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State legislators sound off at legislative breakfast

State Senator Betty Little spoke at the annual State Legislative Forum breakfast on Friday, March 1.

State Senator Betty Little spoke at the annual State Legislative Forum breakfast on Friday, March 1. Photo by Shaun Kittle.

— Business confidence reports show that North Country residents have faith that the local economy is on firm ground.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas announced the findings of the chamber’s business confidence survey at the annual State Legislative Forum breakfast on Friday, March 1 at the Holiday Inn in Plattsburgh.

“There’s a culture of optimism to want to feel good about the area, to want to see what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong,” Douglas said to a room packed with representatives of local businesses, municipalities and the media.

State-wide issues, however, were of greater concern.

Several issues became talking points for the three legislators present — State Sen. Betty Little, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and Assemblyman Daniel Stec — who gave their opinions on many of the items in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

The topics included mandate relief, pension fund smoothing, affirmative action, a minimum wage increase and gun control.

“We are trying to do some mandate relief,” Little said. “No matter what we come up with, it’s never enough.”

Little said that pension fund smoothing is one way to provide relief, and likened it to a fixed mortgage rate.

The State Retirement Fund payments would be fixed at 12-and-a-half percent for 25 years.

That rate is lower than the current rate, but is thought to be higher than the expected future rate.

Little said the fixed percentage can be adjusted if the pension fund becomes over funded, and schools could opt out at any time.

Duprey backed up the pension smoothing, and said it would help municipalities budget better, but Stec said he would need more information to get behind it.

Affirmative action requirements were also an issue for some attendees.

Currently, New York State requires that 20 percent of all state contracts have to be awarded to women- and minority-owned businesses, a stipulation that can also be reached by hiring 20 percent women or minorities.

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