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LI would lose $15M in state aid in Cuomo's proposed budget

At his State of the State address in Albany on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talked about his $6 billion plans to transform the Long Island Rail Road. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

ALBANY — Long Island municipalities would lose at least $15 million in state aid under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2019-20 budget plan unveiled Tuesday.

The governor’s proposal to disqualify certain towns and villages from receiving money from a program called “Aid and Incentives for Municipalities” was one of a small number of Long Island-specific initiatives in the governor’s plan.

Among others, the governor called for continuing the cleanup of the Bethpage plume; spending $3.6 million more on the state’s shellfish restoration program; omitting Suffolk Off-Track Betting from gambling places that might offer sports betting; and finally increasing Nassau OTB’s share of revenue from video slot machines at Aqueduct Race Track.

Long Island towns and villages would lose at least $10 million in funding through a cut in the aid to the municipalities program, documents show. The Cuomo administration said it no longer wanted to provide the aid to communities where it covered less than 2 percent of expenditures in 2017. It said such communities didn’t need the aid.

All towns and villages on Long Island would stop getting this funding, except for Lindenhurst, Island Park, Manorhaven, Massapequa Park, South Floral Park and Williston Park, according to budget documents.

State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) called the cut a “dangerous proposal.”

“Even though some of these villages and municipalities may have a wealthier base, that doesn’t mean the state revenues are not very important to them,” Boyle said. “It’s a matter of equity and fairness that Long Island villages get their fair share, too.”

One proposal tucked into the budget allows the number of video slot machines at Aqueduct that are specifically earmarked for Nassau OTB to increase from 505 to 1,000. Two years ago, Nassau OTB sold its authority to run 1,000 machines in the county to Aqueduct in a $43 million deal. The number of machines earmarked for Nassau has gradually increased since then, giving the county a bigger share of slots revenue, and will reach the maximum 1,000 this year.

But the Island will miss out on sports betting under Cuomo’s budget. He proposed allowing sports betting only at the state’s upstate casinos — permitting it anywhere else would require a constitutional amendment, an administration official said.

Still, some lawmakers questioned the strategy.

“Doing it at small number of locations in one part of the state is a strange approach,” said Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square). “The upstate casinos thought they would be an economic development driver. Several are in major economic trouble. Maybe he sees this as something that might help them.”

Cuomo said the state will remediate the Grumman plume in Bethpage, where the Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman researched, tested and manufactured airplanes and equipment from the 1930s and 1990s. The state would later recoup their cleanup costs through a lawsuit, Cuomo said.

“We've been talking for decades. Grumman doesn't want to pay; the Navy doesn't want to pay,” Cuomo said. “Let us say we'll do the remediation and then we're going to sue you to get the money back, but we have to keep our people safe.”

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