Yesterday, I voted against the $1.6 billion deficit reduction plan in the New York State Assembly. Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Smith, all from New York City, negotiated the ill-advised plan behind closed doors. It had no input from the minorities in either house and was put on Assembly members’ desks only minutes before having to vote on the legislation.
The plan includes only $371 million in spending cuts and puts the greatest emphasis on a one-time gimmick of “sweeping” $821 million in reserves from numerous accounts, including over $300 million from the New York Power Authority, which could have been used to provide rate relief on electric bills.
Especially frustrating to businesses and individuals who have private health insurance policies was an increased tax on private health insurance, called the “covered lives assessment.” This tax will increase the cost of health insurance to many families by $200 to $400 per year and is expected to raise approximately $120 million. With a struggling economy and the loss of jobs, this is not the time to increase the costs of health care to businesses or their workers.
Finally, the deficit reduction plan diverts 90% of the recent SUNY tuition increase from SUNY schools directly to the state to raise $76 million. SUNY campuses will only be able to use 10% of the tuition hike to benefit their academic programs.
New York needs to address its numerous fiscal problems, but it should not be accomplished by the “three men in a room” approach to government that helped create many of New York’s problems in the first place, and it should not be accomplished on the backs of the residents of upstate New York.