Bright spots for Capital Region seen in state budget

Bright spots for Capital Region seen in state budget

New Wadsworth Lab funding approved, many programs intact despite COVID

Money for a new Wadsworth lab is in the state budget after years of trying.

Money for a new Wadsworth lab is in the state budget after years of trying.


With the broad contours of the $212 billion state budget in place, elected officials and others are sifting through some of the bright news in store for the Capital Region.

That includes a $750 million commitment to rebuild and consolidate the state’s venerable Wadsworth Center health and science labs along Brevator Avenue on the east end of the Harriman state office campus in Albany.

“It’s terrific news,” said Albany Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, who with other local legislators has sought the project for years. Of the money allocated, $150 million is for site preparation with the rest toward building the center.

Fahy stressed that the budget item doesn’t mean they can rest easy. She wants to push for an expansion of what is currently envisioned as a public sector lab complex into a science park that could accommodate private sector players, startups and possibly condominiums or some housing, which could help revitalize the city.

Indeed, there was competition over where the center would go. Rensselaer County lawmakers wanted it near the Regeneron pharmaceutical complex in East Greenbush or the State University of New York’s existing health sciences campus in Rensselaer.

Either way, the money, which has been off-again, on-again for the past several years, is an overall win for the region. Much of the existing center is along New Scotland Road in Albany. Now with money allocated, expect lawmakers and local business leaders to keep pushing to ensure the project moves ahead in a timely way.

“It’s incumbent that we actually start work on the project,” said Mark Eagan, president of the Capital Region Chamber.

There was more good newsin the budget, which was still being finalized Wednesday.

Earlier in the year, pre-budget, the companies building massive wind towers for the state’s large-scale offshore wind power project chose the Port of Albany to host a new assembly plant for the towers, which should generate 300 jobs.

Fahy and others are now pushing to insert “Made in America” clauses regarding the guts of the wind turbines, currently made mostly in Europe. And the 2021-22 budget also includes some references, albeit vague, about domestic sourcing.

Other items have remained in place, despite early fears the pandemic or changing politics would gut them.

Funding for Regional Economic Development Councils, which play a proportionately larger role upstate, has remained in the budget, despite fears that a new state Senate Democratic majority, in which New York City area lawmakers have an expanded role, would cut such items.

And the approximately $1 billion in small business COVID-19 relief will be welcome in all corners of the state, although it remains to be seen how accessible and simple it is to use, said Saratoga County Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner.

Woerner was also happy with a $40 million line to help small arts organizations, of which there are many in the region.

Officials in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County were relieved to see that video lottery terminal aid was restored, allowing the city to receive $2.325 million and the county, $775,198, for hosting video gambling.

“This is very important for both the city of Saratoga Springs and the county,” said Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chair Todd Kusnierz. “But it’s especially important to the (city) with the ongoing fiscal challenges they are seeing there. That was a win for us.”

Kusnierz was also happy the county received $185,000 for a mentoring program that provides support for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other challenges.

Also significant to Saratoga County was the agreement between Rivers Casino & Resort and the Saratoga Harness Horseperson's Association. The budget initially allowed the casino to defer its purse payments to the horse owners who trot at the Saratoga Casino and Hotel track. That was scrapped and the casino, which has not supported racing with any payments for more than a year, will start paying all the money owed to the association this month.

Albany city officials noted a $12 million spending line in addition to their usual Aid and Incentives for Municipalities money.

At the University of Albany, researchers at the Center of Excellence in Weather and Climate Analytics saw their annual state funding rise from $250,000 to $800,000.

“This is fantastic news because it significantly increases the capacity of the COE to take on new projects and expand more fully into new industry sectors like transportation and agriculture,” said spokesman Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.

Contributing: Pete DeMola, Kenneth Crowe II and Steve Hughes