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Governor's focus on upstate draws praise

One week after Gov. Eliot Spitzer detailed his plans for a $1 billion upstate revitalization fund during his first ever State of Upstate address, local leaders are optimistic. Its awesome that he finally realized theres more to the state than the city, said Altona Town Supervisor Larry Ross. We have different problems upstate than they do downstate. Im glad we have a governor who is supporting upstate anything, said Champlain Town Supervisor Larry Barcomb. Its great that hes giving us attention, said Chazy Town Supervisor Staub Spiegel. The governors plan calls for $350 million to improve upstate infrastructure, including industrial parks; City by City plans designed to tailor economic strategies to specific local needs; $100 million for upstate housing and community development; $50 million to support agriculture, including expanding markets; $15 million to expand access to affordable high-speed broadband in rural areas; $100 million for critical maintenance to upstate bridges; and $80 million to restore New Yorks state parks. He also vowed to investigate the high costs of living in the North Country, develop a cap on annual increases in local school property taxes, expand programs focused on lowering energy costs, and address the desperate need for doctors in rural communities. We are one New York, and we rise and fall together, said Gov. Spitzer as part of his address. When part of our state is struggling, it affects all of us ... We will never become a beacon of hope and opportunity again if part of our state is thriving and another part is falling behind. Supervisor Spiegel was especially pleased to hear about funding for industrial sites and money to maintain bridges, two items he feels are desperately needed, but cost prohibitive for many small communities. But, he adds, Its great to spend money, but he needs to look at waste as well. Not enough was said about what can be done internally [by the Spitzer administration] to cut waste. Supervisor Spiegel also wishes Gov. Spitzer would do more to address the needs of small businesses, and not just focus on funding large corporations. He would like to see incentives for qualified people to start up small local businesses so they can get a grip on their health care costs and insurance. In the end, he believes these small businesses would help improve the employment picture in many localities. Supervisor Barcomb, who also serves on the Champlain Valley Educational Services and Chazy Central Rural School boards of education, wasnt surprised by any of the governors proposals, but hopes the school funding and tax issues will be fully addressed. One issue Gov. Spitzer did not clarify, however, is how his proposal will be funded, an issue that does have some local leaders worried. In an interview with the North Countryman last week, Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey wondered where those funds would be found. He talked about spending millions of dollars, but didn't indicate any source of revenue," said Assemblywoman Duprey. "He's clearly said no new taxes, no new fees, but there's got to be a way to pay for it. We have not seen the detail yet." Im waiting to see what he does in his budget, said Supervisor Ross, who is happy to see the burden being shared throughout the state. We didnt take all the hits, he said. Despite concerns about how the plan will be funded, local leaders are optimistic this new focus on the North Country will make a difference. I think hes trying to divorce himself from the political, said Supervisor Ross, Hes committed money and staff and they certainly should help us up here. Obviously, we need some help up here, said Supervisor Spiegel. I hope all the money hes spending will make a difference, but its going to take some time to see the results.

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