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Lawmakers touching base with their constituents

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Lawmakers touching base with their constituents
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Some time away from Albany for state lawmakers this week. And many of those lawmakers are using the time to touch base with constituents back home. YNN's Bill Carey says it may be their last chance for a real dialog before attention, at the capital, turns to a state budget.

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- The crowd was sparse, almost outnumbered by legislative aides, but Assemblyman Sam Roberts said it was important to use the available time between now and the legislature's budget deliberations, to touch base with people back home. The complaints were not new.

Local government leaders who say the Governor's proposal to ease year to year pension costs by financing them over 25 years might help, but still poses risks.

“What happens 25 years from now. We're still going to have to pay that money. It doesn't really help the overall big picture,” Salina Town Supervisor Mark Nicotra said.

Business owners were on hand, concerned about a plan to boost the state's minimum wage. Not so much the idea of a raise, as much as the timing, boosting pay levels in July.

“Our company, along with other companies, have already done their budgets for 2013. That's six months worth of increases we have to come up with. At our rates, when we put our rate increases out, our tuition fees are set for the whole year 2013,” said Stella Penizotto of Shining Star Day Care Centers.

And there were those concerned about continuing efforts to reduce spending on what they say are needed services. Cuts that they claim could have a long term impact.

“In the early 1980s we also saw severe cuts to youth programming. By the late 1980s, we saw a significant increase in youth crime. I feared this would happen again and again, statistics are showing that this may, in fact, be happening,” said Carol Sinesi, a licensed social worker.

Across the state, lawmakers are hearing virtually the same complaints and warnings. But, they say, there is very little wiggle room for major budget changes.

Roberts said, “Everything comes with a cost. Unfortunately, economics, the economy, it's terrible. We're coming out, a little bit, slowly but surely, gradually, but we just have to do more. And when we say do more with less. Do more with less? Actually, what's happening is we're doing less with less.”

The most lawmakers may be hoping for are some minor adjustments to ease some of the more severe budget impacts.

After a full week back home, state senators and members of the assembly are due back in Albany for a session on Monday.

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