The 2007-2008 New York State budget, enacted by the state Legislature only slightly after its official deadline, contains historic new investments in education as well as individual property and business tax cuts crucial to economic development. I am also pleased that the budget restrains the growth of Medicaid while extending health coverage to hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured children.
This year's budget negotiations were uniquely difficult, in that we sought to reconcile the need for genuine fiscal restraint and reform with the many legitimate needs of our citizens. Overall, this budget balances those concerns, and I especially applaud Governor Spitzer for affirming his commitment to education, economic development and health care.
Of particular importance is the tax relief granted to citizens and businesses in this budget. Over the next year, New Yorkers will derive about $1.3 billion in property tax reductions through rebate checks and STAR abatements. The average Monroe County resident will receive about $1,075.
The budget also grants $150 million in across- the-board and targeted private-sector tax cuts, with a focus on New York's hard-hit manufacturing sector. Over the years, I have authored billions in tax cuts for businesses, and I believe these tax incentives are vital to improving the state's economic climate.
Medicaid and Health Care
This year's Medicaid increase is the smallest in the past six years. Controlling the growth of Medicaid - while preserving services for our citizens - is essential if we are to curb overall spending.
I am also proud of the fact that more than 400,000 children who previously did not have access to medical insurance will now be enrolled under the expansion of Child Health Plus.
Governor Spitzer has made it a stated goal to provide affordable and quality health care for every New Yorker, and we have made remarkable progress toward that goal.
More than $19 billion will be devoted to education in the 2007-2008 budget, a signal of Governor Spitzer's determination to ensure sound, basic scholastic instruction for every child, as promised in the state constitution.
In this effort, we answer many of the challenges raised in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit and begin building a stronger foundation for the future of New York, particularly its economy. I believe that investing in education is a direct investment in future prosperity, for this generation and for all those that follow.
Rochester City Schools will receive $396 million, a 9 percent increase, to help them meet their educational mission.
The three other school districts I represent - East Irondequoit, West Irondequoit and Brighton - will receive respective aid increases of 18 percent, 11 percent and 25 percent.
Fair Share for Rochester Still a Goal
I remain concerned that the new budget does not reduce the disparity between the level of state municipal aid appropriated for Rochester and that received by other large cities such as Buffalo and Syracuse. For instance, Buffalo's per capita assistance is $530, versus $370 for Rochester
Rochester's allocation in 2007-2008 is $81.2 million, a $9.7 million increase over the previous budget. A $5 million "spin-up" has also been offered to Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers as a supplement to their shares of municipal aid.
Rochester continues to have some of the highest poverty rates in the state and nation, especially among children. It is crucial that state aid formulas take that fact into account, and we will not stop fighting to make that happen.
On a related matter, I also oppose the "maintenance of effort" element of the budget, which prevents the state's four largest cities from reducing their current level of financial support to their respective school districts. This represents an inequity for Rochester, which spends far more on a per pupil basis than do other upstate cities.
Not only does Rochester receive less per capita support than its upstate peers, but it is now locked into a financial obligation to the Rochester City School District that may be unsustainable long-term. Without local control over this spending, city government will have less leverage with which to insist upon improved performance and accountability from the district.
As chairman of the Assembly's standing committee on tourism, arts, and sports development, I am pleased with the appropriations for many tourism-related initiatives, including $16.5 million for the "I ? NY" marketing program, which represents a $5 million increment over last year, and more than $5 million for local tourism matching grants, up $500,000 over the previous budget.
Tourism is the second-largest source of jobs in New York State. The 2007-2008 budget allows us to properly promote our many great natural and cultural assets to potential visitors from across the nation and around the world.