Budget Misses Opportunity to Move State Ahead

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
The 2013-14 New York State budget passed with total spending at $141.2 billion. Overall, we missed our opportunity to create a better state and left things status quo.

We missed the chance to make our state friendlier to all businesses and provide real relief for taxpayers. Instead, we extended energy taxes for all residents, while providing tax credits to the film industry.

The budget also cuts from developmentally disabled and successful cancer screening programs, which makes little sense in this day of escalating health care costs.

Our state is repeatedly ranked the worst state to do business; however, these rankings seem to have no affect on the revenue-generating mentality that plagues Albany.

We did not allow an energy tax known as 18-A to sunset in this budget, as previously scheduled. Leaders agreed to continue the tax until 2018. Every utility ratepayer in the state pays this tax that was enacted in the 2009 budget, and businesses and farmers contribute even more to this collection because it is based on usage.

Yet the budget continues to give preferential treatment to the film industry by providing $420 million in film tax credits.

I am not opposed to tax credits but we need to create more judicious policies for all businesses that help our economy.

Removing 18-A would have been a good place to start, as this would save ratepayers $500 million a year.

Our leaders in Albany decided to give a $350 tax credit to families with dependent children under 17, as long as they earn between $40,000 and $300,000.

This is expected to cost the state $350 million and is only for those with dependent children under 17 – not for those without kids or for seniors with low income.

This rebate check will be mailed to qualifying families in 2014.

At the same time, this budget cuts about $90 million from developmentally disabled health services. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were confounded by these cuts, and voiced opposition during the budget debates.

I am all for giving money back to the people, but it seems that the families who earn as much as $300,000 would not count a $350 rebate check as windfall from the government, or be in favor of taking funds away from our most vulnerable population.

Further, there were a number of “sweeps.”

For example, this budget authorized that $90 million be directed from the Power Authority of the State of New York to the general fund.

The Mortgage Insurance Fund also directed monies into the general fund to balance the budget. This is unfair to those who are charged and pay certain taxes, that the money is not being used for a designated purpose, and begs explanation or refund of taxes from the powers that be.

Good Parts of the Budget

The good news is this budget does increase funding for Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPs) by $75 million. This is something my colleagues and I fought for in Albany, to help ease local property taxes and keep funding in line with increased costs for fuel, asphalt and materials. This will help localities maintain local roads and bridges which includes 87% of New York’s roads and about half of our bridges.

Education was also allocated more funding. The budget provides $20.8 billion in total school aid, a $936.6 million increase. We increased funding for community colleges and increased library aid as well.

We also reduced the tax rate for qualifying manufacturers, so that within six years, this tax rate will be reduced by 25%. This is a good measure and a much-needed reform. I was pleased to see this in the final budget.

I was also pleased that funding for agriculture programs, such as the Northern New York Agriculture Development Program, will keep its funding. This program directly assists farmers with many aspects of operations, from growing produce to manufacturing value-added products. The New York Farm Viability Institute will see an increase as well, a similar imitative that provides a critical link between farming and manufacturing and jobs. This is good news for agriculture in our state.

There are many aspects to the budget and this is column provides only a brief overview.

I plan to outline in further detail in upcoming columns more about this year’s budget.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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