Douglas talks state

— The Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to take over the growth portion of the county Medicaid expense was a good start, but more needed to be done.

“It is a step in the right direction,” Jay Supervisor Randall “Randy” Douglas said after the governor delivered his annual budget address Jan. 17.

In the speech, Cuomo proposed that the state reduce the county’s 3-percent growth share to 2-percent in 2013, 1-percent in 2014 and completely take that portion of the share over in 2015.

“It’s not a complete takeover,” Douglas argued. “They have to figure out a way to lessen this burden on us, and we as a county actually need more than that. You are looking at a $150,000-to-$200,000 savings each of those years, but the Medicaid bill for our county is around $6-to-$7 million annually. When you look at the numbers, what we are getting is only a percentage point.”

Douglas continued to point out that 48 other states do not require its counties to share in the cost of Medicaid expenses and that New York needed to follow suit.

“When you look at the 48 other states, they have figured out a way to do this,” Douglas said. “I would think that New York state could do that same thing.”

Douglas also said that he is in favor of the Tier 6 retirement that was proposed by the governor, as well as pleased to see that there was $102 million in new state funding for DEC to advance flood control, coastal erosion and critical dam safety projects.

“That is something that is desperately needed,” Douglas said. “We need to provide these funds and programs so that in the long term, towns can save on the costs on protecting them from flooding.”

Douglas also said that he is working on both the town and county level to continue to find funding for the projects associated with the past year’s flooding and fallout from Tropical Storm Irene.

“In Jay alone, we are $3 million in debt from the damage to our infrastructure,” Douglas said. “We are starting to receive some of the first checks, but they still do not make us whole again.”

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