Lawmakers outline their concerns at Chamber event

GREENPORT–Movers and shakers of the Columbia County business community gathered Friday, April 5 at Columbia-Greene Community College to hear from Congressman Chris Gibson, state and county lawmakers and others speak at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce annual Legislative Breakfast.

The first speaker, Michael DiAcetis of National Grid, recapped progress on three initiatives, including safety and reliability, customer responsiveness and cost competitiveness. He said that the company has achieved a decrease in delivery rates, and he outlined plans for building electrical vehicle charging stations in Hudson.

Congressman Gibson (R-19th) summarized results of his work on the House Agriculture Committee, with emphasis on testing for and treating Lyme disease. His added that the Farm Bill promises provisions to address profitability. “The way we pay our farmers is wrong,”said Mr. Gibson. “We need to inspire a new generation of farmers through crop insurance reform, research for specialty crops and programs targeting beginning farmers,” he said.

He also described a low-interest loan program with a 10% match of federal funds to help encourage th expansion infuse of broadband digital infrastructure in the county.

Patrick Grattan (R-Kinderhook), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, commented that Columbia County has the third fastest county rate of job growth in the upstate region, citing the Hudson Valley Creamery’s creation of 24 on-site and 12 ancillary jobs as an example.

State Senator Kathleen Marchione (R-43rd) outlined her plans for a “listening tour” of all towns in her district, which includes all of Columbia County. “I don’t believe Albany knows best—you know best,” she said.

She also talked about the state budget process, citing three positive results. The first, the utility tax, known as 18A, was slated to expire in 2013, then was extended for five years, before a compromise was reached to eliminate it gradually over the next three years. Funding for public schools was increased, and the farm assessment tax was dropped to 2% from 10%, she said.

Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R-102nd) talked about the “dialog of division” that appears to be pervasive in Albany, and efforts he and his colleagues are making to focus on core issues of jobs, houses and affordable gasoline. The recent budget process resulted in a significant cut to COARC, while at the same time, adding $25 Million to the Thruway Authority, which he said does not need the money, was being considered.

He told the gathering that people can “work collectively” to find ways to live within their means.

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett (D-106th) outlined her Nine Diners Tours throughout the district to meet constituents and support local businesses. She said she will continue to work for new money for school districts in an effort to attract the best workers to the state. She also explained her work on the Agriculture Committee to support farmland preservation, particularly small and midsized ones.

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R-107th) interjected some levity, stating he was pleased that none of his six fellow panel members had been indicted, an allusion to the recent rash of arrests of state and New York Metropolitan Area lawmakers.

He mentioned his work to increase education funding and commented that it was “distressing” to see the funding cut for the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Mr. McLaughlin vowed to “continue to fight to get them the protection they need” by working to get that funding restored. He gave Governor Cuomo kudos for the controlled spending that the budget produced, and spoke about Veterans Tax Credit designed to put soldiers back to work through a $5,000 credit, with a disabled veteran entitled to a $15,000 credit.





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