As my first budget season as your assemblyman comes to a close, I want to share with you what I think are the positive aspects of this yearís budget and what areas real improvements need to be made.
During my campaign, I promised each of you that I would go to Albany and fight to lower your property taxes. Our calls for real property tax reform were being ignored by our counterparts in the majority. My colleagues and I continued to fight, for you and all New Yorkers, because people in our communities are being forced from their homes that they worked so hard to build because their property taxes are so out of control. Our persistence paid off and we were able to secure $1.7 billion in real property tax relief for New Yorkers over the next two years.
This real property tax relief is by no means an ending point. I am happy with the progress we have made, but this will not result in complacency by me or my minority colleagues. I am going to continue to push for more property tax relief because it is has been my promise to you, and the strength of our communities depend on it.
Another success I want to point out is the Income Tax credit for volunteer firefighter and ambulance workers. Volunteer firefighters or ambulance workers should not be forced to choose between their meaningful work as a volunteer or quitting because they can not afford to serve. This tax credit helps our community retain the brave men and women who are trained to save our lives and is a much deserved tax incentive for those considering volunteering.
While this yearís budget contains a number of successes, there are many areas that need drastic improvement. New York state ranks first in Medicaid spending and last among all 50 states in Medicaid fraud recovery and very little to nothing was done in this budget to address that. We have to stop the abuses of Medicaid. Our state lost $4.2 billion to Medicaid fraud last year. That is money that should be used to better our schools, lower property taxes, and improve community safety.
It also needs to be mentioned that we started this budget season with a $3 billion surplus. However, none of that money was used to pay off the $50 billion debt this state has fallen under. In fact, our counterparts in the majority included numerous budget proposals that will drive the debt higher, and cost taxpayers millions, including rejecting the Governorís $1.1 billion in healthcare savings and spending $1.2 billion on top of his proposal.
I was disappointed that no capital expenditure was included for a facility to hold level three sex offenders upon the completion of their prison sentence. These people represent the worst of the worst when it comes to violent criminals. As a parent, I want to know that dangerous sexual predators are locked up, off the streets, and away from the children of our community.
I have outlined some great successes, and pointed to major areas of concern that need to be addressed. Despite our accomplishments, we still have a lot of work that needs to be done. I want to see property taxes decreased even more, I want Medicaid spending reigned in and fraud eliminated. We have to be more responsible with taxpayer money. Wasting a surplus is not acceptable. The time has come for the majority members of the Assembly to support programs that cut down on wasteful spending, return money to taxpayers, and improve the safety of our communities. I am looking forward to keeping these issues on the forefront and working for you to enact real and meaningful change.