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Lawmakers aim for local priorities in one-house budgets

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CANTON - Any opportunity for War of 1812 commemoration funding from the state has probably come and gone, but the budget battle wages on in Albany for education, Fort Drum and agriculture as the majority parties and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo attempt to deliver an early budget.

The state’s fiscal blueprint is due April 1, but there’s a chance this year it will come a week early. Before that happens, north country representatives are scrambling to highlight their priorities through one-house budgets.

“There’s real movement back and forth,” Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell said via telephone from Albany during a session break.

The one-house budgets have no real chance of becoming law, but they reflect the wishes of the Senate Republican majority and the Assembly Democratic majority as final negotiations heat up with Mr. Cuomo.

Not everything that the budgets tweak becomes a reality, but the fact that neither the Senate nor the Assembly included any funding for War of 1812 bicentennial planning in their hypothetical fiscal plans means that it probably won’t happen this year.

Mr. Cuomo vetoed a bill last year that would create a commission of volunteers to organize activites, because it would cost the state $300,000.

“At this point, our efforts might be much better served if we try to find ways to promote our region and its significance in the War of 1812 using a more local approach,” Mrs. Russell said. “We just don’t have a partner in the governor’s office on this issue. That’s unfortunate.”

Maryland and provincial and federal governments in Canada have provided direct funding to celebrate the war’s bicentennial.

The separate Assembly and Senate budgets both restore funding to agriculture programs that Mr. Cuomo had cut. A similar series of events occurred last year: Mr. Cuomo cut programs that help farmers promote and research their products, lawmakers put it in one-house budgets and the governor relented, agreeing to let the programs be funded.

The Senate pledged $5 million to help fight military base closures amid the looming spectre of a Base Realignment and Closure round. BRAC could downsize or eliminate military installations in New York state, which are major economic drivers.

““This funding would be available in the event another round of base-closing cuts could target the post to help make the case why New York and the nation needs Fort Drum,” state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said in a news release.

Mrs. Ritchie’s office said in a news release that the Assembly’s budget didn’t include funding for military bases — even though it did.

“I guess I would beg to differ,” Mrs. Russell said when told of the Ritchie office’s erroneous claim.

The Assembly pledged $5.4 million for military base retention efforts, according to budget documents.

Mr. Cuomo has pledged $500,000 to study the economic impact of military bases in the state.

The Senate and Assembly both restored funds to education by eliminating a good portion of a proposed $250 million competitive grant program. North country schools complained that they wouldn’t be able to compete for the funds.

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