After watching Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s last installment of the State of the State address on Thursday, Assemblyman Joseph Giglio was left with many questions and longing for some substance in next Tuesday’s state budget.
“The State of the State address is always short on details,” said Giglio, R-Gowanda.
Most of the infrastructure initiatives cited by the governor had begun “long before COVID-19,” he said. “I was waiting to hear something specific.”
The assemblyman said, “We can all agree on infrastructure needs” from roads and bridges to broadband internet. “There has to be a priority list and a funding mechanism.”
As he said after Cuomo’s first State of the State comments on Monday, Giglio said the infrastructure project that Cattaraugus County has been waiting a lifetime for — the Route 219 Expressway — wasn’t mentioned during the governor’s infrastructure remarks Thursday.
“What comes to your mind in talking about unfinished projects in Western New York?” Giglio asked. “Route 219.”
The 28-mile route, from the county’s line with Erie County to Interstate 86 east of Salamanca, is a natural to be included in any federal infrastructure bill, Giglio said. He’s sure Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, would jump at the chance to advance the long-stalled expressway.
Giglio said Cuomo appears to be hanging his hat on a big federal stimulus to help the state out of its budget deficit. But just because President-elect Joe Biden wants to send money to state and local governments as part of another coronavirus relief package “doesn’t mean he has the money to send,” Giglio observed.
Biden understands the importance of infrastructure, he added.
“We need federal support,” Giglio said. “I want the aid to go directly to local governments and schools. I don’t want it to have to go through the state.
“Until we know what the federal government is going to do, we won’t know what we have for the budget,” he added. “We’ll have to wait and see when the new government takes over and see.”
While he’s in the Assembly minority, with Democrats in charge of both houses and the governor’s office, Giglio maintains the budget will be “better with everybody at the table. That’s how we should be doing the state budget.”
But with the state eyeing a budget deficit of up to $15 billion, Giglio is aware that this might not be the time when Cuomo will offer a greater state takeover of the Medicaid program. Counties pay about a quarter of Medicaid costs, but the state earlier capped those costs.
“I have long sought to get rid of counties’ Medicaid costs,” which would allow counties to generously reduce property taxes, Giglio said.
“When we get the budget message, at least we’ll have some specifics,” the assemblyman said. “We’ll know the initial plan to move forward, but we will need money from the feds.”
One thing that surprised Giglio was the lack of talk about education in Cuomo’s State of the State addresses.
“Broadband and education are connected,” Giglio said. “They are both big problems. Distance learning is going to be part of what makes school districts work.”
When the governor’s proposed 2021-22 budget is released Tuesday, Giglio is going to be looking for items that specifically relate to the three-county 148th Assembly District — Cattaraugus and Allegany counties and part of Steuben County — and criminal justice issues he oversees for his Republican conference.
“I really want to make sure our counties and school districts are treated fairly and we adopt some long-term solutions to our problems,” Giglio said. “There’s a lot of things that can pop up in the budget.”