May 2003

Legislative Budget Accord

From the NYS Assembly ē Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Herman D. Farrell, Jr. ē Chair, Ways and Means Committee
What experts are saying...

"With the budget already a month late, the governorís intransigence left lawmakers with no choice but to restore most of his wrongheaded cuts and pay for them with mostly reasonable new taxes."

- Newsday editorial, May 1, 2003

"Legislators rejected Patakiís budget because...the massive cuts in aid to schools, hospitals and municipalities would result in significant increases in local property taxes. Ö[O]ne is hard-pressed to see how cutting back sharply on health and education services and dumping more taxes on property owners is any better for the state."

- Times Herald-Record editorial, May 1, 2003

"Pataki said he didnít want to solve the current fiscal crisis by increasing what he called "job-killing" taxes, but that didnít stop him from increasing "spirit-sapping" taxes such as sales tax, raising a vast range of fees, and requesting "job-threatening" cuts in aid to education and health care."

- Press & Sun-Bulletin editorial, May 1, 2003

"They are right to reject the governorís proposed budget that would raise local taxes up to 40 percent and result in the loss of more than 60,000 public sector, health care and education jobs."

- Joyce Degenhardt, Region 1 Coordinator, Public Employees Federation

"Legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Joseph Bruno made the better choice. They passed a historic bipartisan budget that protects healthcare and our childrenís education."

- Dennis Rivera, President, 1199/SEIU, New Yorkís Health & Human Service Union

"Peter Orzag, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institute, said that because the economy now has too much capacity - idle machines at factories, for example - raising taxes on the wealthy would not hurt growth by cutting their appetite for goods and services."

- Reuters article, Joan Gralla, May 1, 2003

"The legislature's plan is better because of Long Island's already heavy property tax burden and the importance of health care and education to the economy."

- Matthew Crosson, President of the Long Island Association

Legislature makes the right choice ó
Protects New Yorkers from Governorís Budget Cuts

Since releasing his budget proposal in January Ė with its massive cuts to education and health care, and $6.7 billion in tax and fee hikes Ė the governor has shown a complete unwillingness to undo the wrong choices heís made. With New Yorkís economy in critical condition, the Legislature had no alternative but to move forward with or without him, and both houses joined together in a bipartisan spirit to adopt a budget that helps build a better state.

To be sure, the budget agreement includes many cuts. It is also a much fairer budget than the governorís destructive proposal. The Legislatureís agreement will:

  • Give our students Ė from Pre-K to MBA Ė the resources they need;
  • Provide vital health services and protect our already-fragile health care industry; and
  • Pave the way for a renewed competitiveness through successful job-creation programs.

Saving our schools and protecting our future

Year after year, the governor tries to slash education spending, and, year after year, the Assembly restores it. In fact, prior to this year, the Assembly has successfully restored $2.8 billion of the governorís education cuts.

This year is no different. The governor wants to cut $1.4 billion from schools. The Assembly and Senate came together to make a better choice, paring the governorís cut by $1.1 billion for the coming school year. As a result, effective education programs will be spared and school districts will get the boost they need to stave off the massive property tax hikes, teacher layoffs, and elimination of programs that many districts would have been forced into under governor Patakiís proposal.

Because of the restorations, pre-kindergarten and universal full-day kindergarten Ė both of which are cited by experts as critical in a studentís development Ė will be saved, as will class size reduction initiatives and after-school programs.

Protecting quality, affordable health care

Under the governorís plan, the stateís health care system faced funding cuts of more than $2 billion Ė a body blow to an already reeling industry. In addition to jeopardizing quality care, the governorís proposal could have jeopardized 48,000 jobs in the health care industry Ė New Yorkís largest employer.

Again, the Legislature stepped up to block another bad choice from the governor, restoring $1.2 billion in funding for Medicaid, public health, and Health Care Reform Act programs. These restorations will ensure for many New Yorkers that theyíll continue to receive the kind of quality, affordable care they need when they need it.

Specifically, the Legislatureís bipartisan plan will:

  • protect vital county health organizations, which serve as a front line against emerging diseases like SARS and potential bioterror attacks;
  • keep open the psychiatric and research institutes across the state that the governor wanted to shutter;
  • allow adult day care, meals for seniors, and Alzheimerís initiatives to keep providing valuable services;
  • reinstate $156,100 in funds to Breast Cancer Support and Education Services that the governor wanted cut;
  • pass on the $14 monthly cost-of-living adjustment to the disabled and seniors receiving federal Supplemental Security Income, which the governor wanted to deny them;
  • protect seniors from fee increases in the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Program;
  • restore more than $5.5 million in funding for AIDS programs that the governor wanted to cut;
  • restore $252,000 worth of the governorís funding cuts to Rape Crisis Services; and
  • restore the $27 million the governor wanted to take from the pockets of state retirees and employees for higher health insurance premiums.

Creating a more competitive workforce through higher education

The governorís budget would have been disastrous for our state colleges and universities, affecting both the students attending them in hopes of building a better future and the local economies that depend on them. Under the Administrationís original plan, SUNY students would have seen their tuitions rise $1,400, the Tuition Assistance Program cut by a third, and opportunity programs cut in half. Base aid to community colleges also would have fallen by $345 per student, forcing property tax hikes and tuition increases.

Rather than joining the governor in undermining the educational foundations of the high-tech economy New York is trying to create, the Legislature chose to fully restore the cuts to TAP, opportunity programs and community college base aid, and rolled back the governorís proposed tuition increase by a third. All in all, nearly $400 million was restored to higher education.

Building a stronger economy

Over the past nine years, New York has suffered because of the governorís failed economic development policies. Even at the height of the nationís economic boom in the late Ď90s, he failed to adequately capitalize on our assets. In fact, had we created jobs in New York at the same rate as the rest of the country during that time, we would have 476,000 more jobs statewide Ė as many jobs as there are people in the entire state of Wyoming.

This year is no different, as once again, the governor has failed to provide the state with the kind of creative blueprint we need to move our state forward. Even worse, his initial budget proposal would have wiped out the Assemblyís Empire Zone program, which his Administration acknowledged is the most successful economic development program in the history of the state. While the governor eventually withdrew his proposal, he still advanced a $3.5 million cut in the programís operation. Once again, it fell upon the Legislature to undo the governorís wrong choice, which it did by restoring more than $2.3 million of his cut, protecting this vital program and the jobs it creates.

Bipartisan spirit in Legislature gets cold shoulder from disengaged governor

Recognizing the seriousness of New Yorkís budget crisis, the Assembly and Senate have put aside partisan differences to do whatís right for the people of our state.

The governorís unwillingness to come up with better solutions almost defies belief. How can we build a better economy with a poorly-educated workforce? How can we build a more productive workforce when working families donít have access to the quality, affordable health care they need? How can our state move forward without any vision of our future?

In the total absence of leadership from the governor, the Assembly and Senate have joined together to pass a budget that undoes the governorís wrong choices. Now is not the time for the governor to stand in the way of progress. We need him to join with us to move New York forward.

Note: For a complete listing of the school aid runs, click here.

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