At first glance, the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal is certainly more fair of a budget proposal, balancing the needs of upstate and downstate, than we have seen in the last couple years. However, while it is inevitable that cuts will need to be made, this Executive Budget still increases spending at a time when New Yorkers can certainly not afford it.
Especially because the Governor is proposing to cut property tax savings, including eliminating the Middle Class STAR Rebate Program, on top of passing along $7.4 billion in Medicaid mandates to local governments and $3.1 billion in tax and fee increases, I am concerned about the impact of this budget on New Yorkers at home. I do not support increasing Medicaid programs as it is believed that Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse is costing taxpayers $5 billion annually. Additionally, New York State tops the nation in terms of per person Medicaid spending at $2,283 per person (whereas Rhode Island, which comes in second, is spending only $1,659 per person).
Also included in these tax increases is the elimination of the sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear under $110, increases in motor fuel, utilities and phone service, and the imposition of new taxes on certain bottled beverages by expanding the Bottle Bill and creation of the “Obese Tax,” which is an additional 18 percent tax on soft drinks and fruit juices.
Even more discouraging is that the Governor is not using these new taxes to balance the budget or provide property tax relief; he is taxing the middle and working class in order to increase social services, such as Medicaid. Shame on you, Governor. At a time when New Yorkers are already scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of their household budgets, I think that these new and increased taxes and fees will only continue to hurt the fiscal future of our state.
However, I look forward to working together with the Governor and my colleagues to review this proposal in more depth and to find a solution that will not only fix our state’s financial troubles, but also not cause further detriment to the hardworking people of this state.
In particular, I am pleased that the Governor has adopted my suggestion of consolidating some state agencies and programs, such as certain Medicaid programs and merging the Department of Economic Development and Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation with Empire State Development. But I believe we must be careful not to put too many restrictions on economic development tools as our state already has the reputation for not being business friendly, as evidenced by the loss of 2 million residents and over half a million jobs in November alone.
I was also pleased that the Governor proposed to exempt schools from the restrictions of Wicks Law over the next five years. As a long-time proponent of reforming Wicks Law, I am pleased that our schools will be able to complete projects that are already funded and in their plans without having this additional red tape.
While I am disappointed by the tax hikes and no mention of eliminating member items and pork barrel spending, in all, the Governor today sounded very much like I have sounded over my first term: reduce spending, focus on long-term economic growth, and reduce redundancy at the state level.