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Borrello Readies For First Year In State Senate

Repealing criminal justice reform measures passed by New York state lawmakers in 2019 is the No. 1 goal state Sen. George Borrello said he has for this year.

Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, took the oath of office Wednesday, just hours before Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his annual State of the State Address. The former Chautauqua County executive and current representative of the 57th District said he was disappointed the governor did not address “the elephant in the room,” that being bail reform and a looming $6.1 billion budget deficit.

“I was hoping to hear him call for more spending restraint across the board, particularly with regard to the state’s unsustainably expensive Medicaid program which needs to be reformed to bring its costs and benefits more in line with other states and reduce fraud and abuse,” Borrello said.

“I had also hoped to hear a plan for repealing or amending the harmful bail and criminal justice changes which — overnight — have made our communities more dangerous and threaten decades of progress in reducing crime rates.

“In my view, we cannot move forward with any new agenda until these glaring problems are addressed.”

Borrello said Cuomo’s State of the State address sounded more like a person running for president than a governor addressing the needs of residents in New York. “I don’t know his future plans, but you listen to him attack the federal government and attack the president. He talks about the hurricane in Puerto Rico. It doesn’t sound like he’s focused with the kitchen table issues in New York.”

The state’s bail law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, did away with money bail and pretrial detention for a wide majority of low-level cases and nonviolent felonies.

Chautauqua County officials, including Borrello, the district attorney and several local police chiefs, have criticized the changes. According to the Associated Press, more attention has been raised on the issue as courts across the state have released people who would have remained behind bars under the old rules.

Bail changes, passed by a Democratic-controlled legislature last session, played a key role in Cuomo’s criminal justice agenda. While heading into session, some state Democrats are suggesting changes to the law or saying the reforms should be revisited.

Borrello said instead of making changes, lawmakers should repeal the measure and start over on a new bill that uses a “common sense” approach by talking to police agencies for their input.

The new state Senator said Cuomo did speak on a few topics he deemed are a step in the right direction.

“There were some proposals that stood out as positives,” he said. “It was encouraging to hear support for a plan to expand the state’s $175 million Workforce Development Initiative, which is crucial to creating opportunities for our young people and building the jobs pipeline that our employers desperately need. In my discussions with businesses around the district, they repeatedly cite a lack of skilled workers as one of the top obstacles to their growth.”

As part of his first few days in office, Borrello said he planned to submitted legislation establishing a first employee tax credit plan. Under the bill, single-owner business start-ups would be given a state income tax credit to any business when it adds its first permanent payroll employee. The credit would be 25% the first year to employ the worker; 20% the second year; and 10% percent the third year.

“There are so many businesses that start off with a single person in New York state,” Borrello said. “It’s very expensive to add just the first employee, with payroll, taxes and insurance. … This is something I faced many years ago.”

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