ALBANY - County officials have more insight into the state of New York state, following a conference earlier this week.
County Executive Greg Edwards; Bill Daly, administrative director for County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency; and Legislator Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, attended the New York State Association of Counties' Legislative Conference early in the week. They joined more than 800 other county officials from across the county in Albany for the conference.
According to a press release, the NYSAC conference is an opportunity for county leaders from diverse regions and backgrounds to come together to discuss the challenges every county faces.
Edwards, Daly and Croscut each attended several seminars and discussions while at the conference. Croscut said one meeting he attended was an Economic Development Standing Committee meeting, where the group discussed regional councils and changes coming from those councils.
"The one thing that we were concerned about was the approval of some of the sales tax abatements and stuff for new construction coming in," Croscut said. "IDAs have been able to help if someone is coming in and spending a million dollars to put into our counties and create jobs. We have, in the past as an IDA board, helped that individual come in and do that construction and give him help with sales tax abatement."
Now, Croscut said, the regional councils are wanting such agreements to go through them before going through an Industrial Development Agency.
"The thing that I took out of that is, you can't paint New York state with a broad brush," Croscut said. "If counties like Chautauqua and Hamilton County and some of these smaller counties can create five or six jobs, that's important to those counties. The economic development councils now want to approve that. It may mean they want to approve 10 jobs. That's tough for small counties."
Edwards said a session which he found interesting centered around Native American affairs.
"We are fortunate in that the Seneca Nation Leadership really does have a desire to work in partnership with Chautauqua County and Cattaraugus County," Edwards said. "We take advantage of every opportunity we can to use that as an example for other counties, that it is possible to have mutually beneficial projects and efforts."
Additionally, Croscut said there will soon be a resolution from NYSAC, in conjunction with the county clerks and state sheriff's association, repealing the SAFE Act legislation, which was recently passed.
"It was simply passed after six hours of discussion in the middle of the night," Croscut said. "The biggest thing is there wasn't even a public hearing on this gun legislation. I wholeheartedly applaud our assemblyman and our senator for not supporting this. They even overlooked the exemptions for our local law enforcement people."
Of everything discussed at the conference, Croscut said the most important thing, to him, was the financial state of New York.
"The state may come out and tell you that they've been able to keep their increases less than 2 percent," he said. "But, when you look at the chart of the extra almost $250 million statewide that we have to put in to nine different mandated programs, there's something wrong there."
Edwards said a great deal of time was spent on Cuomo's proposed budget, and its impacts on counties. He said that last year, the 2013 tax cap limit set by the state was $114 million. However, the total amount of cost increases from Albany for state programs and services, which counties are obligated by law to deliver, was $244 million.
"It clearly demonstrates that while we are all focused on trying to reduce taxes and while we have been very successful here in Chautauqua County, you reach a point where you can no longer do it," Edwards said. "So, we need the state to change the way they do business."
Croscut said one of the things that really needs to be focused on is technical jobs throughout the state. He said that everyone needs to work together to nurture those jobs.
This is not the first year Croscut has attended the NYSAC Conference, but it is the first year he has attended by paying for his expenses out of his own pocket. The legislature recently cut money out of the county budget for trips such as these. Croscut said he was able to ride with Edwards and Daly to the conference in Albany, but paid for registration, meals and hotel accommodations himself.
"Registration was about $800, I'm not afraid to say it," he said. "I paid out of my own pocket, because to me, it was that important to go both to network with the people I've met over the years up there and to get updates on all these sort of things and kind of come back with an extra little charge of energy."
Overall, Croscut said the experience at the conference this year was a positive one for him, especially as he spoke with people from other counties.
"We've still got a pretty darn good county here," he said. "When you go talk to people from other counties, there's a lot of other issues that aren't good."