Governor Andrew Cuomo; AP Photo
By Jon Campbell and Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed 12 bills and vetoed 18 others late Monday, rejecting legislation that would have directed unclaimed bottle deposits to the Environmental Protection Fund and allowed Catskill Off-Track Betting to operate in New York City.
Cuomo, a Democrat, also signed a bill creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, a new oversight body that will watch over the state's care of the developmentally disable and mentally ill.
In his veto message for the bottle-deposit bill, Cuomo said the fund is a priority for his administration, but any funding decisions should be made in the state budget, not separately. The bill would have gradually directed $56 million in bottle deposits to the Environmental Protection Fund, a $134 million pool of state grants provided for improvements to parks, environmental infrastructure, green spaces and other programs.
"I am committed to finding additional ways to strengthen the EPF and will work with the Legislature to do so," Cuomo wrote.
Environmental groups expressed disappointment with Cuomo's veto.
"We certainly hope the governor will announce a renewed commitment to environmental programs, including the Environmental Protection Fund, in his Executive Budget," said Rob Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.
The bill extending the Catskill region to include New York City is a reaction to the city's Off-Track Betting facilities' closure in December 2010.
Cuomo's veto said a business plan to implement this proposal was not extended.
"I am sensitive to potential opportunities to re-employ a portion of the individuals who lost positions due to the failure of New York City OTB," he wrote. "But continuing such gambling expansion on a piecemeal basis is irrational and inconsistent with the manner agreed upon to regulate gambling in New York State."
Cuomo faced a midnight deadline to act on the bills.