Progress Made During My First Two Sessions As An Assemblyman
A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Ed Ra (R- Franklin Square)
July 10, 2012
Many have championed the past two year’s legislative session as proof that Albany is getting back on track. Governor Cuomo has even gone as far as to say, “I believe the history books will show this legislative session was among the most productive and broadest-reaching in modern political history.” Now, I want to take a moment and reflect on the progress made during my first two years serving you in the state Assembly. There have been many major legislative accomplishments over the last two years, from the closure of a $13.5 billion budget deficit, to a property tax cap that slows skyrocketing taxes, and finally a partial repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax. TAX RELIEF FOR HOMEOWNERS IN 2011 After years of ridicule, the Legislature in 2011 set to change this perception. What came about was a session that brought about a wave of positive change for New Yorkers. The year began with the passage of the first on-time budget in decades, a budget that closed a nearly $10 billion gap with no new taxes or fees. In June, I helped champion historic property tax cap legislation, which finally halts the runaway train that annual property tax increases had become in New York. Finally, the Legislature enacted strong ethics reform that will help stem the wave of political corruption that has plagued New York for far too long. MTA PAYROLL TAX REPEALED FOR SMALL BUSINESSES The month of December then brought about an Extraordinary Session for the state Legislature. During the Extraordinary Session, I supported the passage of income tax relief for middle-class families, which brought income taxes to their lowest level in 58 years, and worked with leaders on both sides of the aisle to revamp the unfair Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Payroll Tax. The roll back of the MTA tax brought desperately-needed relief to our local small businesses, public, parochial and private schools, and was a tremendous win for our community. $805 MILLION IN SCHOOL AID In 2012, I returned to Albany with renewed energy. Working hand-in-hand with Senate Majority Leader Skelos and Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state Assembly was able to craft the first early budget in nearly three decades. This budget, which closed a nearly $3.5 billion budget gap, included a number of winning propositions for Long Islanders. From $805 million in additional school aid, to promoting pro-growth policies by investing in public projects and private enterprises, and preventing new tax increases on working families, much was accomplished for New Yorkers. We also extended protections for our community against crime by expanding the DNA database. Finally, much-needed action was taken to ensure seniors do not have to choose between life-saving prescription drugs and their next meal by restoring EPIC co-pay protection. PROTECTING STUDENTS The focus on students was not solely financial stability. In our ever-changing world, young people today are more computer savvy and spend more time online than any previous generation. Unfortunately, this has led to a disturbing rise in cyberbullying and resulted in very tragic outcomes. That is why the Legislature made it a priority to expand the protections afforded to our students through passage of the Dignity Act that will help protect them from online predators and online harassment. This legislation, which was recently signed in to law by Governor Cuomo, will help us prevent the tragic consequences we have seen come about from cyberbullying REAL-TIME PRESCRIPTION DRUG TRACKING This year, we also passed legislation to help disrupt the flow of illegal prescription drugs. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15,000 people die every year from overdoses due to prescription painkillers. In particular, this problem has reached epidemic proportions here on Long Island. With the passage of the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP), we’ve taken the first step toward combating prescription drug abuse and doctor shopping. This legislation works to modernize the way prescription drugs are distributed and tracked in New York State, including enacting a real-time prescription monitoring registry and requires the state Department of Health to establish a safe disposal program for unused medications. GROWING JOBS ON LONG ISLAND However, that is not to say our work here is done. Nassau County’s unemployment rate continues to hover around seven percent, and we in the Legislature must be doing everything possible to ensure New York stays open for business. This can only happen if we enact a full repeal of the MTA Payroll Tax, continue to cut taxes on small businesses, and enact meaningful relief for local businesses and governments from unfunded mandates. In an effort to promote job growth on Long Island, I also have introduced legislation that allows small businesses to deposit profits into a small-business tax-deferred savings account. This proposal, which I've crafted, working with Long Island business leaders, would allow businesses to access needed funds during economic downturns when other forms of capital are often difficult to secure. It is my hope that the Assembly will take up this legislation in the coming year as we work to continue to promote job growth across New York State. Over the last two years, working hand-in-hand with Governor Cuomo, we’ve put New York on the road to recovery, and I look forward to continuing down this path to fiscal solvency.