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Governor’s budget plan has impacts across the north country

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget proposals carry some significant proposals that affect the north country.

Most immediately, the budget plan contains $2.5 million for the state Department of Transportation’s study of an east-west transportation corridor from Watertown to Champlain.

While the accompanying graphic showed an interstate route sign labeled 98, the governor avoided saying the budget endorsed a new interstate. He said the study needs to be done to solve the north country’s transportation problems.

As a committee studying health care problems across Northern New York is meeting in Watertown, the governor and his Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, emphasized the importance of a $10 billion rebate the state has been promised by the federal government to compensate for savings the state has provided over the past few years. That $10 billion, according to Dr. Shah, is absolutely vital to solve pressing health-care problems in areas such as Brooklyn, where three of 10 hospitals are in danger of closing, and in the north country, where several hospitals are experiencing extreme financial stress.

The budget presentation mentioned a north country health-care emergency that needs to be addressed, but did not provide details, which presumably will come from the recommendations of the committee meeting this week in Watertown.

The budget offers an increase in support for education, with much of it — $460 million in 2014-15 — targeted toward universal, all-day pre-kindergarten for every public and charter school in the state and aid to cover after-school programs. While formula aid will increase, there were no details on by how much and there was no mention of whether the gap elimination adjustment penalty would be removed from education aid.

The governor also outlined how his zero-growth property tax program would work in its second year, details of which have been withheld until now. Under the governor’s plan, counties would have to present for approval plans under which consolidation and shared services within the county at all levels of government would total savings of 1 percent per year for three years. For a county in which the total property tax levy of all governmental units totaled $200 million, for example, a total savings of $2 million per year would have to be shown in consolidation and shared services across all the taxing districts in the county for taxpayers to be guaranteed a no-tax-increase rebate check.

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