Budget Continues To Move New York Forward In The Right Direction, However, Still Much More Work To Do

Statement by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I – Corning)

“Overall, this year’s budget continues to take steps in the right direction and sends the right message to the private sector that we are serious about maintaining our fiscal discipline while focusing on economic development and job growth, which is critical for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region.

The $132.6 budget is the second on-time budget in two years. Just like last year’s budget, the state legislature closed a multi-billion dollar budget deficit without raising taxes and reduced overall spending for the second straight year.

We were able to provide mandate relief for our local governments in the form of Medicaid reform. Although I and many of my colleagues would have preferred an immediate takeover of the local Medicaid growth costs, and offered an amendment to do just that, we will nonetheless begin a phased-in state takeover of the three percent local Medicaid growth costs with a full freeze in effect by 2015. It is estimated that this action will save counties more than $1.2 billion over the next five years. Medicaid is the largest unfunded state mandate, so this reform will go a long way toward providing the relief that our localities and property taxpayers need. However, as we continue forward, we must continue to aggressively pursue reform of these unfunded mandates.

The state legislature was able to provide an additional $805 million in education aid to school districts. I was particularly pleased we were able to redirect over $200 million of this money that Governor Cuomo had initially proposed for competitive grants back into operating assistance, primarily for our high-need, low-wealth school districts. Overall, this will provide nearly $510 million more in direct operating assistance for our schools. That being said, it is absolutely critical that, as we move forward, we continue to look to reform the entire education funding formula to ensure a more equitable distribution of our education dollars so our students in high-need, low-wealth upstate rural schools are afforded the same educational opportunities as wealthier school districts downstate.

I am pleased we were able to maintain funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) to help with much-needed local road and bridge repairs, and that the Hornell Regional Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Region 6 office in Hornell will remain open and intact.

The reinstatement of co-payment assistance for seniors through the EPIC program will provide much-needed relief for seniors who have struggled with rising health care and prescription drug costs.

Other highlights include an increase in the community college base aid and an increase in funding for libraries.

Certainly, there is still more that we need to do in order to make New York more affordable for our taxpayers and spur private sector investment so we can create jobs. However, we have taken positive strides forward over the past 15 months, and I believe that by continuing to work together we can make New York a better place for our residents.