A few weeks ago, I spent the weekend with my family at Eel Weir State Park, one of New York State’s best kept secrets among its 178 state parks and historic sites.
Located on the Oswegatchie River, just two miles from Black Lake, Eel Weir was honored a few years ago by a national park organization for its outstanding canoe access. With just 38 campsites, a picnic area, and a pavilion, locals know it as a terrific place to relax, picnic, camp and catch bass.
While I was there, it struck me how little most of us know about the individual New York State Parks outside of our immediate neighborhoods.
Last weekend, the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association, a group of about 150 unsung heroes, spent Saturday collecting fingerlings they’ve spent months raising in a hatchery they constructed themselves to help restore the walleye population in the St. Lawrence River.
With pollution, invasive species and habitat destruction threatening the fishing resources of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, the efforts of our volunteer sportsmen's groups has become crucial to our region's efforts to protect this critical part of our economy.
Fishing is more than just a relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon. Fishing charters, bait stores, marinas, motels and other businesses connected to the region’s tourism industry represent a $140 million sector of Central and Northern New York’s economy.
Last week, Albany backed down from a plan to ban the age-old practice of selling hand-cut cheese at Farmers Markets. The issue arose when bureaucrats decided to reinterpret a 40-year-old rule that had never before been applied in this way.
As soon as I heard about the change, I started drafting legislation to exempt Farmers Markets from the rule. Like the practice of cutting fresh cheese, Farmers Markets have been around for years, but they are becoming increasingly popular, as consumers are looking for ways to buy more locally produced foods.
Just over six months ago, I arrived in Albany as New York State faced an historic crisis. The tax and spend mentality that dominated thinking in the legislature for too many years had led to a $10 billion deficit and projections of a $15 billion budget gap next year, record unemployment levels, record job losses, record business closings, and economic stagnation.
Public confidence and trust in our scandal plagued state government was at an all time low. Some were suggesting that the solution was to raise taxes and increase spending. They didn’t recognize that raising taxes and spending had led our once great state to this historic crisis. They didn’t seem to understand that the old way of thinking had cost our state jobs, businesses, population and too many of our young people and families.
I could see I had my work cut out for me.
I knew I couldn’t change New York’s problems by myself. That’s why I asked you and the rest of the residents of Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties for your thoughts and suggestions on how we could get New York moving again and reverse the decline that had cost our state its reputation as an economic leader.
Thanks to your help and advice through letters, e-mails, on-line messages and phone calls, we have begun to achieve the historic changes to transform New York and return it to its former greatness.
Over the past six months, New York has begun to emerge from the crisis. I can now report to you that the promises I made to you are promises I have kept.
By working on a bipartisan basis with Governor Andrew Cuomo, I helped to adopt an historic on-time budget that erased the deficit our state was facing. I rejected the calls for new taxes and new spending. I insisted the legislature do what you and your family does every week across the kitchen table. The budget we adopted actually restored the state to fiscal sanity by rejecting gimmicks, rejecting borrowing and holding the line on spending. For the first time in a long time, it balances revenues and expenses, the same way millions of New York families make ends meet.
The other day, I had the opportunity to stand next to Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed the historic legislation I cosponsored in the Senate to cap property taxes. Together, we passed a mandate relief bill that will serve as a necessary first step to helping local governments and school districts return to fiscal sanity.
I recognize a lot more still needs to be done. I also understand that government at all levels faces more hard choices and tough decisions. But by insisting on fiscal discipline to restore our financial health and ethical reforms to restore the public’s faith in our government and its leaders, I believe we have put New York back on the path to prosperity.
By making the hard choices to fundamentally change the way our state does business, we have begun to reform Medicaid, consolidated government programs and reduced unnecessary agencies and government bureaucracies.
When a member of the Army Reserves asked me why some citizen soldiers are not eligible for the same kind of property tax breaks that benefit others who serve their country, I have to admit I was puzzled.
The Reserve units of our Armed Forces are a critical part of our nation’s military. They, and their families, make significant sacrifices so they can train and prepare to serve America in times of crisis.
They play an important role in our nation’s defenses and deserve the same respect and thanks that we give to the rest of our military.
Ryan and Cheryl Chaif have a recipe for success that could help businesses and farms across New York State.
At their Sackets Harbor restaurant and pub, “The Hops Spot,” the couple are showcasing breads made with locally grown wheat, Central New York meats, Jefferson County cheeses, beer, wine and produce raised at nearby farms.
I had the privilege of visiting with Ryan and Cheryl last week and hearing how they are building their own business and helping to increase sales at neighboring farms.
As the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it’s clear to me that harnessing what’s being produced at New York State’s 36,000 family farms is critical to any effort to revive upstate’s economy.
I have to admit, I spend a lot of time driving across Central and Northern New York.
I try to make it a point to spend a day or two in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence County each week to hear what people like you think about what we in the state legislature should be doing to help get New York back on the right track.
One of the best parts of visiting communities across our region is getting a chance to visit the many Farmers' Markets that are becoming such a major part of revitalizing both large and small towns.
Last weekend I spent part of the afternoon with a group of men who literally helped to save the world.
They fought in WW II in the Battle of the Bulge, helping to throw back Hitler's last gasp attempt to stop the Allied drive across Germany.
Thanks to them and the rest of the American and Allied Forces who rallied to stop the surprise attack, they were able to stop the German Army and lay the ground work for the drive across Europe that ended in the invasion and surrender of Germany.
Changing careers is never easy. Looking for a job can create a lot of stress. That's why I am organizing the Central New York Career and Resource Expo in Fulton on Thursday, June 9.
If you are curious about what firms are hiring in Central New York, what educational and training opportunities are available if you'd like to change careers, or what services are available to people who need to brush up on their job seeking skills, this first-of-its-kind event is worth attending.
Over 40 agencies and employers from the region, including businesses who are ready to hire will be at the Fulton War Memorial on West Broadway.
I'm teaming with over 40 local businesses and community agencies to host a first-of-its-kind Oswego County Career and Resource Expo, on Thursday, June 9, from 2 to 6 PM, at the War Memorial, West Broadway, Fulton. Below is just a partial list of businesses and agencies that have already committed to attend.
The event is free to attend, and free for businesses that want to participate.
Businesses--many of whom are hiring right now--will be accepting applications, and you will be able to take advantage of workshops to help improve your job-seeking skills, including resume writing, improving your interview skills, job hunting on the Internet, career counseling. There will also be information available to help start your own business.
Recently, I was contacted by a number of local community groups and nonprofits from across St. Lawrence County with concerns about the state Health Department’s enforcement and oversight of fundraising dinners and events.
Whether a winter chili cookoff, springtime bullhead feed, or summer chicken barbeque, these gatherings serve as critical fundraisers for many organizations and, even more, are a vital part of the social fabric of many of our local communities. In recent months, though, at least two such events were canceled over health and sanitary issues, and a third organization was forced to incur additional expense that cut deeply into their bottom line.
Memorial Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the events of recent days, and the hard work and sacrifice of the men and women of our Armed Forces, and the veterans who have gone before.
I ask everyone to join with me in remembering, honoring and thanking those who serve to keep us free. Like the 10,000 men and women of Fort Drum who serve day after day in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan to continue the work of dismantling terrorist networks that threaten our peace and freedom. They serve for little pay—and at tremendous personal risk—out of a deep patriotism and commitment to preserving our American way of life.
Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the Linde North America's new carbon dioxide plant in Fulton, N.Y.
Linde North America is employing innovative technology to harness the CO2 produced at SUNOCO's nearby ethanol plant by purifying, liquifying and distributing what others once considered a waste product for beverage, food and chemical companies across the Northeast.
As the chair of the Senate's Agriculture Committee, it's fascinating for me to see how the 41 million bushels of corn grown across New York State and other northeastern farms that's used at Oswego County's ethanol plant is being used to produce other products and create new jobs.
Your community needs heroes. Your friends and your hometown are looking for people to join your volunteer fire department or rescue squad. They provide critical services when your neighbors need help in communities across Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties. While the public at large thinks of firefighters as the people who run into burning buildings when others are running out, volunteer fire departments and rescue squads are often the ones who respond to calls for help of all kinds in their communities.
If you are ever in the town of Hermon, just as the winter weather breaks, make it a point to visit Woody's Sugar Barn. You'll see why New York State ranks second in the nation in Maple Syrup production and come away understanding how the people who make up the New York State Maple Producers Association are convinced we can eventually overtake our friends in Vermont and become number one. Over the past few weeks, I have been visiting St.
One of the reasons why I take pride in living in upstate New York is the way neighbors look out for each other. When tragedy or tough times strike a family, folks reach out to lend a helping hand.Sometimes groups of neighbors will get together to hold a dinner or an event to help a family who has no where else to turn. Across Central and Northern New York, our residents have a strong tradition of banding together by forming civic groups and not for profit organizations to help make life better for their neighbors. Recently, I got a call on Sunday morning from the organizers of the Morristown Chamber of Commerce’s annual chili cook off.
Since I took office last month, I have been working to find ways to help reduce our state's tax burden on families. That's been the number one issue raised by families I talk to who tell me how difficult it is for them to pay their bills, their mortgage and property taxes.If you or any member of your family is turning 65 this year, make sure you don’t miss out on your chance to possibly reduce your school taxes by taking advantage of New York State’s School Tax Relief Program known as STAR.You have until March 1st in most communities to apply for this program that can help you lower your property tax payment.You are probably already aware of the Basic STAR which is available to anyone who earns less than $500,000 a year.
As you read this news column, local officials, state lawmakers and community leaders are already involved in analyzing Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposals. The Governor and the Legislature must act to balance the state’s precarious finances with the ongoing need for vital government services, all the while recognizing that New Yorkers are already among the highest taxed in the nation, and simply can’t afford to pay more. I haven’t waited for the Governor’s budget to begin the process of gauging how the budget may impact our local communities in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties.
The latest jobless figures for Northern and Central New York have been released—and the news is not good. Upstate New York continues to feel the effects of a crushing national recession that has cost the jobs of thousands of our neighbors.These sobering figures make it more clear than ever before that we need to act to reverse the trend of job losses, and get New York back in the business of creating jobs.The State Senate is wasting no time. As one of the first actions of the New Year, the Senate passed a plan that can put people back to work, and get New York back on track.A centerpiece of the Senate plan was my proposal to provide a $5,000 tax credit for every new job that businesses create in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties.
A New Year always brings new opportunity—and new challenges.
This year, New Yorkers face some of our biggest challenges ever: a state budget that is more than $10 billion in the red, a sluggish economy and slow job growth, and ever increasing demands for services that are paid for by taxpayers.
Earlier this month, our new Governor unveiled his vision for New York that was stark in its reality about the need to lower spending, reduce taxes, and change the way that government works. He brought that message directly to Northern and Central New York this week by hosting a local Town Hall meeting at Jefferson Community College.