To the Editor:
Crafting this year’s state budget was extremely difficult because we found ourselves with a $17.7 billion budget gap – the largest ever in state history. Part of the fiscal challenge we face is the $12 billion in anticipated revenue based on annual growth that simply evaporated. We could not have predicted the magnitude of the financial collapse on Wall Street or foreseen the billions that unexpectedly left our state’s treasury. The lost revenue is what the state relies on to fund schools and hospitals, and to balance the budget.
I want to thank the residents for the numerous letters, phone calls and e-mails they sent regarding issues in the budget. I also want to thank the many residents who attended the local budget meetings I held. Your input was invaluable and helped shape a budget with better choices.
This year’s budget process was not a perfect one, but I can assure you your collective voices were heard. In addition to the testimony gathered by the Assembly in open, public budget hearings held in January and February, I was continually involved in the budget process as I made your input known at meetings, hearings and in budget correspondence.
- enacted more recurring spending cuts than any other budget in the history of our state – over $6 billion in cuts. That’s on top of the largest mid-year spending cuts ever made – something I voted in favor of last fall and again in February;
- rejected $2.1 billion in nuisance taxes that would have burdened working families – including rejecting higher taxes on gas, clothes and haircuts;
- replaced these taxes on working families by having the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share. By reforming our tax system, a family earning $40,000 a year will no longer pay the same tax rate as a family earning $4 million;
- blocked the cut to the Tuition Assistance Program, stopped the year-to-year cut to school aid and reversed the cut to SUNY/CUNY;
- preserved EPIC for seniors and guaranteed there are no health recipient cuts this year; and
- preserved $3.5 billion to continue STAR property tax relief.
An important part of the budget process for a number of years has been the meeting of joint Budget Conference Committees to reconcile policy differences between the Senate and Assembly. In fact, I was a strong supporter of the comprehensive budget reform legislation of 2007 that codified this practice. The Conference Committees are convened when different versions of legislation pass both houses as a way to come to agreement on the language of the bill. I have participated in these proceedings, and believe it is a good process. However, Conference Committees were not needed this year because the Assembly and Senate did not have different legislation and were able to pass the same bills in both houses.
This year’s budget was based on tough decisions made during a harsh economy. With your input, the Assembly was able to pass the budget on-time with virtually all the budget bills aging the three full days required before voting – ensuring the public and legislators have time to review the legislation.
As always, you can call my office with any questions you may have about this year’s budget at (718) 498-8681. Once again, thank you for your participation in the budget process.
Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr.
Member of Assembly