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kathy hochul

March 23, 2017 - 12:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Health Care, chris collins, kathy hochul, NY-27.

It might be nice to think that some bit of magic could just make the county share of Medicaid expense disappear, but somebody has to pay one way or another, said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul during an interview with The Batavian yesterday about the Collins Amendment to the GOP's health care coverage reform bill.

"It’s not a free gift," Hochul said. "You can’t say, 'oh, this is going to be great,' and have it work out. They have not thought through the ramifications for this."

Rep. Chris Collins convinced the House GOP leadership to allow his amendment to the American Health Care Act, ostensibly a replacement for the Affordable Health Care Act pushed through Congress by the Obama Administration in 2010. The amendment affects only New York and blocks the state from taking county money to provide Medicaid coverage to residents.

County leaders have long complained that this unfunded mandate is crippling local budgets and forcing counties to cut other services.

"Year after year, Albany’s leadership relies on counties to foot the bill for New York State’s out-of-control Medicaid costs. Enough is enough," Collins said in a statement released when he announced the amendment. "This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families."

The cost shift won't lead to cuts in property taxes, Hochul predicted, but there would be other ramifications for New York's taxpayers. Those ramifications could include either the poor and middle-class families who rely on Medicaid having $2.3 billion in services cut or counties losing their share of sales tax collections.

"Here's what is going happen, and the counties need to be aware of this, there are going to be tough choices to compensate for the Collins scam and one of them is to re-examine the assistance we give to counties now," Hochul said.

According to Hochul, when Medicaid was created, the condition set up by the state was that counties would pay for 25 percent of Medicaid coverage and to compensate counties for the cost, counties could keep a portion of sales tax revenue.

County Manager Jay Gsell isn't sure that is exactly the history of sales tax in New York and said he's researching it. The threat to take money away from the counties if the amendment goes through is in line with Gsell's prediction in a story we published yesterday about the amendment.

"The state is not going to go quietly into the night," Gsell said.

We had trouble getting in touch with Hochul or staff members before yesterday's story, so yesterday Hochul had her staff reach out to The Batavian to arrange an interview so she could address local residents directly about her concerns with the Collins amendment.

"I want people to have a full perspective that if you take out the county’s share, there are still going to be consequences," Hochul said. "Either we cut services $2.3 billion or we raise taxes and it just comes from another pocket in the State of New York to the tune of $2.3 billion."

Hochul has long positioned herself as an advocate for local communities, and she said she is, but it's also her job as lieutenant governor now to look out for all the people of New York and the Collins Amendment, she said, will be devastating for the state.

"The governor and I are very much aware of this cost on counties and that’s why the governor cut that share down to 13 percent and so now NY state counties are paying less per person than they did back in the year 2000," Hochul said. "In addition, we did two more things: we capped the escalation of these costs, so the state is picking up any increases in the Medicaid costs. That has been in place the last five years and the governor also in 2011 created the Medicaid redesign team to squeeze out saving out of this program; $34 billion has been saved overall, and a large part of that was savings for the counties."

There is some dispute over the history of how we got in a position where county taxpayers are helping to foot the bill for a program that is billed as a "state and federal" benefit for people who can't otherwise afford healthcare. New York is one of only 16 states that pass some of the cost onto county taxpayers and New York's county share is the highest in the nation.

"What they’re proposing is the unraveling of a deal that was put in place in the 1960s when, at the time, counties were picking up 44 percent of their residents' health care costs," Hochul said. "Then when Medicaid and Medicare were in enacted in 1965 there was the thought we could reduce that down for the counties to 25 percent and also allow them -- again, allow them -- to collect some sales tax to offset that cost."

Gsell's version includes 1960 with the Kerr-Mills Act, which created a program called Medical Assistance for the Aged. It gave states the ability to create a medical coverage program and decide on the criteria for eligibility. The Federal government provided matching funds to cover the costs. The act was a precursor to Medicaid.

The prior 1950s program, Gsell said, provided matching funds for state payment to medical providers on behalf of people on public assistance.

"Nowhere did I find that NYS counties were voluntary partners in these pre-Medicaid funding programs," Gsell said. "The Hochul quote about counties paying pre-Medicaid, pre-1965, 44 percent of elderly indigent care, which NYS reduced our 'burden' to 25 percent, maybe 'accurate' in regards to then cost sharing, but this 1965 to 2017 Medicaid program is not the same in terms of benefits, entitlement, number of recipients, with counties having no say in size, eligibility and an open-ended entitlement as back 52-plus years ago."

The Cuomo Administration has been in full attack mode the past few days over the Collins Amendment. Yesterday, The Batavian received at least a half-dozen press releases from the governor's office about the amendment, plus statements funneled through the governor's press release database from hospitals in the region attacking the amendment.

"The radical conservative ideology in Washington has declared war on New York with legislation that will devastate hospitals across the state and hurt New Yorkers," Cuomo is quoted as saying in one press release. "These massive cuts will cripple our hospitals and ravage the health care services on which New Yorkers rely."

The other bit of history that came out in news reports yesterday over the Medicaid spat is that Andrew Cuomo's father, Mario, when he was governor pushed for years for the state to pick up the county's share of the Medicaid tab.

Both Andrew Cuomo and Hochul have accused Collins of political pandering to try and secure more Upstate congressional votes for the AHCA, which is far from guaranteed passage. The reform, pushed as part of President Donald Trump's promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, would scuttle direct subsidies to people who purchase insurance through health care exchanges, as well as end the individual mandate to buy health insurance, and replace it with a refundable tax credit for all qualifying Americans.

Critics contend the bill would drive up the cost of health insurance while conservatives argue the bill doesn't actually repeal Obamacare.

A poll commissioned by The Economist shows strong opposition to the AHCA in several rural Upstate districts, including the NY-24 (33 percent support / 51 percent oppose), NY-23 (38/45), NY-22 (38/45), NY-21 (37/45), as examples.

In the NY-19, the district of John Faso, the cosponsor of the Collins Amendment, 35 percent support and 48 percent oppose. The bill has a little stronger support in Collins' own district, the NY-27, with a split of 40/42.

"The reason that Representative Collins proposed this is to literally offer a bribe to on-the-fence Upstate Republicans who were starting to hear from constituents that decimating and destroying the Affordable Care Act, which benefits seven million New Yorkers now, is not something their constituents really want," Hochul said.

Cuomo has characterized the Collins Amendment as putting politics before people, and we asked Hochul about that statement, noting that really any decision about budgets, taxes, and spending is about people. For Genesee County, a cost savings of $9.4 million might not lead to much or any savings to taxpayers, but it could save critical programs.

This past year, the County Legislature went through a contentious budget debate that had some members of the Legislature even floating the idea of eliminating deputies from road patrols. The county will also likely be forced by the state to build a new jail in a few years, plus the county needs at least $15 million in road and bridge repairs. 

Meanwhile, New York's menu of Medicaid options is the most generous in the nation and the program leaves the perception of operating on an open checkbook. (Gsell provided this chart that shows county share of Medicaid expense across the nation and New York's is far and away the highest rate.)

"I disagree with your assessment that it’s an open checkbook," Hochul said. "The fact (is) that we shaved $34 billion off of it just in the last few years and the governor continues to have a Medicaid redesign team in place to make sure we’re cutting costs."

Hochul said if the ACA is repealed, it's just going to drive up costs for all New York taxpayers because the uninsured will be more likely to use emergency rooms for routine medical needs.

"They’re going to the ER and the cost is going to be dramatically higher," Hochul said. "Those costs are being picked up by taxpayers. People have to realize this is a united system and we’re going to continue as a state to cut those costs."

She said New York's costs are higher because we have a larger elderly, middle- and working-class population and our industrial past means we have higher rates of cancer. She recalled seeing as a child the pollution spewed by steel plants, for example, in Buffalo area.

"That is largely a way to explain why we have higher costs, not that we’re just throwing good money after bad," Hochul said. "We have a governor who is very tight-fisted with the state’s taxpayers' dollars. He’s very conscientious. That’s why we’ve cut middle-class taxes. We’ve cut business taxes. We continue to focus on creating jobs to put more money back into the local economy, more sales tax for the counties, more property tax revenue for house sales. It all works together. You can’t just pull out one piece of the puzzle and have that collapse and have the other part be picked up by everybody else."

She called the Collins amendment a betrayal of the people of New York.

"The number one rule for doctors is 'first do no harm,' " Hochul said. "I think that should also apply to members of Congress. What Chris Collins is proposing will inflict harm and pain on the people of the State of New York and we have to get pressure on him to take this back and put it on the sidelines and realize this is a horrible mistake."

Late yesterday, Collins, who won the NY-27 seat from Hochul three years ago, put out a press release that characterized the Cuomo Administration's response to his proposed amendment as "a complete meltdown."

“Governor Cuomo and his sidekick are using doomsday predictions to scare everyday New Yorkers into allowing Albany to continue taxing them to death," Collins said. "It’s absolutely disgusting the governor would threaten the middle class with a tax increase while holding a $14 billion taxpayer-funded slush fund in his back pocket. As I have said before, if this Governor can’t find 1.5 percent to save in his budget, I am more than willing to find it for him.”

March 21, 2017 - 7:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Medicaid, healthcare, chris collins, kathy hochul, NY-27, news.

A proposal to block New York from using county taxpayer money to pay for Medicaid sounds good on paper, but as always, the devil is in the details, says County Manager Jay Gsell.

Gsell's biggest fear is that even if the proposal is passed by Congress, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office would just find a way to shift other expenses to the counties.

"My sense of the reaction from the governor and the lieutenant governor over the last week is that it is very likely how they would respond," Gsell said. "They’re still putting a state budget together. Things could change on a dime."

The proposal comes from Rep. Chris Collins, who is having it added as an amendment to the House GOP's health care bill aimed at replacing the Affordable Healthcare Act.

From a Collins press release put out earlier today:

The Medicaid Local Share Limitation, which was proposed by Congressmen Chris Collins and John Faso, would bar federal reimbursements for New York State Medicaid funds raised from local governments. The proposal would only apply to the $2.3 billion being raised from counties outside of New York City. New York State currently raises $7 billion from its local governments to fund its $27 billion Medicaid liability, which is the largest amount in the nation.

“This is a huge win for our constituents,” Congressman Collins said. “I want to thank President Trump, House leadership, Congressman Faso, and the rest of my fellow New Yorkers for getting this key provision included. Year after year, Albany’s leadership relies on counties to foot the bill for New York State’s out-of-control Medicaid costs. Enough is enough.

"This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families. We understand the devastating impact New York’s reckless spending is having on everyday New Yorkers, and I’m proud to join with members of our delegation to bring vital tax relief to our constituents.”

In a tweet today, Collins said his amendment to the bill, called "Ryancare" by some, and "Trumpcare" by others, would save Genesee County taxpayers $9.4 million that the county currently pays as a local share of Medicaid expense.

Gsell said it's more than $9.6 million of an overall $68 million expense, with the Federal government and state government picking up the balance of the cost. 

The proposal from Collins has brought forth blistering attacks from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Last week, Hochul said in a statement:

"What’s worse, a New York Republican Congressman, Chris Collins, is offering an amendment that would wreak havoc on the state. While I understand that the Democrats in Washington are attacking Collins on ethics issues and are having a heated political fight, they shouldn’t be played out at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

“Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability."

She said the Collins proposal would amount to a $4.7 billion tax increase on the people of New York.

According to a report in the Democrat and Chronicle, Cuomo ripped the bill as a "death trap" that would devastate hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Upstate New York.

"My greatest fear from last year’s election has actually come true, which is you have a rabid, conservative ideology in Washington that would tell New York to drop dead, and that is exactly what is going on," Cuomo said.

At $60 billion per year, New York is topped only by California (at $85 billion) in total Medicaid spending. In New York, counties cover $7 billion of the state's share of the Medicaid expense, by far the highest share of any state in the union.

This for a program that is defined by the Feds as a "Federal and state" (not county) medical coverage benefit for people with limited income.

In her statement last week, Hochul offered up a history of how counties came to help pay for Medicaid, saying the counties agreed to take on this expense, but Gsell said that's not his understanding of the history.

Gsell said the counties got roped in against their will in the 1960s when Congress created a long-term care program and ordered states to help pay for it and New York turned around and told counties they would share in the expense. Then when Medicaid was created a few years later, New York told the counties they would pick up 25 percent of the tab, though at the time, the program was a lot less expensive than it is today.

"I saw some comments by Ms. Hochul last week that said, ‘oh, the counties have nothing to be grousing about -- they've been funding Medicaid forever,' " Gsell said. "She alluded to this one- or two-year-old piece of Federal legislation from the early '60s and says, ‘yeah, the counties volunteered to do it.’ No, even then, the state told the counties, 'you will fund this program.' "

New York's Medicaid bill is so high, Gsell said, because the state covers the full smorgasbord of coverage. Whereas the Federal government has only about 15 services that are mandated, New York offers the full slate of available options, more than 30 altogether.

At no time, Gsell said, have states been given any opportunity to have a say in who is covered, how they are covered or what is offered. Everything is mandated by the Federal government or the state.

When Gsell became county manager 23 years ago, the county share of coverage was about $4 million, but the expense started increasing at 5 to 10 percent per year until the county share was capped a few years ago.

The Collins amendment is designed, in part, to help secure support from New York's congressional delegation. That overt political maneuver prompted another statement from Hochul today:

"Mr. Collins has perpetuated a political scam on New York. As Mr. Trump’s bag man he has had to buy votes to pass the Affordable Care Act and did it by promising counties relief from their share of Medicaid. He now wants New York State to pay his $2.3 billion political IOU.

"The state cannot and should not. If Mr. Collins wants to buy votes let the federal government pick up the share rather that the people of New York. Local county taxes or state taxes New Yorkers still pay. One way or another, it is still coming out of New York taxpayers’ pockets. Let Mr. Collins help New York State and his district by having the federal government pay – that is why he is in Washington.

"He could easily help pay by reducing the $150 billion tax cut to the richest 1 percent of Americans or buying one less tank from Trump’s record defense budget. Why make the people of his district pay for his politics. We do know Mr. Collins is adept at corrupt financial schemes but this is the ultimate insider trading scam."

Ryancare/Trumpcare is by no means assured of passing. It will obviously receive Democratic opposition, but a number of House conservatives also oppose it. It will also face a tough fight in the Senate.

Still, if it does pass, Gsell is far from certain it will lift the burden from Genesee County for unfunded mandates. He believes, based on the stern opposition to the cost shift from Cuomo and Hochul, that Albany will just pull the purse strings tighter on other programs with county-state cost shares, such as indigent defense, Safety-Net, Pre-K early intervention and probation assistance. The state share of a total of nine state-mandated programs exceeds the potential $9.6 million in cost savings offered by Collins amendment.

"The money that the state has to start absorbing could turn on our budgets in these other areas with less state aid," Gsell said. "The state is not going to go quietly into the night."

Michael McAdams, a spokesman for Collins, rejected this contention outright.

"That's an unfounded hypothetical," McAdams said. "There's no basis for thinking that would actually occur."

The ironic piece of this fight between Collins and Hochul (who lost the congressional seat to Collins after one term) is Hochul has long been a strong proponent of local communities, making a point to shop local every holiday, for example, even stopping in Batavia stores.

Through the governor's press office and on Twitter, we reached out to Hochul to ask her to address the seeming contradiction of supporting local communities while backing an unfunded mandate, but we haven't received a response.

Gsell thinks Hochul's position may not be entirely her own.

"It struck me as she was being instructed," Gsell said. "This didn’t sound like a Kathy Hochul thing. It mirrored very much what the governor’s thing is, which is, ‘counties, shut up. You’ve got your Medicaid cap. We’ve given you pension reform with Tier 6. You’ve gotten enough. Go away. We’re not going to cost shift from counties to the state.' ’’

March 10, 2017 - 11:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, chris collins, NY-27, Medicaid.

Press release from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat:

“Our Founding Fathers warned us this day would come. Partisan politics would overtake good government for the people. The Medicaid changes being proposed in Washington would cut taxes for wealthy special interests while devastating New York State’s finances and all but eliminating health care for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

“What’s worse, a New York Republican Congressman, Chris Collins, is offering an amendment that would wreak havoc on the state. While I understand that the Democrats in Washington are attacking Collins on ethics issues and are having a heated political fight, they shouldn’t be played out at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

“Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability. As if that were not enough, Rep. Collins would have the state assume the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses outside of New York City. The current breakdown is 13 percent county, 36 percent state, and 51 percent federal. This ill-conceived plan would cost his home state approximately $2.3 billion. Unbelievably, that’s on top of the cost of the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal plan – another $2.4 billion.

“Translation: Rep. Collins is proposing a tax increase on New Yorkers to the tune of $4.7 billion. This one-two punch would destroy all the hard work the Governor and Legislature have accomplished in the last six years to lower taxes across the board and achieve the lowest spending increases in recorded history. New Yorkers will be at risk of losing their healthcare, hospitals will be forced to lay off workers, and our vulnerable elderly will find it much harder to afford nursing home care.

“On the merits, the counties have no right to claim this is an undue burden. They paid a percentage of health care costs even before Medicaid – and in fact, currently have a more favorable agreement than in decades.

“In 1960 – well before New York State and most counties had any sales tax revenue to pay for it – Congress passed the Kerr-Mills Act, which created a national role in funding health care for the elderly. Under this program, the counties in New York paid approximately 44 percent of the cost of care, the state paid about 38 percent, and the federal government paid around 18 percent. 

“In 1965, Medicaid replaced that program and the counties paid 25 percent. That same year, the state began giving counties the option of collecting sales tax on their behalf. Every county in New York has subsequently agreed to this option. Many counties in the nation don’t get sales tax, and most of those receive less than our counties. Moreover, the state recently agreed to give the counties additional help – after hearing the counties’ complaints of the growing Medicaid costs, the state has held them harmless for any increases since 2011. 

“As a result, the counties’ share for Medicaid is down from 25 percent to 13 percent, and the state assumed this cost while still living within the 2 percent spending cap, and all while cutting taxes. The state is not asking the counties to do anything more than we have done ourselves. In fact, the state has done far more. If the Collins amendment passed, the state would need to raise income taxes or the counties would have to forego their share of sales tax in exchange for the state picking up the additional Medicaid costs.

“In short, Rep. Collins’ amendment and the Affordable Care Act repeal would transfer $4.7 billion in costs to the state which would translate into a new tax for New Yorkers. I know firsthand that the people of the 27th Congressional District face enough challenges in their lives – they don’t need to worry about increasing health care costs or new taxes. 

“Rep. Collins should stop prioritizing his wealthy friends and start helping his home state by protecting the most vulnerable from losing their healthcare and not putting the state budget at risk. Remember, as my mentor Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to always point out, New York is a donor state – we pay more in federal taxes than we receive back.

“Mr. Collins, try practicing good government rather than partisan politics.” 

Through a spokesman, Collins responded in a story in the Buffalo News.

November 26, 2016 - 6:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, business, Shop Local, kathy hochul, news.

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It's been five years since Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul first came to Batavia for part of her Christmas shopping and she noted today while standing outside Valle Jewelers how much things have changed.

For the better.

"Five years ago you would see one person, maybe two, in a store and you would feel kind of bad because I know hard it was when my mom had a little business and nobody walked through the door," Hochul said. "It’s a lonely feeling and I know how hard these people work."

Hochul owned a small shop in a WNY village at a time when most people were predicting decline for the area, but she stuck with it and that's one reason Hochul believes so strongly in supporting locally owned businesses.

"My connection with these people is that I feel that same entrepreneurial spirit (as her mother), true believers, people who never gave up in places like Batavia," Hochul said. "I come out and thank them for staying with it during the tough times and hopefully they’re very successful now as people are starting to rediscover downtowns."

There are new retail shops in Downtown Batavia and in addition to visiting her favorites, Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, Charles Men's Shop and Valle Jewelers, Hochul also stopped in at The Hidden Door/Pollyanna & Dot and Foxprowl Collectables.

Hochul remarked on the great diversity of businesses helping to anchor downtown as a more vibrant shopping destination and that's good for all the businesses.

"The downtown has really come alive again and it’s satisfying for me to see," Hochul said.

Hochul was accompanied on her walk through downtown by City Manager Jason Molino, who shared information about the projects completed and underway that are transforming downtown, such as the planned brewery and restaurant incubator going into the former Newberry's building. Projects like those, and the new shoe store, a joint effort between Charles Men's Shop and p.w. minor, will only help draw more people to Batavia and to downtown, she said.

Hochul promised that the governor's office will continue to support programs that assist in local economic development, such as those that assisted in bringing new apartment units downtown and is helping with brownfield redevelopment and projects that will hopefully help the whole county's economy grow, such as STAMP -- Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

"There’s a direct correlation between a governor who has been paying attention to Upstate New York, and myself knowing it so well in the past five years, to where I really think we've made a difference," Hochul said.

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May 19, 2016 - 9:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, GCC, schools, education.

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attended a joint meeting this morning of leaders from three area community colleges, Genesee, Monroe and Finger Lakes, and encouraged them to find ways to work together cooperatively to help better prepare students to enter the modern workforce.

"I want to up the game," Hochul said. "I want to take it to a different level, and I cannot do it without all of you representing faculty, administration and students to say, 'you know what, we're buying into this vision.' It's going to force us to look beyond our own boundaries, just as the REDCs (regional economic development councils) forced us to say what's good for the other counties, what's good for the region, as opposed to just what's good for my little place on Earth here. That will be transformative. That is a whole new way of approaching community colleges."

The region is growing, Hochul said, new businesses are starting and coming in and they need a workforce trained for today's jobs. She encouraged the colleges to work with employers to develop curriculum and certification programs to get students job-ready, and rather do it in a competitive way, do it in a cooperative way.

December 1, 2015 - 8:39pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in kathy hochul, Genesee Community College, education.

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s visit to Batavia on Tuesday included some hands-on education.

Hochul met for about a half hour with officials at Genesee Community College, who discussed the college’s workforce development initiatives and STEM — or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — career path training.

A subsequent campus tour included the third-floor science laboratories, where Assistant Professor Karen Huffman-Kelly was teaching a Cellular Biology class.

The lab is equipped with a luminometer, a hand-held swab unit that uses bioluminescence technology to test bacteria levels on food-processing equipment.

Hochul — under the guidance of Greg Sharpe, instructor for the college’s Food Processing Technology program, pictured above — used the device to test the cleanliness of a student’s cell phone.

“We’ll see whether I want to keep holding your cell phone,” Hochul told the student.

The verdict?

After a quick swab and a 15-second countdown, the device yielded a score of 136.

“Not too bad,” Sharpe said.

“Cell phones on average (score) around a 300,” he explained. “In the food industry, typically anything over a 30 we make them re-clean it.”

GCC launched its Food Processing Technology degree program last year. It was designed to meet the demand for skilled workers in the food manufacturing field.

The program already has an international reach, as Hochul learned by chance on Tuesday.

She was introduced to Arsenio Ferreira, 22, who is in his second year of the FPT program.

Ferreira hails from the southeast Asian island nation of Timor-Leste, which became independent in 2002. He told Hochul he will bring new skills back to Timor-Leste, to help with its economic and social development.

Hochul called New York’s community colleges the creative engines of the SUNY System, with the flexibility to meet changing economic needs.

“I think we’re very lucky because we have a strong reputation as far as the academic quality of this institution,” said GCC President James Sunser, Ph.D.

The Food Processing Technology program, he noted, was developed in cooperation with Cornell University.

“Their willingness to work with us — and to accept our students in transfer — is in large part because of our strong academic reputation.”

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, speaks Tuesday at Genesee Community College with Arsenio Ferreira, an international student from Timor-Leste who is studying Food Processing Technology.

September 22, 2015 - 5:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, batavia.

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Batavia's Farmer's Market at Batavia Downs today and purchased some fresh produce following a short chat with Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau.

Earlier, Hochul visited the Holland Land Office Museum to help draw attention to this weekend's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Holland Land Office. There is a rededication ceremony planned for 11 a.m., Saturday.

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April 20, 2015 - 1:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p w minor, kathy hochul.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul made a pair of stops in Genesee County today, including a tour of p.w. minor led by owners Andrew Young and Peter Zeliff. 

The shoe manufacturing company recently received a boost from the governor's office to help move 100 jobs from China back to Batavia.

Hochul also spoke this morning at Genesee County Criminal Justice Day at Genesee Community College.

Photos submitted by p.w. minor.

September 29, 2014 - 1:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, kathy hochul.

Kathy Hochul, former congressional rep for Genesee County and current candidate for lieutenant governor of New York, stopped by the Gensee Valley Agri-Business Park this morning and met with Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, for an update on economic development efforts locally.  Hochul said once in office economic development will be one of her priorities.

September 9, 2014 - 10:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Elections, Bethany, kathy hochul.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Genesee County congressional representative Kathy Hochul have been declared the winners of the Democratic Primary race.

They also were the top choice of local Democrats.

According to Genesee County unofficial results, Cuomo beat Zephyr Teachout 427-187, with Randy A. Credico receiving 45 votes.

Hochul topped Tim Wu 505 to 156.

In the Republican Primary for supervisor in Bethany, Carl L. Hyde Jr. beat Edward F. Pietrzykowski Jr. 74 to 26.

In the primary for Independence Party delegates to the 8th Judicial District convention of the 139 Assembly District, Debra M. Buck-Leaton beat Carol A. Sheehan 14-7.

August 10, 2014 - 2:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Muckdogs, kathy hochul, batvia.

Jim Owen and Kathy Hochul at Saturday's Batavia Muckdog's game at Dwyer Stadium. 

Owen was one of Hochul's teachers in high school. Hochul is the former congressional representative for Genesee County and a current candidate for lieutenenant governor.

Photo provided by Hochul's campaign staff.

July 4, 2014 - 9:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, politics, kathy hochul.

UPDATE: Kathy Hochul at Picnic in the Park later in the day with Wayne Fuller. Photo sent to us by a third party, but originated with a member of Hochul's staff.

NOTE: You may be wondering why there are no pictures to go with Kathy Hochul's stop at the farmer's market. My camera was still set up for multiple exposures from last night's fireworks at the Muckdogs game. A fact I didn't discover until I got home. This also left me with no usable pictures from the Kiwanis 5K to benefit autism research.  

Genesee County's former congressional representative, Kathy Hochul, now running for Lieutenant Governor, said she's been craving some brownie-stuffed cookies from the Batavia Downs Farmer's Market, so Hochul said she decided to get an early start on her campaign day and drive out to Batavia.

Hochul also bought strawberries and hand-crafted chocolate.

"It's a big state and I've got to go to all four corners, but I love Genesee County and I'll be out here as often as I can," Hochul said.

After terms as Erie County County Clerk and in the House of Representatives, Hochul worked for about 18 months for M&T Bank. It was a job she said she loved and still got her out into the community, but when Gov. Andrew Cuomo called and asked her to replace Robert Duffy on the election ticket, Hochul said she was tugged by the lure of representing people in New York again.

"I realized when the call came, there was a little bit of an emptiness, that I really wanted to get back and serve people in a more direct way, so I could not have been more thrilled than to have received the call and accept this honor and start running," Hochul said.

This, she said, is what she was meant to do.

"It's not something I pushed for at all," Hochul said. "When I think it about it, it just feels right, to be back out there meeting people all over this amazing state. I love my congressional district and I love representing Upstate New York, but the opportunity to go all over the state and meet new people and see them in their environments and businesses, I just feel like this is a calling. I've always thought public service is a calling. I'm so delighted to be back in the game."

As a candidate for reelection to Congress, Hochul had won over pretty much all of the gun rights groups, campaigning as a strong advocate for the Second Amendment. Now she's working for a man who has become the most reviled politician in New York by gun rights advocates. Hochul said she doesn't believe there is a contradiction in her position then or now.

Here's her full response to that question:

I believe there is a middle ground. I know many, many gun owners. I have family members who are marksmen and who are hunters and this is part of a culture up here and people need to understand that. There's no effort to remove guns from legitimate gun owners. I think there is sometimes a hysteria that's created, but people have to understand we respect the Second Amendment, but also there are many people who understand the need for background checks. As a county clerk, I like the fact that there are background checks performed, because there are people you don't want to have guns in their hands. They could do harm to fellow citizens. I believe there is an accommodation and I believe there is a reasonable approach. The extremes on one side or the other aren't going to agree with that, but that's how I've been my entire life in public service. There's a pragmatic middle ground and if people are willing to listen to each other, we'll get to the right answer. That's where I stand.

The stop at a farmer's market reminded her a lot of her term in Congress, she said, especially representing farmers.

"It reminds me so many tours of the farms and the struggles they face, when the weather's bad and there's a flood or a drought or there's army worms," Hochul said. "They're such resilient people and to know that I'll be in a position to promote their work in a new capacity as Lieutenant Governor working with Gov. Cuomo, it's going to be great."

May 21, 2014 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul.

Genesee County's former congressional representative, Kathy Hochul, will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's running mate in the upcoming gubernatorial race, reports the Buffalo News.

Cuomo needed to find a new lieutenant governor candidate after Rochester's Robert Duffy decided not to run for reelection.

Hochul won the local congressional seat in a special election after Chris Lee's resignation, then lost to current NY-27 representative Chris Collins in November 2012.

“I don’t want to want to be on the sidelines,” she said of her bid to re-join government service. “New York State is on the move, but our work is far from finished,” she added.

February 20, 2013 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul.

Former Rep. Kathy Hochul has landed a new job. Hochul will work for M&T Bank as vice president of government relations.

From the Buffalo News:

Hochul ... will represent M&T in building relationships with local, state and federal officials, the bank said. She will work out of M&T’s headquarters in downtown Buffalo.

January 2, 2013 - 7:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul.

Rep. Kathy Hochul voted yes on the "fiscal cliff" package passed yesterday by the House. Here is her statement of support for the package:

“Like most Western New Yorkers, I was frustrated and disappointed by the inability of Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement before the December 31st deadline. Only in Washington would political leaders use the security of our families and the strength of our economy as a bargaining chip to score political points. For more than a year, I have called for a bipartisan compromise that would extend the Bush tax cuts for individuals making up to $500,000. The package before Congress tonight is a significant step in that direction. More importantly, it represents the type of compromise necessary to protect Western New York families and businesses, avoid a recession, and move our country forward. I supported this package not because it was perfect, but because it represents the best option for our country at this time.”

December 18, 2012 - 4:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-26, kathy hochul.

Press release:

During her year and a half in Congress, Representative Kathy Hochul (NY-26) worked with members of both parties on behalf of Western New York’s small businesses, middle class families, veterans, students and seniors.

“It has been an honor and privilege to represent and fight for the people of Western New York,” Hochul said.

Thanks to Hochul’s efforts, the temporary guest worker program has been streamlined and is now available electronically, saving farmers across the country time and money.

Under Hochul’s Clothe a Homeless Hero Act, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and local charities to distribute unclaimed clothing left at airport security checkpoints to homeless and needy veterans and their families. This bill passed House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by the President.

Rep. Hochul is known for working closely with constituents to answer questions, solve problems, or cut through bureaucratic red tape. Hochul secured over $1.3 million dollars for her constituents.

Hochul made it a top priority to ensure the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS) would remain in Western New York for the foreseeable future. At Hochul's invitation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited the air base in August and promised to preserve the base.

Additionally, Hochul worked to ensure that American manufacturers continue to grow, create jobs at home, and outperform foreign competition. In her manufacturing jobs plan, she advocated for investing in American workers by closing the skills gap, bringing jobs home from overseas, cracking down on unfair Chinese trade practices, spurring production of America-made energy and resources, and keeping tax dollars in America. Rep Hochul introduced a bill to create incentives for local companies to partner with colleges and universities to match education and job training with the needs of our local businesses.

Please click here to see accompanying document for further information on Rep. Hochul’s accomplishments.

November 27, 2012 - 8:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-26, kathy hochul.

Press release:

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6328, The Clothe a Homeless Hero Act, which was introduced by Rep. Kathy Hochul (NY-26). The legislation will require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and local charities to distribute unclaimed clothing left at airport security checkpoints to homeless and needy veterans and veterans’ families. The bill passed by voice vote with strong support from members of both parties.

“As cold weather approaches across much of the country, this legislation will be a greatly needed help for homeless veterans while we work to end homelessness for good. It is unconscionable that so many of our veterans are homeless, and we must support our returning heroes. I am proud that my legislation to assist veterans passed with the bipartisan support of my colleagues,” Rep. Hochul said.

“Since joining the Committee, Rep. Hochul has worked tirelessly to identify bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems, and thanks to her thoughtful leadership, the House took a small, but important, step in support of our veterans in passing H.R. 6328. We owe it to our veterans to do all that we can to ensure they get the helping hand needed to get back on their feet when they return from the battlefield.”

According to the VA, approximately 75,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and about 20,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been homeless within the last five years.

Hochul has consistently supported the needs of veterans throughout her time in Congress. She introduced the Vocational Employment and Technical Skills Act (VETS Act), which would make it easier for veterans to receive professional certification in skills they performed while members of the armed services. Rep. Hochul cosponsored additional legislation to encourage the hiring of veterans, including the Hiring Heroes Act that modernizes and improves programs to assist our veterans with the transition from service member to civilian life.

November 22, 2012 - 3:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul.

From Kathy Hochul:

This Thanksgiving Day, as we count our blessings, let us also be mindful of those brave men and women away from their families, serving overseas to protect our freedom and defend others around the world. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. I wish Western New York and the nation a safe, peaceful, and happy Thanksgiving.

November 7, 2012 - 9:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, NY-27, chris collins.

Press release from Kathy Hochul:

“Early this morning I called Chris Collins and congratulated him on being elected to Congress. I encouraged him to work across the aisle and offered to assist him in any way I can. I also volunteered to help him make a smooth transition in January to ensure our constituents are well served. Congress can do better, and the people of this country deserve better than what Washington has given them.”

November 3, 2012 - 9:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, kathy hochul, NY-27, chris collins.

A little more than a week ago, we sent seven questions to each of the candidates for NY-27 congressional seat.

The rules were:

Here are seven questions we are asking each of the candidates to answer. Answers are due by Noon, Nov. 2. We’re asking each candidate to answer the questions directly without referring to your opponent or members of the opposing party. This is about each candidates positions on these issues, not what they think about the opposing party or the opposing candidate. Please craft answers accordingly. Answers will be published verbatim in a Q&A format.

Below are the questions and the answers from Chris Collins. Though we were told to expect answers from Kathy Hochul's campaign, we have not received the answers.

What would be your top priority over the next two years to help lower the costs of medical care – if it’s even possible – in the United States?

We must repeal ObamaCare which is, in effect, a government takeover of medical care in the United States and will greatly increase the cost of medical care. ObamaCare dictates to employers what benefits to provide even if those benefits are not needed or wanted by employees. ObamaCare greatly expands Medicaid which is already out of control in New York State and in many cases consumes 100% of county property taxes. We can’t afford more. We need tort reform with a cap on medical malpractice awards. Too much medicine is defensive medicine (some say as much as 30%). Tort reform is our greatest opportunity to reduce the cost of medicine.

What is your ideal future for Medicare?

We must repeal ObamaCare which cuts $716 billion from Medicare including cuts to current seniors, including my 85-year-old Mom. ObamaCare is focused on ending Medicare Advantage by cutting payments to providers which will result in increased premiums and cuts to benefits. Well over 50% of seniors in the 27th Congressional District depend on Medicare Advantage, including my 85-year-old Mom. We should not make cuts to Medicare for seniors age 55 or over, which is why we must repeal ObamaCare. We must work together to make sure Medicare is solvent for future generations and those age 55 and under.

Should the federal tax system be changed – flat tax or consumption tax instead of income tax, or remain as it is? If an income tax, should deductions such as the home mortgage interest deduction be eliminated?

We should make the current tax code flatter and fairer. The maximum marginal tax rate should be 25% - 28% to compete with the rest of the world. We can cap itemized deductions for higher wage earners so the top 1% still pay 37% of the nation’s tax. We should not eliminate mortgage interest deductions since we want to encourage home ownership.

Would you support military action against Iran to prevent that country from obtaining either a nuclear weapon or the capability to build one?

Military action should always be a last resort but the United States cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear capabilities. All options should be on the table, but military action must be a last resort.

Genesee County needs to spend as much as $15 million on road and bridge repair in the next five years. What will you do, if anything, to help the county pay for infrastructure repair?

The federal government plays a role in infrastructure repair and should continue to do so. As Erie County Executive, I prioritized infrastructure repairs as an important piece of making the county a place where businesses wanted to locate.

What is your position on WNY STAMP? Should federal grants and subsidies be directed to that project to help bring businesses into the industrial park?

WNY STAMP is an opportunity to bring good jobs to our region. The decision should ultimately rest with the local community.

Sen. Charles Schumer supports building a section of high-speed rail through a portion of Genesee County in the area of Bergen. What is your position on this project?  

I do not support high speed rail. The United States has $16 trillion in debt and currently runs a $1 trillion yearly deficit. We are broke and the cupboards are bare.

UPDATE: We received Hochul's answers this afternoon as I was on my way to Rochester to cover the Notre Dame game, or I would have posted them several hours ago.

What would be your top priority over the next two years to help lower
the costs of medical care – if it’s even possible – in the United
States?

I am confident our country can slow, and even reverse the skyrocketing growth in health care costs.  First of all, Medicare should be allowed to negotiate with drug companies and secure lower cost prescription drugs for our seniors.  We must also look to new, innovative methods of care delivery, specifically care coordination. If different parties in the health care sector – hospitals, primary care physicians, specialists, insurance companies, etc. – all work together to coordinate patient care and ensure that everyone is on the same page, the quality of care will improve, and the cost of care will go down.  There is also great potential for reducing health care costs through the use of tele-medicine, especially in rural communities.  To make this a reality, I introduced Veterans Tele-Health legislation to ensure we save our veterans valuable time and money when while providing them with the health care they need.

What is your ideal future for Medicare?



We must ensure our seniors can continue to rely on the Medicare program they have earned and paid into their whole lives.  To keep the program viable, we must eliminate wasteful spending and lower the cost of healthcare.  That is why I introduced the Stop Medicare Fraud Act, which would dramatically increase penalties for defrauding Medicare and redirect those funds to the prosecution of fraud.   I do not support the Paul Ryan budget proposal, which would end Medicare as we know it and essentially transform Medicare into a voucher program. 

Should the federal tax system be changed – flat tax or consumption tax
instead of income tax, or remain as it is? If an income tax, should
deductions such as the home mortgage interest deduction be eliminated?



I do not support imposing a national sales tax on all Americans, and I believe that billionaires should be expected to contribute more to reducing the deficit than middle class families.  Overall, we do need a simpler tax code and must comb through the tax code line by line to make sure it is fair and encourages job creation here in America.  That is why I support ending tax breaks for Big Oil companies earning billions of dollars in profit, and why I cosponsored legislation to close tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas.

Would you support military action against Iran to prevent that country
from obtaining either a nuclear weapon or the capability to build one?



Under no circumstances can we allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and we must leave all options on the table.  In Congress, I have consistently stood with Israel and voted to strengthen crippling sanctions against Iran, sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.  I have also helped lead the fight to monitor Hezbollah's activities in the Western Hemisphere, and have pushed the European Union to formally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Genesee County needs to spend as much as $15 million on road and
bridge repair in the next five years. What will you do, if anything,
to help the county pay for infrastructure repair?



The best way to shore up finances for Genesee County and local governments in Western New York is to create a strong economic environment where jobs are being created and employers are hiring. Right now, the Greek yogurt industry is booming. To ensure New York yogurt is always made with New York milk and to boost local economic development, we need to cut red tape for dairy farmers so they can increase their production to supply the projected 15% change in demand for milk from yogurt companies. On the federal level, I’ve been advocating for increased infrastructure funding and sponsored an amendment to protect dedicated funding for rural bridge repairs when some in Congress tried to eliminate this program.

What is your position on WNY STAMP? Should federal grants and
subsidies be directed to that project to help bring businesses into
the industrial park?



Of course, land use decisions should be made by local residents -- not the federal government.  When community support for a project is strong, like it is for developments at the Agri-Business park, I support the use of targeted grants and tax incentives to encourage businesses invest in Western New York.  Ultimately, it is the private sector that creates jobs--not the government.  As your Representative, I am working to foster a better business environment that is conducive to job creation and economic growth.  To close the skills gap that holds back growth in advanced manufacturing, I have held school-to-work roundtables to partner local employers with educators.  And in Congress, I introduced legislation to provide tax breaks to businesses that manufacture in America and partner with local schools to provide students with on-the job training opportunities.

Sen. Charles Schumer supports building a section of high-speed rail
through a portion of Genesee County in the area of Bergen. What is
your position on this project?

The residents of Bergen should decide if a project of this scale is right for their community. I do believe we need targeted investments in infrastructure, including transportation, to advance our economy. To take advantage of the new economy and ensure agricultural producers can reach new markets and customers, we need to more robustly invest in all forms of transportation infrastructure, including our roads and highways, airports and runways, harbors and waterways, as well as rail systems.

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