New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his budget address Tuesday afternoon, and it’s receiving mixed reviews from North Country and Adirondack interests.
Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out a number of initiatives during his budget address in Albany. Plattsburgh Mayor Independent James Calnon found the most important was the tax package. “Most of it is stuff that I think that is very good for the North country and I think things that will be very effective in helping us continue to grow our economy. The corporate tax reductions, in particular, the manufacturing reduction’s even more important. We’ve really stemmed the tide of most communities that have been rapidly losing manufacturing, and we’re going in the other direction. So I think that the tax package is one that’s very favorable to us.”
But the mayor is dubious about the governor’s plan to freeze property taxes. “The basic freeze on taxes is really shifting taxes from property taxes to the other taxes that New York State collects. It’s not really getting at the root causes, which is really the spending. Now the second half of it, where he starts to talk about if we can not only keep taxes under the cap, but then really start to show real savings, which he thinks we can accomplish through consolidation, we really need to take a look at.”
Governor Cuomo gave an overview of his executive budget, then left the stage, allowing his commissioners to fill in details. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens explained the environmental and parks portion of the executive budget, which includes an increase in the state Environmental Protection Fund. “Last year for it’s 20th anniversary we increased the funding substantially to the EPF. This budget reaffirms our commitment with a $157 million appropriation.”
But Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway is disappointed at that funding level. “The Adirondack Council and I and others support the Environmental Protection Fund, that’s the state’s dedicated trust fund with set tax revenue that goes into it of $200 million per year. It used to be over that. We’re working to restore it to that level. This proposal provides a $157 million EPF, which is a good level of funding and a partial restoration that was actually approved last year. But in another place in the budget there appears to be some reductions that in net actually reduces the funding for clean water for the Adirondacks. And we’re very concerned there won’t be the restoration needed for invasive species, wastewater treatment plants and other environmental infrastructure and community grants across the state.”
Although agriculture was ignored in the speeches, it is among the budget documents. NY Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy Jeff Williams is positive after an initial review. “I’ve gone through tentatively the budget appropriations and language for agriculture and he really did make a good start. He fully funded a number of important agricultural programs. There’s still some work to do with the Legislature on some programs, but overall, it’s a very good start. And we’re also very happy that he included a proposal to increase the estate tax threshold in New York State, which is something we’ve been calling for for years. That would help new farmers transition into farm operations and not have to sell off farm land in order to pay the tax man when the estate tax bill comes.”
The New York Senate and Assembly will begin a series of joint budget hearings next Monday.