04/07/11 11:27am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo.

As expected, lawmakers in Albany approved a 2011-12 New York State budget last Thursday, March 30, meeting the often-ignored April 1 deadline for the first time in five years.

The $132.5 billion state budget carries a 2 percent spending reduction from the previous year, something that has not been done since 1995.

The spending plan also closes a $10 billion budget gap without borrowing or raising taxes, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor released a statement announcing the budget’s passage.

“I have said that New York is at a crossroads — one road leading to further dysfunction and decline, the other towards fiscal responsibility and government efficiency,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “I believe this budget puts us on the right path.”

The budget also calls for the elimination of 3,700 prison beds and cuts of $170 million in funding to the state Office of Court Administration, although it restores $86 million to the State University of New York and the City University of New York.

Mr. Cuomo and legislative leaders have also agreed to restore some $272 million of the originally proposed $1.5 billion reduction in aid to New York schools. Approximately $45 million was restored to Long Island schools.

“I fully expect that the dollars restored to the education budget will be put into the classroom,” said state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). “This is the time to start redesigning the education process so that taxpayers are getting the maximum investment for their dollars.”

The Shelter Island School will receive $438,390 in state aid, down 7.9 percent from the 2010-2011 budget.

The $272 million in state education aid includes restoration of funding for schools for the blind and deaf and summer school special education.

Also included in the budget are restorations approved by the environment, agriculture and housing subcommittee that Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said will strengthen Long Island’s wine and farm industries.

Some $500,000 will be restored to the Integrated Pest Management Program and $713,000 to the Wine and Grape Foundation.

“The state must continue to provide the support and resources necessary to ensure [agriculture] can continue to thrive as an engine of economic growth and job creation,” Mr. Losquadro said.

Mr. Cuomo thanked both Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for working together in crafting the budget.

“This budget makes tough choices, which is what you sent me to Albany to do,” he said.


11/25/10 3:14am

Assemblyman-elect Dan Losquadro

Dan Losquadro has been declared the winner in the race for the 1st Assembly District after Democratic incumbent Marc Alessi conceded this afternoon.

“It has been an absolute privilege to serve the residents of the First Assembly District over the past five years,” Mr. Alessi said in a statement sent just after 4 p.m. Wednesday. “I’ve taken the state’s problems home with me, internalized them and tried to help — both on the large scale and individually — one constituent at a time.”

In the statement, Mr. Alessi blamed Albany dysfunction for his loss and touted his record in office.

“For five years, I worked tirelessly for the hardworking families of Suffolk and kept my pledges to the people who elected me. I will forever be proud of that,” he said. “While I accomplished much of what I set out to do for Suffolk, there is still more work to be done.”

The attorney said he will now focus on his family, as his wife Gretchen is expecting the couple’s third child in January.

Mr. Loqsuadro had urged his opponent to concede since as of this week he held an 830 vote lead with just 1,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

Mr. Alessi had said Monday evening that he wouldn’t concede until after the Suffolk County Board of Elections finishes certifying the vote.

The two candidates were separated by just 40 votes on election night but Mr. Losquadro increased his lead after the election night results were verified and corrected, and during the absentee ballot count.

Mr. Losquadro’s win sets up a special election to finish out the final year of his term in the County Legislature, where he serves as minority leader.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner has been reported as a possible Republican/Conservative nominee to replace Mr. Losquadro, whom she served four years as a legislative aide prior to seeking her first public office in 2007.

A source in the Democratic Party did not rule out the possibility of Mr. Alessi pursuing the county seat.

01/25/10 12:00am

Local elected officials are calling on the MetropolitanTransportation Authority to reconsider its proposal to eliminaterail service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport.

If not, they said, the MTA will face the possibility that East Endtowns will secede from the transportation agency.

“It’s absolutely wrong,” New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessi(D-Shoreham) said of the MTA’s proposal during a Monday morningpress conference at the Riverhead train station.

About 50 people stood outside the station in the rain to protestthe proposal, which would affect about 200 commuters daily.

The MTA wants to eliminate all Long Island Rail Road servicebetween the Ronkonkoma and Greenport stations, with the exceptionof summer weekends, by September. The move, part of an effort toclose the agency’s $400 million budget shortfall, would save theMTA about $991,000 a year.

Four eastbound and four westbound trains would be eliminated Mondaythrough Friday and two eastbound and two westbound would beeliminated on weekends, leaving North Fork riders with noalternative rail service.

Mr. Alessi and county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches)vowed to fight the proposed change, explaining that the East End’slocal businesses were hit hard last year, when the state approved apayroll tax on all businesses, government agencies and schools inan effort to close the MTA’s original $1.2 billion budget gap.

“It’s taxation without transportation,” said Southold TownSupervisor Scott Russell.

Eight public hearings will be scheduled to discuss the proposal inMarch, although none will be held locally. The hearings will takeplace in White Plains, the Bronx, Carle Place, Brooklyn, Flushing,Manhattan, Suffern and Staten Island, officials said.

Mr. Romaine and Mr. Alessi said that if the MTA decides toeliminate rail service east of Ronkonkoma, then the East End shouldinvestigate seceding from the MTA and establishing its owntransportation authority.
“It’s time to put up or get out of the way,” Mr. Alessi said.