I am pleased to report that, for the second consecutive year, New York's budget is on-time - in fact, the spending plan was adopted early for the first time since 1983 - fiscally responsible and makes long-term investments in job creation, economic development and education, while bringing us another step closer to a more streamlined state government. All of these are goals that I have long supported and fought to make happen. After years of dysfunction and gridlock, it was good to achieve real progress at our State Capitol on behalf of hard-working taxpayers.
STATE BUDGET CONTAINS MANY PRIORITIES I FOUGHT FOR: SPENDING RESTRAINT, NO NEW TAXES OR FEES, STEP TOWARD MEDICAID REFORM, LONG-TERM INVESTMENTS IN EDUCATION
The following are some highlights from the 2012-13 State Budget, many of which are long-time priorities I have led the fight for, such as no new taxes or fees, spending restraint, long-term investments in education and important steps toward Medicaid mandate relief. Specifically, here is what the enacted State Budget does:
Holds the line on spending - spending is expected to come in at 2percent, which mirrors my State Spending Cap proposal;
Closes a projected $3.5 billion budget deficit, this is on top of last year's budget that closed a $10 billion deficit;
Second year in a row for an on-time State Budget;
"NY Works" program to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, create jobs;
Phased-in State takeover of the growth of local Medicaid costs;
No new taxes or fee increases;
$220 million for continuation of Regional Economic Development Councils to implement their plans and provide a second round of awards;
$20.3 billion in School Aid, an $805 million increase, with most of that going to high needs school districts across the state;
Extra $31 million for Community Colleges, $30 million for SUNY2020 Challenge Grants;
$89 million to fix our State Parks; and
State Agency mergers and consolidations, such as consolidating the State Division of Lottery with Racing and Wagering.
PROUD TO HELP FIX THE PROCESS - BUT MORE WORK REMAINS BECAUSE ALBANY LACKS TRANSPARENCY, IS STILL TOO SECRETIVE
I am very proud of my contributions - such as insisting on following the Budget Reform Act of 2007 and convening Joint Budget Conference Committees in public, while holding the line on spending and against tax hikes - that laid the groundwork for this year's early budget success.
However, in terms of achieving 100 percent transparency and ending secrecy, Albany definitely remains a "work in progress." There is still too much secrecy and not enough transparency at the State Capitol. I will keep working for more openness, transparency and accountability.
SMART SOLUTIONS I OFFERED TO MAKE A BETTER BUDGET
For its many good points, I believe the budget needed a sharper focus on easing the crushing squeeze on families, lifting the burden on taxpayers, growing the private sector and removing regulatory roadblocks to job creation. To make this happen, our Conference offered 15 "Smart Solutions" that would have made this budget better. Our smart solutions, offered as amendments to the budget bills, included:
Repealing the 18-A Utility Assessment to cut electricity bills for families and job creators;
Placing a moratorium on unfunded mandates to prevent local property tax hikes;
Enacting a true State Spending Cap to ensure future budgets limit spending growth;
Suspending the State's Sales Tax on gasoline;
Freezing the entire local share of Medicaid costs;
Eliminating the Wage Theft Prevention Act's annual notice requirement;
Reducing the tax rate for manufacturers by 50 percent;
Providing aid to school districts for costs incurred from annual teacher evaluations;
Exempting child car seats from State Sales Tax;
Enacting the Small Business Relief Act to reduce the tax rate, lower energy costs and provide other savings to job creators;
Repealing the MTA Payroll Tax;
Making the 2011 Middle Class Tax Cut permanent;
Expanding the NY Works youth employment program to all communities statewide;
Eliminating the Unemployment Insurance Assessment on employers; and
Ensuring fair and bi-partisan representation on the NYS Gaming Commission.
While our smart solutions did not make the final cut for the State Budget, issues such as job creation, economic development, delivering unfunded mandate relief and cutting costs for families must be front and center on the Assembly's agenda for the remainder of session. There is still much to do before we deliver the New York State that taxpayers deserve.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.