Lalor: New Yorkers Footing The Bill For Broken Process, Bloated Budget

I voted against all 10 budget bills because the good was significantly outweighed by the bad.

On the positive side, this year’s budget did not include funding to give illegal immigrants free college despite attempts by Assembly Majority to do so. Ultimately, a misguided plan to end funding for private not-for profit colleges and universities was scrapped. Also laudable is the extension of the “Hire-A-Vet” tax credit program for two years.

That said, this year’s budget was again negotiated in secret by four men from lower Westchester and points south for whom the Hudson Valley and upstate is not a priority. The $168 billion spending plan was jammed through in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend. As a result of the opaque and rushed process, lawmakers were not given time to read it, much less analyze or consult with experts and constituents. The budget is our single biggest opportunity to improve the lives of New Yorkers. We again missed this opportunity.

This budget taxes more than New Yorkers can afford. It spends nearly $3.8 billion more than last year’s oversized budget. The budget also comes close to maxing out our state’s debt, not only hurting taxpayers but taking from income not yet earned by our children and grandchildren.

There is no mandate relief for local governments or school districts to ease the property tax burden on homeowners or businesses. The budget’s increased spending relies on new taxes and fees, including an energy tax. It taxes manufacturers and distributers of opioids to largely add to the state’s black hole of a general fund, rather than putting an end to the epidemic.

Defenders of the budget will claim a victory because we didn’t raise taxes as much as some wanted. But with a current New York tax burden that is crushing middle-class families and small businesses, that is of little consolation.

Despite the governor’s former aides and friends being brought up on corruption charges, this budget increases non-transparent pork spending which has been at the center of nearly every major corruption scandal of the past decade and always leads to waste of tax dollars.

The budget continues the governor’s failed economic development programs – despite the corruption trials and few jobs created after billions spent. The budget includes another $44.5 million just for START-UP New York advertising, though the program has become synonymous with boondoggle. There is also $150 million more for the Regional Economic Development Councils which pit economically depressed regions of the state against each other for tax dollars handed out by the governor with no prohibition on regional council members self-dealing.

Another $420 million is allocated to subsidize Hollywood even though Cuomo’s own 2013 tax commission panned the program as ineffective $1.7 billion tax dollars ago. Even actress-turned-Democrat candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon has stated the benefits of this tax credit primarily flow to California corporations and executives.

We should have used some, most or all of the $4 billion in subsidies and tax relief going to a few hand-picked corporate welfare recipients, to provide meaningful across-the board tax relief to all taxpaying New Yorkers and businesses.

New York is the finance and banking capital of the world. Yet this budget sets up a state-run retirement savings program for private sector employees. To have New York state in direct competition with our private financial industry would be like the state of Michigan’s government opening a pickup truck manufacturing plant. It only serves to expand the scope of government and further destroy the private sector economy. Establishing a program to help private sector employees understand and invest for their retirement is one thing. However, setting up what amounts to a state-run mutual fund for non-government workers is quite another.

For the sixth straight year, taxpayers are forced to fund enforcement of the SAFE Act, which violates the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. Incredibly, this budget mandates that New York taxpayers pay for lawyers for illegal immigrants to fight deportation while simultaneously paying federal taxes to fund immigration enforcement.

On balance, the budget is an insult to New Yorkers in terms of both process and substance. We could have and should have done so much better.