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Upstate lawmakers react to Governor Kathy Hochul's budget proposal

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis

Upstate lawmakers are reacting to the $227 billion budget proposal New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivered on Wednesday.

Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha, a Democrat representing the 103rd district, says the governor’s plan to expand the role of the New York Power Authority includes several core aspects of the Build Public Renewables Act, a bill she co-sponsored. But she says it leaves out critical parts without which the bill’s transformative impact cannot be achieved.

"There are a lot of ideas presented in the budget that are in the right direction," said Shrestha. "So I'm happy to be having these conversations this year. The problem is that it's too late to go just halfway for a lot of things. One example is she did include sort of elements of the Bill Public Renewables Act, which is a bill that I've been working on a lot, you know, way before I ran for office, but it doesn't go all the way, which means that it won't have the impact that the bill is intended for. So we're hoping to work with her on making sure all of the provisions of the bill are included, so that it can be a success."

41st district Democratic state Senator Michelle Hinchey says she sees "positive things" in the budget, including more investment in clean water and clean water infrastructure; fully funding schools, universal pre K and universal child care. She believes there's "definitely a lot more" that could be added to the budget.

"I was really disappointed to see that our proposal to fund healthy school meals wasn't included in the budget," Hinchey said. "You know, it's a no brainer to make sure that every student has two meals while in school. Oftentimes, it's the only time that a child may eat during the day. And right now in our bigger cities, children have that luxury, they have healthy meals in their schools, we don't have that outside of the city. And in my district alone in the 41st, it would impact nearly 17,000 students to get free school meals if we could fund the Healthy School Meals Program."

Republican Mary Beth Walsh represents the 112th Assembly District. She's looking ahead to upcoming budget hearing process.

"So I'll be interested to, you know, go through the budget hearings and kind of put some meat on the proposals that she's laid out, because I listened to her talk yesterday," Walsh said. "And of course, it came with a big booklet that I haven't gotten completely through yet, to kind of get a better idea of what she's saying. But I thought it was kind of overall kind of vague, you know, what she had laid out and now we have to kind of get down to the brass tacks of really getting in and seeing what the proposals are going to be, and for both from a policy side and then also from a from a financial side. So that's what the next you know, couple of weeks are going to be all about."

109th district Assemblymember Pat Fahy agrees there's a lot of work ahead and it begins with "digging into the details" of fellow-Democrat Hochul's proposals.

"Very pleased to see that she's putting combating gun violence at the top of her list, as well as doing what we need to do to invest in mental health reforms and programs that are so needed across the spectrum, as well as housing, minimum wage and a host of clean energy and climate action proposals. All of that I find is good news," said Fahy. "In addition, is the new higher education chair, still digging into the details there. But we want to make sure that we're going to do what we need to do for higher education, particularly SUNY and CUNY schools, with regard to operating aid for our schools, as well as capital investments to keep our campuses competitive, and to make sure that we have research facilities for the 21st century. So lots of work ahead and many missing pieces there but we're, we’re off to the races."

44th district Republican Senator Jim Tedisco said in an email he supports funding for schools, but says higher taxes will continue to drive out residents.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.