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Politics

Fate of $315 million deficit uncertain in Albany lame duck

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Just because lawmakers have been called back to the Capitol doesn't mean they'll fix the state budget.

Legislature returns to Albany
Wrangling over the state's $315 million budget deficit begins today in Albany, reports the Democrat and Chronicle:

The special session is for one day only. If the governor wanted the Legislature to continue past today, he would have to issue a second proclamation to call it back again. The Legislature, however, can call itself back into session anytime it decides there's a need. The deficit is a result of a decrease in taxes paid to the state, increased costs for Medicaid and other services, and the inability to collect $150 million in projected revenue from the sale of cigarettes to non-Indians on reservations, [Governor David] Paterson said.

The paper reports that there's a full docket for legislators to consider, beyond the budget.  Among the issues Paterson wants taken up:

  • raising pay for judges
  • approving nearly 150 nominations for various boards
  • appropriating federal money for education
  • renaming the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in honor of former Governor Hugh Carey

Meanwhile, the Times Union is trying to temper expectations for the session, saying that large cuts are unlikely in today's "lame duck."

Bankruptcy down in WNY
Bankruptcy filings took a sharp drop last month, reports the Buffalo News.  In western New York, bankruptcy was down 21 percent over the previous year, compared to a less than 3 percent drop nationally:

For the year to date, 7,583 cases were filed in the two-city district, down 8.3 percent from 8,269 for the first 10 months of last year. That included 4,875 in Buffalo and 2,708 in Rochester. By type of case, 470 involved Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, in which the debtor seeks approval from the court to erase most personal debts and start over. Of those, 297 were in Buffalo and 173 in Rochester, and the vast majority involved individuals, not businesses.

Wanna go fast!
An ethanol plant that the Innovation Trail's Ryan Morden had previously profiled will soon be making fuel for NASCAR, according to the Post-Standard.  The Sunoco plant in Volney is making around 85 million gallons of fuel a year:

As it goes about producing ethanol, the operation is contributing to the community and region — paying more than $300,000 in lieu of taxes to local municipalities, buying corn from more than 50 Central New York farmers, employing 68 workers and making major investments in time and money. And the company has plans to support local community causes.

Museum closure
The Times Union reports another casualty of New York's budget drama: the State Museum.  Starting January 2, it'll be closed on Sundays, the day of the week with the second highest number of visitors.

EPA v. DEC
The Press & Sun-Bulletin has a look at the conflict between the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Environmental Conservation over pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed:

New York has been at odds for months with the EPA regarding a draft, called the Total Maximum Daily Load plan, that would require headwater states to adopt the TMDL, a "pollution diet" that places strict nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment output limits on each state. The requirements, which the DEC estimates would cost the state between $3 billion and $6 billion, must be met by 2025 in an effort to clean up the long-polluted estuary.

Plans for clean-up are due to the feds today - but the EPA has already said that a draft of New York's has "deficiencies."

Patent prodigy
An 8-year-old outside of Rochester has received a patent for a device that tames cellphone charger cord clutter.  The Democrat and Chronicle reports that Bryce Gunderman plans to use the proceeds from his device for "hockey equipment and Sabres tickets."

An inconvenient tax
Higher fees on cigarettes are taxing convenience store owners, according to the Buffalo News.  An extra $1.60 per pack - compared with untaxed cigarettes sold at tribal shops - is causing job cuts at some shops:

James Calvin, president of the New York State Association of Convenience Stores, an Albany-based trade group, said while cigarette tax revenues have risen since July 1, the rate of increase is far short of the 58 percent per pack hike. That outcome is hurting convenience store operators, he said. The cigarette sales drop-off impacts established chains like Wilson Farms as well as single-store "mom-and-pop" operations, Calvin said. "It's heartbreaking. It's through no fault of their own. It's not that they don't run a good business. They do."

Something to be grateful for
If you're bummed about being back at work after the holiday, consider the story of Michael Merriweather Sr., in the Buffalo News.  Merriweather works at the Buffalo airport, following a layoff from tire maker Dunlop and a debilitating car accident:

When he arrives at 6 a.m., the buoyant promise of other people's adventures rubs off on Merriweather. By then he has been up for hours, has read the poem by his son affixed to his bedroom door -- "Much respect to my father/Who cared when it seemed no one else would bother ..." -- and has helped with his girlfriend's paper route.

The paper reports that Merriweather is sometimes moved to tears during the busy holiday season, as he hears the stories of travelers who come and go.

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