Commissioner Presents NY State Budget to Hamilton Community Members


The Village of Hamilton hosted an information session on New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 Budget, labeled the most aggressive climate change agenda in the country and the greatest amount of funding for housing and services for the homeless community, according to the New York State website. The budget also outlines the largest building program, greatest funding to combat child poverty and highest education funding in New York State history. NY Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito presented the budget after a short introduction by Mayor of Hamilton RuthAnn Speer Loveless. Destito spoke on behalf of Cuomo in the afternoon of Thursday, March 5 at Hamilton Central School.

Cuomo allocated 33 billion dollars for a five-year plan to tackle climate change, announcing the biggest commitment to this issue of any state government. This includes three billion dollars for the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, a proposal that will fund efforts to reduce flood risk and revitalize wildlife habitats by connecting streams and waterways, right-sizing dams, conserving forest areas, replanting trees, reducing agricultural contamination and expanding renewable energy. Additionally, 9.1 billion dollars has been set aside for the creation and maintenance of offshore wind turbines, 6.6 billion dollars for land-based renewable energy sources and 4.5 billion dollars for clean energy initiatives such as the Green Bank, new research and the creation of electric transit buses and charging stations. Cuomo emphasizes the importance of fast advancement in the area of sustainability in this budget.

During a presentation, which was made public on the official NY Governor website, Cuomo discussed the recent allocation of 275 billion dollars toward infrastructure. He emphasized that the focus on infrastructure is also an investment to New York’s future. 

“While our nation sits idle, New York is forging ahead with the largest infrastructure program in the nation,” Cuomo said. 

The budget also includes 2.9 billion dollars to support families with children under five years old, 12 million dollars for emergency management equipment for first responders, two million dollars to increase the capacity of the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and ten million dollars in support of the census to make sure everyone is counted.

State funding for education will increase by three percent, which is a 28.5 billion dollar investment in the budget. New York state will also provide 1.5 billion dollars for SUNY/CUNY campuses.

Cuomo promises middle-class tax cuts, a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, a ban against three-time repeat, high-level sex offenders from the metro, a revision of bail laws, subsidized insulin costs for diabetics and a reevaluation of Medicaid in order to improve the system and reduce unnecessary costs.

Despite the wide breadth of the budget, the audience in Hamilton appeared unhappy about Cuomo’s stance on local municipalities and their responsibility for Medicaid. In response to a budget deficit due to an unprecedented increase in Medicaid spending, Cuomo has decided to make local municipalities financially responsible for funding Medicaid expenses that increase by more than three percent. Hamilton Town Supervisor Eve Ann Schwartz voiced her concern about this, pointing out that it is the State, not local municipalities, that has the power over who is and is not eligible for receiving Medicaid. She and others stated that it is irresponsible to force local municipalities to pay for changes they have little power over.

After the presentation, Loveless commented on the discontent surrounding municipalities.

“I was pleased with the allocation of funds for social service programs/needs, education, etc. As a mayor I am very concerned about the lack of funding for municipalities,” Loveless said. 

Loveless added that she had hoped that Destito would have been better versed on the issues in question and able to provide more depth. 

“The session was disappointing. Too many questions lacked answers,” Loveless said.

Community member Jane Todd echoed Loveless’s dissatisfaction with the incomplete nature of the discussion. Todd said she left the meeting with unanswered questions about the budget. 

“[I] felt that the presenter was unable to answer important questions from the audience, which was disappointing,” Todd said. 

Destito believes that it is important for members of the local community to have an understanding of state-wide budget plans. 

“The Governor puts a lot of importance on making sure towns like Hamilton are well informed about [Governor Cuomo’s] plans for the budget,” Destito said. 

Unanswered questions from the event were referred to Colleen Deacon, Governor Cuomo’s new Central New York Representative. Information regarding those questions will be forwarded to Mayor Loveless’s office.