Metzger, Gunther oppose proposed cuts in municipal aid

State Sen. Jen Metzger and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther joined several local leaders from Sullivan County at the Liberty Senior Center on Friday afternoon to oppose the state’s plan to strip most towns and villages of an annual aid stream that goes to all municipalities.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal last month would preserve the payments – known as Aid and Incentives For Municipalities, or AIM – for cities, which get much larger amounts, but end them for all towns and villages for which AIM made up less than 2 percent of their budgets. In Metzger’s 42nd Senate District, which takes in all of Sullivan County and parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties, all 19 villages and 31 of 37 towns would lose AIM.

“You can’t bleed a stone and that’s exactly what this proposal is doing,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat who took office last month, said in a statement afterward. “I served as a Town Councilwoman and previously as a Deputy Supervisor. I have a deep understanding of what every single penny we have means as a local government.”

Gunther, a Forestburgh Democrat, said the $59 million that the state would save by cutting AIM was “really a drop in the bucket” for a $170 billion state budget. “But for our rural areas this money is a lifeline,” she said. “Every penny counts.”

Gunther and Metzger were joined at the press conference by  Liberty Supervisor Brian Rourke, Liberty Mayor Ronald Stabak, Thompson Supervisor Bill Rieber, Callicoon Supervisor Tom Bose, Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Louis Alvarez and Delaware County Chamber of Commerce President Ray Pucci.

Opposition to the AIM cuts is bipartisan. Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican who took office last month, held a similar press conference at New Windsor Town Hall a week earlier with a gathering of Orange County elected officials to protest the proposal. AIM’s fate will be determined in budget negotiations between the Cuomo administration and Legislature next month.

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