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Skelos says upstate New York won't be slighted under his leadership

New state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said Monday his top legislative priorities were property tax reductions, regulatory reform and eliminating unfunded state mandates with an aim of reducing the tax burden and stimulating upstate New Yorks economy. His remarks were made on his first day as Majority Leader during a walking tour of Glens Falls, seeing the sights with fellow state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury). The No. 1 issue across the state whether its Buffalo, Glens Falls or Long Island is property taxes, he said. Well be going back to Albany to pass the property tax cap bill, and then look for ways to reduce property taxes, he said as he strolled along Warren Street gazing at the buildings recently refurbished by developers. Skelos replaced Glens Falls native Joe Bruno as Majority Leader, who stepped down Friday, retiring after many years of service. With Skelos hailing from Rockville Centre, Long Island, some have expressed concern about whether he might reduce the attention and money that upstate communities had been receiving under Brunos leadership. Skelos said hed be a worthy successor to Bruno, having served as Deputy Senate Majority Leader for 14 years. Glens Falls and the Adirondacks wont be forgotten, believe me, he said. One thing Joe Bruno brought to the table as a leader was a sense of fairness that each area has to be treated in an even-handed way. As she showed Skelos the sights of downtown Glen Falls, Little said she had full faith in him and his treatment of the upstate region. Dean has been a great colleague and a mentor of mine, and hes going to be a great leader, she said. Skelos returned the sentiments. Betty is not only a close personal and political friend, but she is a very special person. Skelos said hed be working with upstate legislators to identify ways to cut costly state mandates on local governments, and reduce oppressive regulations, including those that require unnecessary paperwork. He said that permit applications for development projects should be streamlined, without compromising the environment. We need to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental quality, he said, adding that the downstate Democrats in the state Assembly had stifled economic growth in the Catskills, and he wanted to fight this trend in the Adirondacks. Particularly, we need to shorten the permit application process. Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said he was now convinced that Skelos would be even-handed in wielding power and appropriating money. The fact that Dean is here during his first day in power reinforces that hes going to be interested in the Adirondacks as well as the entire upstate region, Monroe said. The number one issue upstate is the real estate property tax cap, which he is working for. Skelos said that Little wouldnt be allowing him to forget the needs of the upstate region, particularly the Adirondacks/Glens Falls region she represents. I assure you, Betty will be assuming more and more responsibilities in the Senate under my leadership, he said, walking up Glen Street and looking into shops. Skelos said he enjoyed the ambiance of Glens Falls, particularly since its recent renaissance. Its alive, its prosperous, and there are great people here, he said. The 45-minute tour included a stop at the Charles R. Wood Theater, Scoville Jewelers and tour of the new Barton Mines headquarters on Warren Street, which includes environmentally-friendly features. This is an absolutely beautiful downtown community, that should be a model for other cities revitalization, he said, noting the housing, shops, restaurants and cultural attractions, all within walking distance downtown. Skelos said he was aware of the regions concerns, whether it was job growth, economic revitalization, the rising cost of living, or the troubling emigration of youth for job opportunities elsewhere. We have to make sure we go back to Albany and pass Governor Patersons tax cap, he said. The affordability of life for senior citizens on a fixed income, and encouraging young people to stay in their communities where they grew up, are both tremendously important for economic vitality. Skelos said hed be working to reduce costly mandates the state imposes on local governments. Asked about whether he was in favor of the development of power-producing wind turbines in Johnsburg, Skelos said he was supportive of wind power. The federal government has failed us in terms of energy policies, he said. Ill be working with Betty and others on economic revitalization, and part of the package is to provide energy people need at an affordable price. Skelos said hed soon be visiting wind farms near Plattsburgh -- referring to wind power installations under construction in Altona and Chateaugay -- to learn first-hand about alternative-energy solutions and how they could be applied elsewhere in the state. Little said Skelos was aware of how legislative mandates had cost counties and towns dearly, and hed be fighting the recent trend to pass expensive governmental services down to towns and counties to administer. He knows we cant solve the states problems by shifting them to localities, she said. Skelos said the current political atmosphere in Albany was conducive to progress on issues that concerned upstate voters. He said Paterson knew that bipartisan cooperation was necessary to improve the lives of all New Yorkers. This is about governing and doing the right thing, and Governor Patersons setting the right tone, he said. Skelos also said he was concerned about the financial squeeze that rural households were likely to be enduring this winter due to soaring heating oil prices. Well be looking at strengthening the HEAP program to help those struggling with high heating costs this winter, he said. Skelos wife Gail said she had a strong bond with Lake George and the lower Adirondacks. I spent a lot of time in Lake George during summers in my teenage years -- listening to bands perform, boating and some camping in the area, she said. I had a lovely time and have great memories. And in more recent years, Gail said, she and her husband have enjoyed their excursions to Lake George, including annual visits to the Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom with relatives, she said. Its just beautiful up here, she said.

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