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Mandate relief, drilling rules missing from Cuomo's speech, Tompkins observers note


Ithaca -- Leaders in Tompkins County were commenting more on what wasn't in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address Wednesday than what was in it.

Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson, D-Dryden, said she was disappointed Cuomo's speech lacked any mention of state mandate and Medicaid relief for local governments.

"He gets so much credit for the tax cap, and he promised that would come with mandate relief," Robertson said, noting that if a push for mandate relief doesn't come from the governor's office, it's not likely to start anywhere else.

Robertson and Toxics Targeting President Walter Hang, an environmental activist, pointed out Cuomo didn't include comments on the Marcellus Shale or the Department of Environmental Conservation's draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement on hydraulic fracturing.

"I think that's really good," Hang said. No mention of fracking could mean he has no plans to move the regulations or environmental impact statement forward, Hang explained. "He didn't indicate that that's in any part of his immediate plans."

But the speech did include several topics of concern for Tompkins residents and municipalities, Robertson said, including funding for infrastructure projects, voluntary public financing for campaigns, and non-partisan legislative redistricting.

Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES Superintendent Ellen O'Donnell said she was disappointed Cuomo did not mention the Board of Regents or the commissioner of education.

"We have a leadership structure that has been working at breakneck speed for reforming education in New York state and they should be credited," she said.

Districts can certainly do better, she said, but there are a lot of obstacles, such as childhood poverty or students not coming to school prepared to learn. Districts are not looking for more resources, but rather a more equitable distribution of those resources, O'Donnell said.

People in education are not afraid of being held accountable for students' test results, but really are just looking for a fairer distribution of resources, she added.

"Many of our districts in this area are getting good results with children," she said. "It is blanket statements about underperforming schools that sometimes need clarification."