Several hundred representatives from businesses throughout Herkimer County attended the Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative breakfast Friday morning at the Knights Inn of Little Falls to gain a better understanding of what the future holds for the county.
County Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono said Herkimer County has managed to stay debt free and plans to remain that way in the future. “By staying free of debt the county has continued to provide services for the area while reducing costs,” he said.
Bono highlighted the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency which awards numerous grants to local businesses. “The Herkimer County IDA has helped to serve and expand the local agriculture industry. We’re seeing a new influx with the yogurt industry and through the grant funded program the agriculture business is beginning to thrive,” he said.
“Through Cornell Operative Extension the Office of the Aging is also recreating its Meals on Wheels program to offer fresh meals made from local area farms,” he added.
The future of Remington Arms is a concern for many and Bono reassured those in attendance the county would continue to fight and provide support for the factory.
“Remington Arms has a $150 million impact on Herkimer County. The factory provides 1,300 people with jobs, as well as over 20 million ancillary jobs in the community that rely on the company. We’re not about to lose those jobs,” he said, adding Herkimer County was among the first counties in New York state to pass a resolution calling for the repeal of the SAFE Act.
“The SAFE ACT is an incredibly flawed law that makes police and honest gun owners criminals,” said state Senator Hugh Farley, R - Schenectady. “The law has the best shot of being turned down in court since it could be declared unconstitutional. We’re going to try to do everything our very best to keep this law from going through.”
During a question answer session officials commented on several topics including the possible increase of minimum wage and the possibility of additional power lines.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said he is in favor of increasing minimum wage to $9 an hour.
“Currently, the average $7.25 an hour minimum wage worker brings home about $15,000 a year, which is hardly enough to live off,” said Brindisi, D - Utica. “Over two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women and in a situation where a women has been provided for some time by her counterpart and gets a divorce, they have to look to minimum wage jobs to provide for their family. Right now because of the economy a minimum wage job may be the only type of work available.”
Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney said she doesn’t believe the minimum wage should be increased.
“If the minimum wage goes up to $9 an hour, that 24 percent index increase is going to impact the smallest business and the hardest workers, farmers. The government is only going to hurt the little guy the most by making this change,” said Tenney, R - New Hartford.
Page 2 of 2 - State Senator James Seward, R - Oneonta, said a better way to go about fixing the issue of minimum wage is to get rid of the indexing and go back to a training rate.
Congressman Richard Hanna agreed with Seward.
“I understand that minimum wage is not enough to live off of, but I’m not in favor of raising minimum wage to $9. It’s too high,” said Hanna, R - Barneveld.
Herkimer County Legislator Peter Mano asked the panel how they felt about the possibility of power lines extending through Herkimer County to feed power to downstate.
“Personally I don’t have a problem with allowing more power line into the area as long as it does not effect the cost of power or ruin the land,” said Brindisi.
Hanna said he is in favor of the Keystone power line project out West.
“We need to look for new ways to grow and if we always become our own enemy we will deny any opportunity to progress. We need to be thoughtful and logical and realize what’s going on in the rest of the world,” he said. “We need to work together to upgrade and move forward.”
Herkimer County Board of Elections Commissioner Kathleen Farber commented on the possibility of an early vote, stating the unfunded mandate makes no sense and will only add to county costs.
“I do not understand why the government feels they should make this costly change. A better approach would be to look at streamlining the absentee ballot and change the criteria. People who need to vote can request a ballot and we wouldn’t have to come up with a new process,” said Seward.