Tier VI is complete.  Redistricting – done.  Casino gambling? check.  In a rare Albany moment, some of the biggest sticking points in this year’s budget debate were hammered out.  That leaves the rest of the budget to be negotiated fairly easily, and in turn, forces advocacy groups on both sides to scramble to make sure their issue, whatever that may be, is addressed before a potentially early (!!!) budget is passed.  We here at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership have two regionally transformative initiatives pending in the budget; Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hydro-power Proceeds.

Roswell Park stands among Buffalo Niagara’s greatest assets and success stories and is one of our building blocks for future economic growth.  Roswell’s national recognition as one of just 40 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers draws patients, faculty, clinical, administrative, and research staff to our region each year, and, it continues to save lives every day.  Surrounding all that, however, is a significantly changing health-care policy and financing environment at both the state and federal levels.  Thus, leadership from Roswell Park, the Partnership, University at Buffalo, and the region’s principal hospitals and health plans have agreed there is a need for Roswell to move beyond its current status as a public benefit corporation to become principal institution of a world-class “Academic Medical Center” on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  Amidst early discussions to make that happen, the Governor’s 2012-2013 budget established a hard deadline of March 31, 2014 – merely 24 months from now – for the end of state funding for Roswell and for it to complete a transformation.

While there’s merit to the Governor’s proactive position, his is an  “impossible deadline” which threatens Roswell’s reaccreditation and limits the institution’s impact and potential – think recruitment, construction, commercial development, treatment, and research.  We’re committed to building on Roswell’s world-class patient care, research, and education for the health and growth of the Buffalo Niagara economy.  We’ve called on Governor Cuomo to remove the date-specific deadline.

Our other issue is a hydro-power Proceeds legislation we helped craft that could have a positive impact on other areas of Upstate NY.  Essentially, the 30 mile radius from NYPA’s Lewiston Power Plant is guaranteed low cost hydro-power for economic development.  When that dedicated power isn’t used, be it lack of demand, lulls in a business’ activity, delays in a new business dealing with New York’s red tape (that’s for another post…), the power is sold on the open market.  In years past, the proceeds from that sale has been used at-will by NYPA for projects – some good, some bad – all over New York State, but mostly downstate.  We fought to keep that money within the 30 mile radius, and in August 2010, legislation was passed that stopped NYPA from spending it.  The problem is that a flaw in the legislation meant NO ONE could spend it, so for the past two years that money has been adding up – over $13 million right now.  That’s $13 million that could be used to expand businesses and create jobs, recruit new businesses, invest in infrastructure for a business park, revamp a company’s energy efficiency, and so on.  $13 million that doesn’t need to navigate the red tape of Albany and its many agencies.  $13 million that is dedicated to Buffalo Niagara, and its implementation is decided by people from Buffalo Niagara, not downstate interests.   And it’s an endless supply – as long as NYPA is producing power and selling unused power, there will be Proceeds.  Legislation addressing that flaw is on the cusp of getting into the budget, and we are working overtime to ensure it is included.

So why is this important to Upstate New York versus just the Buffalo Niagara region?  NYPA also has a hydro-power plant on the St. Lawrence River in Massena, and our friends in Northern New York have a similar arrangement for low cost hydro-power dedicated to the businesses in the North Country.  State legislators from Northern New York have supported our efforts thus far, and have indicated they look forward to a similar plan for the Massena Power Plant’s hydro-power proceeds.  We in Buffalo Niagara would love to see our Proceeds bill be the template for the North Country, as the dollars from both Lewiston and Massena’s hydro-power sales should stay in their regions, and be invested in the Upstate economy.  As budget negotiations draw to a close in Albany, we anxiously await word that our efforts were successful as well as working with our counterparts across Upstate in working to grow and improve the Upstate economy.