By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Funding to protect military installations in New York from possible closure is being sought by Republican lawmakers from the Hochul administration and Democratic counterparts in Albany.
On Friday, the state’s GOP senators wrote to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, asking that $5 million be put in the budget for the Military Base Retention and Research program.
The Republicans noted that they inserted funding in the budget while holding the majority from 2012 to 2018. That stopped when Democrats took over.
“This one-party-rule trend of not providing critical funding to protect and retain our military bases in New York must end this year,” Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said in a statement. “Not only would new funds strengthen our national defense, but current and former military bases are also important economic engines for New York communities. That is why it is paramount that we include new base retention funding in this year’s state budget.”
Sen. Ortt and supporters for the state’s military posts held a press conference Friday calling for the funds at the Niagara Falls International Airport, which also serves as home to an air reserve station.
Lawmakers and the Hochul administration are currently negotiating the fiscal year budget. The state constitution calls for its passage by April 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
According to the Military OneSource website operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, there are a dozen military installations in the state. That includes Fort Drum, located about 70 miles north of Syracuse, Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The federal government established a Base Realignment and Closure Commission nearly 35 years ago to remove the politics from decisions regarding which bases, posts and installations should be closed. Between 1988 and 2005, the last time the government announced closures, more than 350 installations were closed.
Advocates for the state’s military communities say they need to be prepared to protect their installations against future cuts.
“We appreciate the fact that the past few years have been difficult for everyone, and we appreciate that our local municipalities have continued their financial support during this time,” said John Cooper, chairman of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, which works to support the Niagara Falls Reserve Air Station in the western part of the state. “We now need the state of New York to consider funding us and the military affairs advocates across the state of New York again.”
A message to the Hochul administration was not immediately returned on Monday afternoon.