to Albany and NYC to Canada)
• Repairs to roadways and bridges
“We also want to do more to protect manufacturing jobs in our state,” he said. “They are very important. They account for five percent of all jobs in New York State and $70 billion in goods manufactured here.”
The Governor has proposed a Buy American Act to support the state’s expanding manufacturing and construction sectors, he added.
Oswego was one of 10 communities to win $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds in 2016.
That program will continue. Ridesharing is also being eyed for all of the state.
“Tourism is vital to Upstate New York. Harborfest, here in Oswego, is a great event. Under the Governor and Legislature, we have put $150 million back to our state budget for tourism,” he said.
Water infrastructure is also an important concern in the budget.
“The Governor has proposed $2 billion over five years to help municipalities and local governments invest in their water infrastructure,” Stratton said. “Not only water infrastructure, but water quality.”
The Governor is also seeking to curb the skyrocketing costs of prescription medicines.
“The Governor has proposed a multi-pronged plan to reign in the costs and hold the drug manufacturers accountable for out-of-control prescription drug prices,” he said.
Fighting illegal drugs is also a top priority.
More education funding is included in the spending plan. By 2024, 3.5 million jobs in NYS will require a college education, Stratton noted.
“So, we need to do more to help our students prepare. Just a high school diploma will no longer be the ticket,” he said.
He touched on the Governor’s proposal to make tuition free SUNY schools and community colleges. Students would need to qualify academically and economically.
Property tax is a huge burden in NYS, he said.
“On average, we pay two-and-a-half times more in property tax than in income tax,” he said. Oswego is number 5 on the list of highest taxed counties, he added.
The state is asking municipalities to find collaborative means to work together and save money. “If they can save, the Governor has proposed to match the first year’s savings,” Stratton said. “So if you can find something that will save you $200,000, the Governor, under his budget, has proposed to match that.”
For more information, visit http://www.governor.ny.gov/