The state Assembly today began the process of passing our second consecutive on-time budget, and the first early budget in nearly three decades. This year’s plan will again close a multi-billion dollar deficit with no new taxes or fees. This year’s budget also continues work to spur job growth and expand New York’s recovering economy.
More work, however, needs to be done to further reduce the tax burden and limit the cost of state government. The Assembly Minority proposed amendments to the budget that would provide much-needed relief for local governments and imposed meaningful limits on state government. Unfortunately, these well-reasoned proposals were rejected by the New York City Majority leadership, who continue to be out of touch with our way of life here in Chautauqua County.
One proposal brought before the Assembly today would have adopted a three-year moratorium on unfunded mandates and eliminated all existing unfunded mandates that were identified last year by the Mandate Relief Council. Regrettably, the majority turned down this common sense proposal that would have made New York state responsible for the full cost of the programs it creates. Unfunded mandates have saddled hardworking New Yorkers with some of the highest taxes in the nation, and this would have been a bold step toward eliminating mandates altogether.
Another amendment would have established a state spending cap. I whole-heartedly believe state government needs to lead by example. Last year, we approved a spending cap for local governments, and it is only right that we meet those same obligations ourselves. Although the current budget limits spending increases to less than 2%, we need a long-term statutory cap on spending.
Finally, the Assembly Minority Conference offered aid to New Yorkers across the state by repealing a hidden 2% utility tax. Hidden taxes and fees, like the one New Yorkers see every day on their energy bills, continue to nickel-and-dime us all to death. I pay these same taxes, and I share your frustration. Currently, New Yorkers pay some of the highest costs for electricity in the nation. Taxes like this unfairly punish the middle class and those on social security who already are struggling to make ends meet. I will continue to shed light on hidden taxes and fees, and provide relief for Chautauqua County residents.
While the budget bills passed today provide many positive aspects of economic growth and strive to put New Yorkers back to work, more can and should be done. I will continue to put Chautauqua County residents first as we strive to improve the job climate while controlling spending and taxes.