This year’s final state budget makes important strides toward making Central New York an even better place to work and raise a family. Despite tough economic times, the Legislature and Governor Paterson were able to come together to craft a budget that provides meaningful education funding and tax relief while also spurring the economic development and job development our region sorely needs.
Giving Onondaga County schools the funding they need
This year, we’re making the largest investment in education in New York State history, with Onondaga County schools receiving $49.8 million more than last year. The Syracuse City School District will receive an increase of $23 million over last year’s budget, plus an additional $1 million in aid that I helped secure for discretionary use. With the additional funding provided by this year’s budget, school districts will be better equipped to support critical programs without looking to already overburdened taxpayers to foot the bill.
Delivering needed tax relief
I fought hard to ensure this year’s budget would preserve the STAR property tax rebate program, which has made a real difference to so many Onondaga families and seniors. Not only will the program continue in 2008-09, but seniors in Onondaga County will see a 40 percent increase in Enhanced STAR rebates, with an average rebate of $459. In addition, the budget provides an average Middle Class STAR rebate in Onondaga County of between $209 and $418, depending on income.
The city of Syracuse will receive an additional $7.4 million in funding. While Governor Paterson had proposed cutting back on the original executive budget’s increase in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding, I worked hard to prevent the decrease and fought for and won an additional $1.2 million for Syracuse. The towns of Geddes and Van Buren will receive 5 percent increases in AIM funding. The AIM funding will help ease the property tax burden by providing funding for local municipalities to help them meet their financial needs.
We also rejected the executive proposal that would have increased taxes on the already high cost of gasoline by merging the motor fuel tax, petroleum tax and sales tax on fuel into one business tax with annual indexing. This measure would have eliminated the gasoline gas tax cap passed by the Legislature in 2006. And we eliminated the executive’s plan to add a $15 surcharge to car insurance policies. In this struggling economy, working families are hit hard enough at the pumps and pay too much to operate their automobiles – the last thing we need is more taxes and unjustifiable fees.
Encouraging economic development and job creation
Several important local economic development projects will receive funding in this year’s budget. These projects will go a long way toward reinvigorating our economy. Funding includes:
- $20 million for the Connective Corridor, a plan to enhance Syracuse’s emerging arts and business districts and attract small businesses and budding entrepreneurs;
- $5 million in funding to help refurbish the landmark Hotel Syracuse, a key part of the city’s plan to develop downtown Syracuse; and
- $31 million for Magna – New Process Gear over the next 3 years to help retain jobs at the plant.
The funding provided by the final state budget puts our region on a promising path that will greatly benefit our region both in the short run and the long term.