Senate approves legislation restoring missing funds

QUEENSBURY The state Senate took the first step in restoring $1 million to the Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund earlier this week. On Tuesday, Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) announced the Senate had approved legislation that would restore funds swept into the states mammoth general fund back in April. The snowmobilers who have contributed to this fund were rightly outraged that the state dipped into it to balance the budget, said Little. Snowmobile trail maintenance keeps riders safe and helps ensure visitors from other states have a great experience on our trails so theyll continue coming back. Jim McCulley, president of the Lake Placid Snowmobile Fund, said he was dumfounded two months ago upon hearing the Division of Budget had acquired the funds. According to McCulley, snowmobilers statewide agreed to increased registration fees, so long as those funds helped to pay for trail improvements. Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) called the situation grand larceny and said that it serves as an example of why New York State needs serious budget reform. This years budget was passed to us at the last possible moment, she said. This reappropriation was slipped secretly into the budget at the last minute. McCulley was pleased to learn that the Senate was taking action to re-acquire the funds. Thats obviously good news, said McCulley. However, its going to be interesting to see what the Assembly does with that legislation. McCulley noted that snowmobiling is an integral part of the Upstate economy, and for the sector to continue to grow, the trails need to be in top shape. Mike Fischer, president of the New York State Snowmobile Association, echoed that sentiment. Were delighted the Senate has taken decisive action to have this funding that is solely generated by snowmobile registrations returned to snowmobile trail maintenance and safety, said he said. Snowmobiling is a critical part of the Upstate economy, generating jobs and attracting tourism. Unfortunately, the Lake Placid Snowmobile club still awaits reimbursement of funds the club used to perform trail maintenance in 2007. According to McCulley, that money should have been received in Nov. 2007. Those funds are supposed to arrive any day now, he added. McCulley said that a skepticism toward the Assembly exists among Upstate residents. He noted that Manhattan Democrats do not fully understand the Upstate economy, and that clubs like his suffer as a result. Weve been lobbying our legislative members for years, he said. We send letters to Sayward and Little they understand our issues. But these City politicians, they dont understand the issues that face us economically in Upstate New York. They have no clue what happens north of Westchester County. The legislation (S.8144) requires that the Commissioner of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation account for all monies disbursed from the Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund in order to assure that the funds are being used for their intended purpose. Said account would be attached to an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature. Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito (D-Rome) is sponsoring the bill as it awaits approval by the Assembly.

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