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Assembly leader: expect deal for legal marijuana in 2021

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - The leader of Republicans in the state Assembly expects a deal for legalized marijuana in 2021.

“I think it will, but I thought it was gonna get done last year,” Will Barclay of Pulaski told 7 News Wednesday.

“There’s still back and forth but I suspect this year, this will actually get done. I think it just got pushed off because of COVID last year.”

The legislature reconvenes in Albany in January.

Governor Cuomo said in November he expects the legislature to finally legalize marijuana in the upcoming legislative session because the state needs the money.

New York faces a budget gap of billions of dollars in 2021 because of COVID.

Barclay, who was re-elected to the Assembly in November, and was just selected once again to lead the Republican minority in the Assembly, said unless the federal government steps in with billions in aid money, “tough decisions” on spending will have to be made.

“We’re facing a substantial deficit, we’re going to have to cut spending somewhere. It’s just a hard fact of life. It’s what’s gonna happen,” he said.

Barclay believes there are areas of state spending which can be cut to help make up the budget gap.

For one, he would change how the state supplies aid to local schools so that rich school districts get less.

“Right now it funds a lot of high wealth school districts, and the low wealth school districts probably don’t get appropriate funding,” Barclay said.

“If we had a more equitable school aid formula, we wouldn’t have to pump as much money into school aid each year.”

Barclay is very much a traditional, tax cutting, limited government Republican, who believes New York overtaxes and over regulates business.

He is staunchly opposed to efforts by some Democrats to help close the budget gap with a so-called millionaire’s tax.

“All these policies do have an impact on New York and you can’t continue to say ‘We’re gonna raise taxes.’ My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are pushing for a ‘millionaire’s tax,’ and I think that’s a bad idea,” he said.

But he makes a point to say he wants to work with Assembly Democrats. Republicans last held a majority in the Assembly in 1974, so they need the cooperation of Democrats to get any legislation passed.

“I’m always open to work with people. I’m gonna point out on policy where I think we have differences, but just because we have differences doesn’t mean we can’t work together in a collaborative manner.”

One thing he thinks Democrats and Republicans can unite around: clawing back some of the emergency powers Governor Cuomo has assumed during the COVID crisis.

“One person, right now, is really running state government,” Barclay said.

“It seems like to we have to get back to where we have back and forth. Listen, I’m in the minority and I’m saying that, but you would think those particularly in the majority would want to take back some of their powers too.”

Republicans are relatively powerless in Albany - Democrats now firmly control both the Assembly and state Senate (and Governor Cuomo’s a Democrat) - but Barclay said they can still accomplish things.

He cited the state’s controversial bail reform law, which Republicans complained about loudly, and which ultimately was changed.

“We did get reform. We wanted to get repeal, but at least we got very important reforms,” Barclay said.

“So it’s not like we’re sitting down here and we can’t get things done. We do have a bit of a soaapbox. We can push a policy agenda.”

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