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Governor proposes $105M for ORDA in next NY budget

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 2023 Executive Budget, announced Tuesday, Jan. 18, includes $105 million for Olympic facilities and new proposed laws taxing vacation rentals.

Local legislators said they appreciate Hochul’s to spend money in the North Country and pursue tax cuts for New York citizens, but Republican legislators worried about how the state will fund the historically large $216.3 billion budget plan.

Hochul claimed the state’s budgets will be balanced through 2027 and described the influx of federal coronavirus aid and tax revenue increases as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to make several large one-time payments on economic, social and environmental initiatives.

ORDA

The Executive Budget carves out $105 million for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority as part of a proposed $1.8 billion allocation for economic development, which is $1 million more than ORDA expected to receive. ORDA also received $105 million in state funding in the last state budget.

The executive budget breaks out the $105 million into three separate uses: $92.5 million would fund an “upgrade and modernization plan” to improve Olympic facilities and ski resorts, with a focus on preparing for the 2023 World University Winter games; $10 million would go toward “critical maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades;” and $2.5 million would come from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation budget as part of the New York Works Initiative, which aims to create jobs that pay at least $50,000 a year.

The governor’s budget book does not specify how much money would go toward specific venues or construction projects.

The governor’s budget book says the state’s $105 million investment would help to make the state more competitive in winter sports and travel, and that the funds include “support for a new Mid-Station lodge.” Construction on the new Mid-Station lodge was completed last year after the former lodge burned down in 2019. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo doled out $14 million in state funding for the project in 2020.

ORDA projected a capital budget of $104 million for the 2023 fiscal year last December. At that time, ORDA spokesperson Elise Ruocco said the state funding would go toward health and safety measures, modernizing antiquated infrastructure, lift and snowmaking systems, technology, security, and making investments in sustainability and year-round economic resilience.

When asked Jan. 18 how exactly the state money would be used by ORDA, Ruocco forwarded all questions to state Division of the Budget Communications Director Shams Tarek, who did not respond by press time.

Vacation rental tax

The executive budget includes a proposal to levy state and local sales taxes on vacation rentals, as well as the daily NYC Convention Center hotel fee of $1.50 per unit.

This tax was included in former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2022 Executive Budget last year but was cut before the final budget passed.

Though the governor’s budget book says this tax is being proposed to “level (the) playing field” between the growing short-term rental industry and the traditional hospitality industry — hotels, motels and B&Bs — the tax is supported by vacation rental services like Airbnb. These companies see the taxation of rental units as a step toward legitimization and legalization.

Legislators react

Local legislators were mostly happy with how Hochul proposed to spend state money.

“There is still a lot of work to do before the 2023 state budget is finalized, but the Executive Budget proposed today is a good start,” Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, wrote in a statement. “Between economic and workforce development, middle-class tax relief, and investment in our healthcare and education systems, the Executive Budget will provide much-needed relief to North Country residents.”

“For years, I’ve advocated for tax relief for homeowners, middle-class families and small businesses, and I’m pleased to see the governor include those items,” State Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, wrote in a statement. “In addition to increased school aid, support for our veterans and investments in infrastructure, I’m optimistic that we can take steps this year to greatly enhance our quality of life.”

But some were also concerned with the high spending dollar amount and “Today, the governor presented her 2022-23 Executive Budget proposal, declaring the massive $216.3 billion price tag would be balanced with no increase of taxes. I look forward to seeing if this statement will hold up in upcoming legislative budget hearings,” Assemblyman Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, wrote in a statement. “Inflation on everything from gas to groceries is wreaking havoc on New Yorkers’ lives. The final budget that we pass must provide immediate relief to our constituents.”

“I am deeply concerned … with the amount of spending and just how we’ll pay for it,” Stec wrote. “Even with the disclosure that some of the spending in this year’s budget is short-term, the governor’s proposal is a costly $216 billion, an increase from last year’s enacted budget.”

Stec attributed high taxes and high spending to the reason for people leaving the state. According to U.S. Census data, 300,000 people left New York between 2020 and 2021.

“A large part of that exodus is the tax-and-spend culture and increased cost of living in this state,” Stec wrote. “If we can’t rein in our state’s spending and make it more manageable long-term, it will be a challenge to bring those people back or keep others from leaving.”

“We cannot afford a mass exodus of 300,000 people similar to what we saw in 2021,” Simpson wrote.

Jones was supportive of the governor’s proposed accelerated tax cuts.

“Residents across the North Country will find relief in the middle-class tax cuts included in the budget,” Jones wrote. “(They are) welcomed news for so many North Country homeowners who continue to pay high property taxes. Property tax relief will go a long way in helping the middle-class and seniors who are struggling to make ends meet due to increased costs of living.”

Simpson said the state’s infrastructure investments need to focus on “modernizing North County and Adirondack infrastructure, especially broadband,” and not just on New York City’s needs.

He also said the coronavirus aid from the federal government should be used wisely.

“I also hope the governor uses the surplus in federal government dollars to pay off the over $9 billion in unemployment debt that the state has been shouldered with,” he wrote. “Small business owners have made countless sacrifices over the last two years, and they should not be made to pay the state’s debt when unallocated federal funds are there for the taking.”