ELIZABETHTOWN - Dierdre Scozzafava, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's deputy secretary for local government, delivered his regional budget address Wednesday to the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
To start, Scozzafava went over a few of the key announcements Cuomo made last week in his 2014-15 Executive Budget address in Albany. She said $12 million will go to the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway, $90 million to state parks through the New York Works program and $9.4 million to the state Olympic Regional Development Authority for infrastructure improvements.
She said she did not know any more information on the details of the ORDA improvements.
County Board Chairman Randy Douglas, D-Jay, had kind words for Cuomo in regards to the Whiteface highway. He said Cuomo had "delivered" for the North Country. Douglas recalled when Cuomo visited the highway in November and asked the importance it had to the people.
"He left there saying, 'This is a historical monument,'" Douglas said. "He comes, he sees it firsthand, and he delivers. He doesn't care about partisan politics. He cares about the North Country."
Supervisors questioned Scozzafava about possible relief from high energy costs.
Board member Tom Scozzafava, R-Moriah, said there has been a 50 to 60 percent increase in the power bill for electricity.
"It has just been a huge increase," Tom Scozzafava said. "But it depends on where you were buying your power from."
Dierdre Scozzafava said within the state Division of Consumer Protection there is also a power unit. She said contacting staff there and bringing the rising costs to their attention could prove helpful.
National Grid wrote in a press release Wednesday that it would defer upcoming increases in electricity supply prices for upstate New York residential and small business customers.
Beth Finkel, New York state director for AARP, mentioned rising utility bills in a press release Wednesday that said the regional budget address was a disappointment to older New Yorkers.
"Baby Boomers and older New Yorkers are facing a caregiving crisis that's quickly headed for disaster, and they continue to struggle with sky-high utility bills." Finkel wrote. "They need help to keep their kitchen table economies from buckling but were largely overlooked."
Scozzafava went into more detail about changes affecting New York's education programs, saying full-day universal pre-K is not a mandate forcing local governments to comply, but instead an option.
"Investing in pre-K will only work if we do it right," she said.
She added that if schools opt into the program, the state will pay the majority of the costs.
She had more specifics on Common Core, setting a time table for the corrective actions Cuomo announced in his Executive Budget. She said a panel will be assembled by the end of June to deliberate changes.
There was $46 million in the budget for emergency medical services, including $15 million for an updated weather detection system, $10 million for a strategic fuel reserve and $3 million in backup power for critical upstate gas stations.
"Why is this necessary?" Dierdre Scozzafava asked. "Because we are having more storms."
At the close of the meeting there was an complimentary exchange between Douglas and Scozzafava, two potential Democratic Party candidates for New York's 21st Congressional District.
Douglas thanked her for her commitment to the area during Hurricane Irene.
"You are a true North Country leader," he said.