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January 17, 2001

Tokasz: Help for the upstate economy will be a top priority

Assemblyman Paul Tokasz (D-Cheektowaga), the new Assembly Majority Leader, told The Council's Government Affairs Council (GAC) that help for the upstate economy will be one of his top priorities in his new role.

In one of his first speeches as Majority Leader, Tokasz addressed the GAC Jan. 16 in Albany.

"Government has now recognized" that western New York and all of upstate are in an economic struggle, he said. "Government will need to do things to revitalize the western New York economy," he added.

Tokasz focused on issues he said will be at the center of debate in the 2001 legislative session:

Education: The recent state Supreme Court ruling that the state's approach to school funding is unconstitutional will complicate debate over how much school aid to provide and how, he said.

Energy: Concerns about energy issues, such as cost increases and the adequacy of New York's energy supplies, will make the state's energy policy a focus of debate, he said.

Environment: How to refinance the state's environmental Superfund and what reforms should accompany refinancing will be debated this year.

Transportation: Tokasz noted that voters' defeat last November of the proposed $3.8 billion transportation bond act has created "budget holes" that need to be addressed this year. He also noted that railroad-related issues, especially the way railroads pay property taxes, are a major problem in New York that should be addressed.

Taxes: "We'll find a way to do some tax cuts this year," Tokasz said.

Debate on these issues could be difficult and could extend the legislative session into the summer, as often happens in non-election years, Tokasz said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced Tokasz's appointment as majority leader early this month.

Other Assembly Democrats assuming new leadership roles include: Ron Canestrari (Albany County), assistant majority leader; Joseph Morelle (Rochester), tourism, arts, and sports development; Robert Sweeney (Suffolk County), small business; Brian McLaughlin (Queens), cochairman, administrative regulations review commission; Darryl Towns (Brooklyn), chairman, legislative commission on science and technology.