Hope for Monticello’s DoH office

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 3/23/22

ALBANY, NY — On March 14, the New York State Senate and Assembly each passed their separate budget proposals for 2022-23.

These one-house proposals, together with the executive budget …

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Hope for Monticello’s DoH office

Posted

ALBANY, NY — On March 14, the New York State Senate and Assembly each passed their separate budget proposals for 2022-23.

These one-house proposals, together with the executive budget proposal prepared by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, will form the grounds for negotiations between all three sides. These negotiations will lead to a final budget, due by April 1. While nothing is finalized yet, there are several issues of local interest included in the conversations around the budget.

A DoH office for Monticello

One Sullivan County-specific issue addressed by the Assembly’s budget proposal involves the county’s district Department of Health office.

Earlier in the year, the news came out that the Department of Health planned to move the district office currently in Monticello to Middletown. That office provides Sullivan County with services including health and safety inspection for area summer camps, pools and hotels.

Legislators, public health officials and concerned citizens—including Sullivan County’s assemblywoman, Aileen Gunther, and its senator,  Mike Martucci—have been advocating against the move since it was made known, arguing that keeping the DoH office was crucial for the county’s health outcomes. Late in February, the DoH agreed to put a stay on the move pending reevaluation.

The Assembly’s proposed budget includes language that would make this stay permanent. This language is included in the section of the proposal that sets appropriations to the DoH and states, “Notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary, the money hereby appropriated shall be utilized for the services and expenses of a regional department of health in Monticello, NY.”

“I’m so proud of the way this community has come together to make its voice heard,” says Gunther. “I want to thank my colleagues in the Assembly for recognizing how important it is to keep the Department of Health in Sullivan County. I’m hopeful the Senate and Governor will agree that this is the best way to move forward.”

On the Senate side, Martucci will advocate for the measure, according to his communications director Thomas Corlett. “During this negotiating period, Sen. Martucci will continue to press for funding for the Department of Health’s operations in Sullivan County, and he appreciates Assemblywoman Gunther’s partnership and advocacy on this issue.”

As for the executive branch, Gunther has discussed with Hochul the importance of the services the DoH office provides for Sullivan County. Gunther encourages concerned residents of the county to do the same, to call or write the governor’s office and to ask her to support the assembly budget proposal that keeps the district office in Monticello.

Billy’s Law

While the Monticello DoH office has made it into the text of budget negotiations, another Sullivan County issue, Billy’s Law, has so far failed to join it.

Billy’s Law was crafted following the death of William J. Steinberg, a member of the Forestburgh Volunteer Fire Department who died following a heart attack in the line of duty. The fire he’d been battling had been set by a serial arsonist, who had been previously caught and released without bail; Billy’s Law would make third- and fourth-degree arson bail-eligible offenses, allowing law enforcement to keep suspects in custody for those crimes.

“We had hope that it would be in the Senate one-house proposal,” says Corlett, speaking for Martucci’s office. “The senator was pushing hard for it, but the fact that it was not—and that the Senate proposal did nothing to address crime overall and will actually exacerbate it—is among the major reasons Sen. Martucci voted against the Senate resolution.”

Martucci remains hopeful that the measure will be added during negotiations, Corlett adds.

A suspension of the gas tax

The rising price of gas is an issue of national scope and local impact.

The senate’s one-house proposal includes a measure to help with those prices; the measure would lift the state’s tax on gas and diesel motor fuel sales from May 1 to December 31, and allow local municipalities to lift their sales taxes on fuel as well.

According to a report from the American Petroleum Institute, New York has the ninth highest gas taxes of any state in the country; New Yorkers pay 66.62 cents per gallon in state and federal excise taxes and other state taxes. New York’s diesel motor fuel tax is the tenth highest in the nation at 71.38 cents per gallon.

The proposal has not so far received a strong positive reception from the assembly or from the executive branch, though both have appeared open to the idea.

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