The governorís State of the State address sounded the right note of optimism, but we have to be cautious of what the governor says in his speeches. Often, his words bear little resemblance to his actions the rest of the year.
Last year, he repeatedly pledged to not propose any new "job-killing taxes," only to turn around and call for $6.7 billion in new taxes and fees, including the largest property tax hike in state history and a 31 percent hike in the state sales tax.
Three of the biggest issues facing Suffolk County residents are education, health care and taxes. While the governor claims to care about these issues, his rhetoric and actions donít always match up. We will know more about the governorís plan for New York when he releases his budget proposal later this month.
Governorís commitment to education in question
In his State of the State address, the governor failed to include any specific details regarding the court ruling that ordered the state to find a fairer school funding formula. In fact, the commission he appointed to study the issue wonít even release its report until March Ė two months after the governor delivers his budget proposal.
Last year, the governor released a budget that would have cut $19 million from schools in our community Ė schools that struggle with too few teachers and overcrowded classrooms. This year, Iím skeptical of his commitment to high-need school districts like Brentwood, Central Islip and Bay Shore.
Higher health care fees not the solution
Time and time again, the governor says that he wants to protect health care. But last year, his health care cuts hurt our most vulnerable population Ė senior citizens. The governorís budget proposal rolled back prescription benefits enacted only three years ago; increased fees up to $330 and deductibles up to $1,887 in the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program; doubled co-payments for generic drugs under the Medicaid program; and created new co-payments for Medicaid managed care.
Local tax relief needed
The governor discussed the need to hold down taxes, but he failed to mention that itís his proposals that have made the local tax burden worse.
His education cuts would have meant record property tax hikes. The governor also proposed the largest sales tax increase in state history and wanted to freeze STAR benefits that save Suffolk County homeowners an average of $860 a year.
The Legislature succeeded in righting most of the governorís wrongs in his budget proposal last year. Iím hopeful that this year, the Assembly, the Senate and the governor can work together to create a budget that respects the priorities and protects the things important to New Yorkers. I will be working hard toward that important goal.