With the deadline for adopting the New York state budget days away, Albany area Assemblymembers John McDonald and Pat Fahy conducted a "community conversation" Thursday to bring constituents up to date.
Guided by a power-point presentation at an Albany Public Library branch, the Democrats detailed a laundry list of various priorities and funding recommendations, giving their opinions as to what items are likely to pass and fail.
Fahy is concerned about the Internet Fairness and Conformity Act. "I'm surprised that that's as difficult as it is because, first of all, it's not a new tax, and it's to help our New York businesses, especially the small mom and pop who are paying taxes and competing with those in Nebraska and New Jersey and South Dakota, who are not paying taxes when they sell to people buying over the internet, third-party buyers through the eBays and the Etsys who are not paying their sales tax. Not only is it hurting the bricks and mortar, the Main Street businesses as well as the Crossgates Mall-type businesses, it's hurting the individual owners and those jobs that are tied to it. So it's not a new tax, it's just asking those from out-of-state to pay their share and it is to level the playing field."
Dave Lucas : "Is it going anywhere this year?"
Pat Fahy : "Well, the governor has it in, the Assembly has it in, the Senate does not have it, because right now they're saying that they oppose all fees and taxes, but this is not a new tax, and it helps businesses, it helps New York businesses."
Republican Senator George Amedore, representing New York's 46th district, tells HudsonValley360.com "the internet tax plan is being discussed within the confines of the budget."
Meantime, the city of Albany's push to plug a $12.5 million budget gap continues. McDonald says the annual quest is "still part of the process." "The governor, unfortunately did not include it in the budget proposal. Both member Fahy and myself worked hard to make sure at least a portion of what's in the city's plan of 9.8 is included, and we're still working closely with the governor to try to make sure that the city sees the $12.5 million."
The New York Bicycling Coalition's Leah Golby praised the upstate lawmakers for supporting the Capital District Transportation Authority. "They've done a really good job of working with the downstate Assembly members and pushing for upstate transit."
With Easter Sunday potentially moving up the budget deadline, McDonald believes lawmakers will finalize the document by the end of next week. "Holy Thursday or into early Friday morning, if things work well, our speaker has been very true and optimistic that things seem to be going in the right direction. There are some large hurdles to overcome. Both Pat and I, because in the Capital Region, the speaker will be here for tomorrow and the next couple days, we'll be back at it, probably Sunday night, definitely Monday. With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck we'll deliver a budget not only on time but early."
McDonald and Fahy feel the community forum gives them the "pulse of the people."
McDonald says "These forums always remind me of how diverse New York state is. There's a variety of different thoughts and opinions and we try to respond to them as best we can. It's always good to have public feedback. That public feedback, I think, helps provide us to better informed as we're going through the decision-making process. " Fahy adds "It is like drinking from a firehose because there's so many issues and people brought up a couple more. Today I'm going home thinking I need 10 new changes on the powerpoint that we've worked so hard to put together. Because there are hundreds of issues that are addressed in the yearly budget and all we try to do is give a snapshot."