Lawmakers are in Albany as the finishing touches are placed on the state's fiscal plan due April 1. There is mixed reaction to the spending package.
The $140 billion budget deal puts forward the state’s largest education allocations to date, including an increase of about $1.1 billion in school aid, $340 million for universal full-day pre-k, and a bond act to modernize classrooms.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, a Democrat, hails the package as a bipartisan effort. "New York has gone from a government divided and defined by gridlock to one which all sides work together with a focus on effectiveness and efficiency. Increase in investment and education, providing tax relief and creating good paying jobs are exactly what New York expects and needs from government leaders."
Mike Durant is the State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business. He sees the budget as a mixed bag for small business. "On the one hand we have a plethora of tax cuts for manufacturers on the estate tax reform and for corporations, but most small businesses, if they're not manufacturers or don't file their taxes as corporations, they're going to be left out of this tax deal."
Durant is troubled by the way property taxes are addressed in the budget. "In reality, it's a two-year detour from Albany to effectively address the structural deficiencies that are plaguing our schools and communities. we strongly oppose that, and are deeply disappointed that it's in the final deal."
Billy Easton with the Alliance For Quality Education appreciates the budget's increases in school aid. "650 million dollars more than Governor Cuomo wanted. It's an important victory for our school children and is a result of the relentless advocacy of thousands of everyday New Yorkers who overcame Governor Cuomo's growing antagonism to our public schools. Unfortunately, the overall package is a mixed bag, because Governor Cuomo, who is backed by a 5 million dollar advertising blitz from Wall Street, managed to ram thru more public funding for privately run charter schools and special privileges that favor charter schools over public schools. For the Governor, the charter school issue was pay to play politics to the extreme, even by Albany standards."
State Senator Terry Gipson applauds state funding to Dutchess County. The Hudson Valley Democrat is calling for an immediate refund and repeal of the energy tax. "My colleagues and I on both sides of the aisle from the Hudson Valley have delivered a balanced budget that will make our community a more affordable place to live and do business."
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Capital District Democrat, is glad to hear the budget includes an expansion of the Empire State Film Production tax credit to Schenectady and Albany Counties. "This is very important to local job development and economic development to these areas in upstate New York."
Environmental Advocates of New York Executive Director Peter Iwanowicz branded the budget a "missed opportunity" for lawmakers. “Governor Cuomo and legislators seemed to spend more time this budget season swatting away each other’s bad ideas rather than demonstrating the leadership New Yorkers need to advance a progressive environmental and public health agenda. To give credit where it is due, all parties agreed to a nominal bump in spending through the Environmental Protection Fund, though it falls far far short of what our communities need and what they are due."
The budget also includes changes to protect consumers from out-of network surprise medical bills and $13 million to support salary increases for the lowest paid direct care workers. NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney says a plan to test public-financing of campaigns with this year's race for comptroller doesn't go far enough. Six good-government groups called the proposal flawed and urged Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and any potential opponent to refuse to participate. "The Governor's budget fails to address most of the problems we've seen in the state capitol in recent years. Anybody who's paid the slightest attention to politics in Albany realizes that we've had a significant corruption problem in the state legislature. This does basically nothing to change how the legislature operates and how candidates are able to raise funds."
Iwanowicz adds lawmakers missed opportunities by again delaying the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006 and not fixing the state's brownfields cleanup program. Observers say manufacturers, charter school operators and property tax payers are considered winners in the budget deal.