ALBANY – In the wake of continuing anger by gun owners over his new restrictions on gun ownership, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is offering a fig leaf to hunters: cheaper state licenses.
The governor on Wednesday announced a drop in the annual hunting license from $29 to $22. People who fish will see their state license fee drop from $29 to $25 and the license will be good for 365 days, instead of just the season in which one was obtained.
The plan will be included in 30-day amendments to the governor’s 2013 state budget plan, which will be unveiled today. Cuomo is also due in Buffalo today for an 11 a.m. appearance at City Honors School as part of his statewide tour promoting his budget proposals.
Cuomo, who has seen his popularity dip in part because of the state’s new gun control law, has been insisting for weeks that his goal is not to harm law-abiding hunters. He repeatedly has noted how he owns a shotgun and has hunted. On Wednesday he suggested dropping the fees has nothing to do with the new gun control law, but was a problem that came to his attention two years ago.
“This is big business for the state,” Cuomo said of the $8.1 billion fishing and hunting industry in New York. Nearly three million people have hunting and/or fishing licenses in the state.
The plan also streamlines the “somewhat bizarre” system of licenses with different combinations and fees depending on the specific type of hunting or fishing activity. Nonresident hunting licenses also will drop, from $140 annually to $100.
Under criticism from the federal government, the Cuomo administration also is agreeing to pay more for Medicaid expenses for programs to treat people with developmental disabilities. Washington has complained that New York for years has essentially overbilled the federal government for certain Medicaid expenses. State Budget Director Robert Megna said the state will now pay $500 million more in the coming year to pay the correct funding level and change a formula the state has used for more than 20 years.
“It’s been an ongoing dispute. This would basically reconcile the rate to the level the federal government believes is appropriate,” Cuomo said. About $120 million of the amount will come from cuts from the state agency that cares for developmentally disabled people.
On another front, the budget amendments also will include a plan to require certain gas stations in “strategic” locations to be pre-wired to be able to run generators in an emergency. The plan, paid for with federal money, will reimburse station owners up to $10,000 for the pre-wiring; they then must be able to secure a generator within 24 hours of an emergency to ensure the flow of gasoline does not come to a grinding halt, as it did downstate during Hurricane Sandy. The purchase or rental of a generator, if an emergency is declared, must be covered by the gas station.
Howard Glaser, Cuomo’s state operations director, said the plan will affect about 6,000 gas stations that are located in hurricane evacuation routes or within a half-mile of any highway exit. The pre-wiring is needed so that generators could be more quickly installed in an emergency. The plan also would affect all new gas stations regardless of location.