LEWISBORO – State Senator Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson) kicked off his 22-stop Town Hall Tour at the Lewisboro Library Monday night telling the Town Board and audience members that this past year’s legislative session was highly productive.
“No one is a bigger critic of Albany than me,” said Ball, who represents the 40th Senate District, which includes both Lewisboro and Pound Ridge. “But think of what we accomplished this legislative session and with bi-partisan support. The progress we made in Albany this year was significant.”
Ball updated the board on several issues, including the property tax cap, mandate relief, the budget, homeland security initiatives and women and animal issues.
When it came to the recently passed two percent tax cap, Ball said it was forcing the issue of unfunded mandate relief.
“It’s framing the argument locally,” he said. “We had $126 million in mandate relief savings this year, but there are still some [mandate issues] that are very politically sensitive, like special education.”
Ball said three of his highest priorities this past legislative session were the tax cap, ethic laws and gay marriage, all which came to fruition.
“No matter where you stand on gay marriage, democracy happened [when state legislators passed the bill],” he said. “That dysfunctional Albany at that moment was a thriving democracy.”
Concerns over rising pension costs in a town that recently saw a 12-percent spike in its New York State retirement contribution dominated much of the follow-up discussion between Ball and members of the board.
“Towns have been left holding the bag as a result of out of control pension costs,” said Lewisboro Supervisor Charles Duffy. “It crushed corporate America 20 years ago, and unless we redefine contribution levels at the state level, the New York will suffer the same fate.”
Ball also fielded questions from the board about the town’s crumbling infrastructure, compounded by the need to cut the Highway Department by 10 percent in the last town budget. When asked by Councilman Daniel Welsh about the state’s commitment to rebuilding roads, Ball promised to fight for funding for any specific projects while noting that the region’s share of state transportation dollars has decreased significantly over recent years, He said he was hopeful new revenues will be generated for future infrastructure projects.
Ball also addressed the issue of Homeland Security and federal funding for the state.
“We were able to restore $186 million in federal funding in New York,” he said. “Since it was created, Homeland Security has been purveyor of pork all across the country and that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.”