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Cuomo awash in controversy over milk cups

By MARY ESCH Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The governor is finding out that, in politics, something as simple as a 25-cent cup of milk can turn sour fast.

Just last summer, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was hailed as a hero for stepping in with a state subsidy to prevent a price hike to 50 cents for the popular cups of white and chocolate milk at the New York State Fair's beloved Milk Bar, which for generations has been a shrine to the state's dairy industry complete with life-size people sculpted in butter.

But only half of the expected subsidy came through, and the nonprofit that's been operating the Milk Bar on the Syracuse fairgrounds for 64 years announced it's pulling out and putting the blame squarely on Cuomo, saying it will only consider returning "if Cuomo is no longer governor."

"Our group will lie dormant for the next 24 months to see if there is a change of administration in 2019," Gary Raiti, president of New York State Dairy Exhibits Inc., told the group's members in a recent letter.

Dairy Exhibits, which has kept the 7-ounce cups of milk at 25 cents since 1983, has long said it can't pay its bills at that price.

Before the fair kicked off its 13-day end-of-summer run last year, state agriculture officials briefly approved the price hike to 50 cents.

But when public objections over the hike were raised, Cuomo nixed it and promised $90,000 to help with expenses. A fair spokesman confirmed the state provided only about half that amount by putting the dairy building's employees on the state payroll.

With the state refusing a milk price hike or larger subsidy, Raiti said his organization is severing ties with the state and selling off the dairy building's equipment.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

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