I would like to take this opportunity to give you an update on the 2012 legislative session in Albany. I am proud to say that under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, we once again passed an on-time balanced State budget. This budget includes a 4% increase in spending for education and healthcare, invests in key job-creating programs, and provides a $30 million restoration to the EPIC program. We were able to fund these programs through changes we made to the tax code several months ago. Last December, the State Legislature passed a law that maintained a higher tax rate on individuals with incomes of over $1,000,000 a year while simultaneously providing the lowest middle class tax rate in over 58 years. Finally, in March, the Legislature and Governor agreed on a plan to expand New York State’s DNA database to assist our law enforcement officials in keeping dangerous criminals off our streets.
As always, my office is available to assist you. If you are having trouble with state or local government issues, please do not hesitate to contact us. My staff and I are always here to help you in obtaining benefits, providing information on programs, and developing legislative solutions to community problems. Please also be on the lookout for information on two senior health forums I will be holding in our district in the next few months.
Over the past several years, many co-ops in Northeast Queens have been hit with inaccurate property tax assessments from the NYC Department of Finance. While comprehensive property tax reform remains the ultimate goal for Assemblyman Braunstein, he is also working to bring more fairness to the process of challenging these assessments. Certiorari proceedings, as they are known, can prove very costly for co-ops, with some lawyers charging as high as a 35% contingency fee for their services. This cost is then passed on to the shareholders through an increase in their maintenance. To address this issue, Assemblyman Braunstein and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky introduced a bill that would cap property tax assessment increases at 3% for two years following a successful challenge. This would prevent co-op owners from incurring these excessive legal fees in consecutive years. It also makes sense because once NYC recognizes that it incorrectly over-assessed a property, it should not be allowed to go back the next year and assess the same overvaluation.
“We have received complaints from many of our constituents who have repeatedly experienced problems with erroneous and unfair assessments,” said Assemblyman Braunstein. “That is why we have introduced this legislation which would help to alleviate the financial burden placed on co-op owners for mistakes made by the NYC Department of Finance. It is outrageous that Northeast Queens residents not only have been hit with monstrous assessment hikes during this difficult fiscal period, but that they also have to continue to bear the burden of inaccurate decisions made by the Department of Finance.”
Increases school aid by $805 million statewide/$292 million for New York City schools;
Increases funding to SUNY/CUNY community colleges;
Provides $30.6 million in funding to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program and restores Medicare Part D co-payment assistance for EPIC enrollees;
Restores $458,000 in funding to Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) programs, such as those in Clearview Gardens;
Restores $34.3 million to maintain the right for spousal refusal in New York State. By maintaining spousal refusal, elderly husbands and wives can avoid becoming impoverished in order to get their spouses the care they need;
Invests in programs to help small businesses create and retain jobs.
“The passage of this year’s 2012-13 state budget signals a new day in Albany, as we passed an on-time, bipartisan, fiscally responsible state budget that delivers for hardworking Northeast Queens families,” said Assemblyman Braunstein.
The budget closes the state’s $3.5 billion budget deficit without any new taxes or fees, while increasing funding to our schools and vital healthcare and jobs programs. In addition, the budget continues new tax brackets first established last December, creating the lowest middle-class tax rate in 58 years, which cut taxes for 99 percent of New Yorkers.
“I helped pass a budget that invests in key job-creating programs and increases aid to our schools and healthcare system, while holding spending under 2 percent growth. In addition, New York will once again exempt the state’s 4 percent sales tax on clothing, footwear and related items sold for less than $110, as of April 1. These crucial measures will strengthen our state’s economic recovery, provide our children with a quality education and keep money in the pockets of working families,” said Assemblyman Braunstein.
The budget permanently eliminates the MTA payroll tax for qualifying small businesses and for those who are self-employed and earn less than $50,000 per year. In addition, it exempts schools, both public and private, from having to pay the tax.
“For too long, the burden of the MTA payroll tax has weighed on small businesses and schools,” Assemblyman Braunstein said. “By relieving this tax on small businesses and eliminating it completely from our schools, we can focus on creating a more business-friendly environment in our communities and provide our children with the best education possible.”
“With this budget comes a new spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Albany, allowing us to quickly and efficiently help the people we represent. When we all work together, our families see results—plain and simple,” said Assemblyman Braunstein.