by Bob LaRue
March 30, 2015
ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced yesterday an agreement on the 2015‑16 State Budget, in the final days before the April 1st deadline to get a budget passed. In a press statement late yesterday, the governor said the budget agreement includes landmark education reforms and investment, an ethics package with the nation's strongest disclosure laws for legislators with outside income, and new investments in rebuilding and growing the state's economy, including $1.5 billion for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $500 million to make New York the first in the nation to have statewide broadband. School aid will be increased 6.1 percent, while Medicaid will go up 4.6 percent.
The budget agreement also holds spending growth below two percent for the fifth consecutive year, continuing fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of state budgets in which spending grew at a higher rate than inflation or personal income growth. The state will use $5.4 billion in funds from financial settlements to support two programs – the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and statewide broadband. Full details and language of the budget agreement are being released today.
Cuomo commented: "With this agreement, we address problems that have vexed our state for generations. After decades of leading the nation in education spending but lagging in results, New York will set an example for all other states with a complete overhaul of the entrenched education bureaucracy. These reforms – accompanied by an unprecedented financial investment – will put students first by bringing accountability to the classroom, recruiting and rewarding our best teachers, further reducing over‑testing, and finally confronting our chronically failing schools.”
Under the ethics package, the new laws would reform the long‑abused per diem system, revoke public pensions for those who abuse the public’s trust, define and eliminate personal use of campaign funds, and increase transparency of independent expenditures.
MASSENA – A Massena man is facing six charges, following the alleged theft and unauthorized use of his girlfriend’s debit card to make purchases. Massena village police say 22-year-old Chad Curran was arrested over the weekend, following a two-day investigation into the credit card activity. Curran allegedly made purchases at a local convenience store and several ATM withdrawals totaling over $1,400 from the account. He was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and five counts of petit larceny. He was released on appearance ticket, answer in Massena village court at a later date.
POTSDAM – Potsdam village police say a weekend traffic safety detail focused on seatbelt and electronic device violations. Using various patrol methods including marked and unmarked cars, bicycle and foot patrols, police issued tickets to a total of 10 motorists, all for operating without a seatbelt. The first wave of the initiative did not result in any distracted driving arrests. The ongoing effort is expected to continue for the next several months, through spring and summer.
WESTVILLE – Franklin County Public Health officials say two more rabies cases were confirmed last week in the northern part of the county, near the Canadian border. Two dead raccoons, one in Constable, the other in Westville, were confirmed rabid, according to a statement released by the department. Health Director Kathleen Strack said both animals were roadkill, but had no known human or pet exposure. Meanwhile, the county is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lay traps containing rabies-vaccine bait for animals in the Westville area. A rabies vaccination clinic has been scheduled for April 29th at 6:00 p.m. at the Westville Fire Department.
UNDATED – For the first time since last fall, the North Country weather forecast is calling for temperatures this week to peak in the 50s. The next three days will provide ideal conditions for maple producers with daytime temperatures in the upper 30s and low 40s, and nighttime lows below freezing. Those conditions will also be good for spring thaw to be slowed at night to inhibit flooding. However, a big thaw could come on Thursday and Friday with temperatures in the mid 50s and Thursday’s nighttime low of 45. It could be a cold Easter. Currently, this coming Sunday presents the coldest day in the 10-day forecast with a high of just 32.
UNDATED – Christian churches around the North Country celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday. Many church-goers, particularly those who are Roman Catholic, exited church yesterday waving palm branches in remembrance of Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, riding a donkey considered an animal of peace, while his followers and worshipers waved palm branches. Within a week, the Jewish people turned on Christ and rejected his mission, which they had thought would be for their political and military advantage. This led to his capture, brutal treatment and crucifixion, and eventual resurrection, celebrated a week later on Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday comes just one week before Easter, and was celebrated at busy North Country churches yesterday.