The one-house budget resolution put forth by the Assembly majority contains several provisions which would enhance the quality of life for our residents and New Yorkers in general. However, their proposal is, in general, a failure on nearly every issue of importance.
There are vital restorations in the proposal left out of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget, including $1.2 million for the NY Farm Viability Institute, $3.5 million for Soil and Water Conservation Districts, $8.5 million for the Neighborhood Preservation Program and $3.5 million for the Rural Preservation Program. The correct decision also was made to decrease the School District Management Efficiency and Performance Improvement Grants in favor of allocating the bulk of the education funding to School Foundation Aid. Unfortunately, the good news ends there.
The Assembly majority is once again attempting to trample our Second Amendment rights by including micro-stamping in their budget proposal. The only thing this ineffective measure will accomplish is to hamper the rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens.
In addition, our seniors are ignored in this proposal, since the majority chose not to address EPIC. Far too many seniors are facing massive out-of-pocket expenses for their prescription drugs, forcing them to choose between putting food on the table or purchase medication essential to their survival. A restoration of EPIC funds would ease this very real burden on seniors and significantly lower their co-payments.
Shrinking the size of state government remains a major concern, and, once again, the majority has dropped the ball. Their budget removes all the state agency mergers proposed in Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget while mandating an additional $130 million for statewide Regional Councils, “economic development” money better spent by the taxpayers who earned it.
A glaring omission in the majority’s one-house budget proposal is pension reform. Tier V, the last major reform of the public retirement system, failed to correct the increasing financial strain New York’s public employee pensions have placed on our local governments. A new Tier VI proposal would have greatly eased this burden by eliminating the rampant abuse of overtime while maintaining the financial flexibility our communities require. Current workers and retirees would see no change in their pensions, as Tier VI would only introduce changes in retirement age and the defined contribution plan to future state employees. Without reform, our schools and local governments will be staring down bankruptcy in the near future.
Pension reform is just one of the many unfunded state mandates unaddressed in the Assembly’s one-house budget proposal. For example, controlling the cost of Medicaid, the largest of the unfunded mandates, is still necessary. These costs are only going to grow as Medicaid caseloads increase, with our counties struggling to pay for other essential services. Governor Cuomo’s inclusion of my conference’s plan in his budget to cap the county share of Medicaid growth was an overdue step in the right direction. That’s why it is so unacceptable that the majority’s plan rejects this solution, instead embracing Albany’s broken status quo.
While the majority makes the claim that the tax climate in New York State is favorable, our residents, job creators and the Tax Foundation study ranking our state 49th out of 50 states in tax climate would respectfully disagree. The most recent Census data shows an exodus from this state. Job creation is still in need of improvement. The majority’s budget proposal eliminates the Economic Development Fund entirely while adding “tax-modernization” initiatives. This one-house budget is lacking in every major area and fails to provide the economic growth and financial relief our residents are demanding.