Lopez Speaks Out On New York State Budget: “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”

April 1, 2007
Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R,C,I – Schoharie) today referred to the New York State budget as “the good, the bad and the ugly.” While some parts of the budget will provide New Yorkers with the resources that they need, he feels that the overall budget process is flawed.

“In some ways, I am satisfied with the funding that Upstate New Yorkers will receive in this year’s budget,” stated Lopez. “The relief and aid that we are providing will help many of our farms and families, but we have paid a price for it with a process that made a hard job even harder.”

As far as the good goes:

  • Over the next three years, property taxpayers will benefit from $6 billion in STAR rebate checks, with $1.3 billion being sent this year;
  • Under the Enhanced STAR program, senior citizens will receive a 25% property tax exemption increase over their current exemption;
  • In addition to rebate checks, greater responsibility for financing education will shift from localities to the state, further reducing property tax pressure;
  • With bi-partisan support from upstate and downstate legislators, $30 billion for investment in the dairy community will help to stabilize this industry;
  • $75 million in corporate franchise tax cuts for all businesses and $75 million in tax cuts for manufacturers;
  • Partial restoration of health care funding to help rural hospitals and nursing homes maintain their care giving capacities;
  • $5 million for flood victims whose lives were affected by flooding last year;
  • Another $5 million to help bring broadband access to homes and businesses in underserved areas; and,
  • $2.3 million in funding for the local share of administration of the Empire Zone program will be restored, preventing a hidden property tax shift to our counties.

Now for the bad and the ugly:

While substantial funding will be provided for Upstate New York, there were numerous flaws with the budget process this year. The budget presented by Governor Spitzer to the Legislature started with exorbitantly increased spending, with “lines drawn in the sand,” leaving little or no room for a broader, more inclusive public dialogue.

The heated debate over education funding and health care funding, which followed, led to budget discussions spiraling out of control. This overshadowed the hope for a new process, as shaped by the budget reform bill passed early in the session, which held the promise of transparency and inclusion.

As the budget deadline approached, negotiations stalled and deals were struck in secret with only three men in a room and the process was ultimately rushed at the end.

“Lastly, when fully enacted, the budget will create over half a billion dollars in new taxes for New Yorkers, which directly contradicts previous promises made by the Governor,” Lopez said.

“In reflecting back on this year’s budget process, many across the state feel there is a lesson to be learned,” Lopez continued. “In the future, we must rely on the Governor to deliberately and systematically reinforce the reform agenda we were all elected to advance. Earlier this year, we collectively set the tone for transparency and more inclusive decision-making. We need to return to this approach to create a better model for preparing and adopting the state budget.”