LITTLE VALLEY — Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget was significantly different from recent budgets proposed by her predecessor, Cattaraugus County Administrator Jack Searles observed Friday.
The state budget was made “in an environment where they have funds to spend,” Searles said. “That has not been the case with previous budgets.”
Much of that money came from the federal infrastructure bill and went directly to the state, Searles said. “The information continues to come out. Overall, I think it’s a pretty positive budget for the county.
Under the new methodology, spending is up, and so are new programs. “This is just the first salvo,” Searles said. The legislature will negotiate and discuss the details with the governor.
There doesn’t appear to be any new funding streams for county roads and bridges assistance, but there are also no cuts to the CHIPS program, which saw a big increase last year. Searles said. There have been substantial increases for cold weather funding. There is also new pothole funding.
“These are all wonderful ideas, but we don’t yet know how they translate to our county,” Searles said.
The governor said she wanted $250 million to renew a program that allows local governments to rehabilitate or demolish derelict properties. “What we don’t know is whether this would be a grant scheme or whether it would be run through our existing land bank.”
Other “good news” in the governor’s budget is Houchul’s proposal to maintain the Medicaid cap instituted by Andrew Cuomo when he was governor. Searles said with the growth of Medicaid, it will save the county money while expanding health care.
“We are happy and delighted that the governor has chosen to continue this,” he added. “Counties across the state have advocated for this.”
Counties were also concerned about the state continuing to withhold sales tax payments for municipal aid and inducements and distressed collections from hospitals and nursing homes, Searles said.
The budget cuts AIM payments to municipalities but maintains payment to distressed hospitals and nursing homes from county sales taxes, he said.
“We’re pretty happy with the budget,” Searles said. “You can always find something you don’t like, but there’s a lot to like about this budget.”