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Clinton County Legislature Chair Mark Henry adds new position as president of the New York State Association of County Board Chairs

Clinton County Legislature Chair Mark Henry
Pat Bradley
Clinton County Legislature Chair Mark Henry

The Clinton County Legislature held its organizational meeting last week and legislators voted to keep Area 3 Republican Mark Henry as chair. First elected to the Legislature in 2018, he was reelected to a four-year term in November. This will be his fifth term as chair.

Mark Henry has also been appointed President of the New York State Association of County Board Chairs. Henry spoke with WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley about the two positions, starting with his priorities for the county legislature:

There's a few things as you might expect. In broad terms, we are going to be concentrating on economic development. We want to ensure that we have that project going out at the Clinton County Business Innovation Gateway, the C-BIG project out there. We want to see that go forward. We obviously will start working on next year's budget in a few months. So we want to continue the process of making sure we have a stable tax, rate stable tax levies for businesses and people to plan on. So the budget is always a big part. We have companies like BETA (Technologies) that just recently received $40 million for expansions. We want to continue in that vein. We want to increase the enhanced passenger services at our airport. So it's some of the things that have always been out there, and we want to continue them. Obviously, we want to increase tourism to our area from all over. That has a huge impact on things like sales tax, which helps to control property taxes for our owners. So those are the broad-brush areas we'll be looking forward to in this coming year.


Mark Henry, stepping back for a second to the budget. Were ARPA funds ever a factor for the county budget, especially since a lot of communities are seeing those funds disappear now?


Yes, they were. You know, ARPA funds come with strings attached so you can't use them for anything you want to. But we used our ARPA funds wisely. We have used those. They are a part of your budget. So we absolutely used those.


Now, in the organizational meeting for the county legislature it looks like there were no changes to leadership positions regarding the majority and the minority leaders. Do you have any committee changes planned? I believe you are planning to dole them out fairly soon?


Well, I will have completed those in a few days. So I haven't even completed it yet so as far as changes go I haven't started that process. But as you correctly pointed out at the Chair, Vice Chair and the Democratic leader and the Republican leader there are no changes there. I expect there will be few changes on the committee assignments. But again, to be fair, I haven't even delved into that yet.


What does that mean for the stability of the legislature and the priorities as you move forward?


Well, I think it says a lot for the stability of the legislature. We pride ourselves on having a bipartisan legislature that tries to find common grounds. And consensus of the things that I talked about have been part of the legislative process for a couple of years now. And they will continue to be and I expect that they will receive broad support across the legislature.


Mark Henry, you are now also president of the New York State Association of County Board Chairs. What does that group do?


Well that group, the association as you correctly refer to it as, is an affiliate of NYSAC, New York State Association of Counties. And what that board does is it represents all of the board chairs and all of the counties across New York State. And working with NYSAC, in fact we're looking forward very much to working with NYSAC and the Executive Director Stephen Acquario and the President of NYSAC Dan McCoy and their outstanding staff. They have an outstanding staff that we're looking forward to that. And again, it's for the counties across New York State and the legislative chairs to find areas of common ground, consensus, that we can bring forward to the state of New York with NYSAC on issues that affect all of the counties across New York state.


So you've been on the board for a while. What sorts of common issues have the Association of County Board Chairs moved forward in the past and what sorts of things do you think we'll move forward in 2024?


Sure. You know, one of the things that's always across whether you're a county legislator as I am or with the association, that I am now proud to represent, is one of the large things, what everybody would call or refer to as unfunded mandates. The shifting of any new cost onto the counties is a burden on the folks that will be most hurt by that with a regressive property tax. So any costs that are shifted by the state through unfunded mandates to the counties affect our property tax in our area and that's one issue we're always concerned about. The other issue is the Medicaid, what was referred to as eFMAP, a federal system for Medicaid. We feel that the state owes all of the counties, not just Clinton County all of the counties, about a billion dollars. And we'd like to talk to the state of New York about that billion dollars and having that sent out to the county, because obviously, that has a tremendous impact on Medicaid. The last FMAP deal that we had, eFMAP deal, we had last year. You may remember when we talked about it, that was about a $1.2 million cost to Clinton County. And that all adds up. So we'll be looking at those two issues. I think the other one that will be a topic of discussion is Airbnb’s and having the ability to tax Airbnb’s. I think we need to level the playing field for hotels. Obviously hotels, motels, pay tax on what they're doing. We think leveling the playing field through this for Airbnb’s is also something that would be considered, should be considered. And again, we're looking for areas of consensus across the counties of New York on this.


You said that you work closely with the New York State Association of Counties, that the Association of County Board Chairs is affiliated with it.


That’s right.


How big a help is the Association of Counties as you try to move those issues forward?


Oh, they're a huge help. I mean, New York, NYSAC, I've been a member of NYSAC now since I've been on the legislature. And that is a key organization of getting anything done as far as moving on up through to the legislature, to the governor. They have tremendous impact. They have tremendous advocacy. They have a wealth of experience. As I said earlier, they have an outstanding staff. So it is critical that that our organization of board chairs work with and through NYSAC.


And how have you seen the New York State Association of County Board Chairs benefit Clinton County because, you know, what you've talked about is for the entire state? But have you seen it benefit Clinton County as you've been on that board?


We're looking forward to those issues I talked about and working with NYSAC, that we will have some impact on them and we can have some success. And obviously anything that benefits all of the counties in New York State would benefit Clinton County as well.


The 10-member Clinton County Legislature is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Chair Mark Henry will serve a one-year term leading the New York State Association of County Board Chairs.