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State officials deny that North Country is budgetary 'scapegoat'

ALBANY - Officials from the state government's Executive Branch are challenging a widespread assertion that Gov. David Paterson's 2010-2011 Executive Budget unfairly targets the sparsely populated North Country region.

Ever since Paterson released the draft budget Jan. 6, the region's local and state elected officials have chastised the governor.

They have claimed he is using the North Country as the state's budgetary whipping post in an election year by closing state-run institutions - slashing far too many jobs, more than are being cut elsewhere in the state.

Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said this week that the proposed closure of three North Country prisons, including the Moriah Shock Correctional Facility, is a prime example, especially considering no other prisons in other regions of the state have been targeted for closure.

"Why not Summit Shock Camp? Why not Monterey? Why not Lake View? Why not these other shock camps located elsewhere in the state?" he said. "Of course when I asked, I didn't get any answers. I'm going to call them out on their budget numbers."

Scozzafava said the Governor's bias towards downstate was evident in the fact that the operating cost of the Moriah Shock Facility - which has been touted as a shining success in corrections - doesn't amount to a fraction of a percent in the total state budget.

Moriah Shock Facility employs 117 local residents. Scozzafava called it the economic lifeblood of the community.

Combined with the additional closures of Lyon Mountain prison in Clinton County, Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County and Ogdensburg prison in St. Lawrence County, Paterson expects to save the state $3 million in 2010-2011 and $45.8 million in 2011-2012, when most of the closures are slated to occur.

If adopted, the closures will result in the loss of 480 jobs upstate.

But state Office of the Budget spokesman Matt Anderson argued this week that the belief that the North Country is slated to experience more pain than the rest of the state just isn't true.

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