LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY — After Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State Address on January 8, he sent emissaries across the state to have his message delivered personally to interested parties and to receive comments from them.
Thus, Joan McDonald, the state’s commissioner of transportation, appeared at Sullivan County Community College on January 10 to lay out Cuomo’s vision for 2014.
On the casino front, McDonald said he wants to “fast track” the process. She said, “In March 2014, the requests for proposals are going out; in June of 2014, bids will be due, public hearings will be held, and by early fall 2014, selections will be made.”
In the first round of casinos, four will be created, one in the Capital Region, one in the Southern Tier and two in the Catskills.
She said to the 50 or so people in the room, who included officials and business people, “It’s important that you stay involved and put your thoughts in as these go forward, because it’s going to be moving quickly.”
Another topic that was discussed was the two-year property-tax freeze proposed by the governor and the proposed property-tax assistance program and rental housing rebate program, whereby renters and homeowners would get rebates based on their income level and perhaps other factors.
These programs would be tied to the actions of local officials. In the first year, in order for residents to participate in these programs, local officials would have to keep their budgets within the 2% property tax increase imposed by officials in Albany.
In order to participate in the programs in the second year, local officials will have to keep within the tax cap and also make progress in consolidation efforts, such as municipalities moving to share services.
Legislator Gene Benson noted that some municipalities were already doing this and might therefore be penalized for starting this process before other municipalities.
McDonald said that many questions about the proposed tax programs remain to be answered and details are yet to be worked out.
On the business front, she said Cuomo proposed dropping the tax rate to zero for upstate manufacturing companies.
McDonald said the governor will create a New York Adventure License, which will be a drivers license that could include icons for all of an individual’s lifetime license designations, such as the Boater Safety Certificate and the newly created lifetime State Parks Empire Pass.
She said Cuomo also proposed a new outdoors initiative to create 50 new access projects to state-owned land that would provide more opportunities for hunters, anglers, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
She said the revitalization of the state’s park system will continue to be a priority to help attract new visitors.