Governor’s Budget Provides Starting Point for Negotiations; Overshadowed by Albany Controversy

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
Last week, the Governor presented his State of the State address.  This annual tradition, much like the President’s State of Union address, is an opportunity for the Governor to set forth his priorities for the upcoming state legislative session.

The State of the State address is usually in the beginning of January but this year it was appropriately delayed due to the passing of the Governor’s father.

If you didn’t hear much about the State of the State, it is because the day after the State of the State address long-term State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested for public corruption.

This story has dominated the news and rightfully so.

Because he is the Speaker of the Assembly, Silver’s arrest has created chaos in Albany.

He joins a long list New York City Democratic state lawmakers who have been arrested on corruption charges over the last several years.

Silver, however, is the most politically powerful of this group.

While the Speaker should have his day in court, he should, in the meantime, at the very least, resign as Speaker so the Governor and Legislature can focus on what we should be focusing on this time of year – the State budget.

To that end, there are a number of proposals that the Governor set forth in his State of the State address that merit additional discussion and review by the public and the legislature.

One proposal is the Governor’s so-called property-tax relief proposal.

On its face, this sounds great.

High property taxes is the number one complaint I hear about from constituents.

However, the Governor’s proposal is not a new idea.

Indeed, it is identical to proposals that have been bandied about the legislature for years and have commonly been referred to as circuit breaker proposals.

What the proposal would do, if enacted, is provide a personal income tax credit for taxpayers whose total household gross income is less than $250,000 and whose property taxes exceed 6% of that income.

While it is true that this proposal would provide relief to some property taxpayers, it does nothing to resolve why we have high property taxes in the first place – mainly state mandates on school districts and localities.

This plan is not a property tax cut.

It is a tax subsidy where some taxpayers will be paying for other taxpayers property tax relief (in the form of an income tax credit).

To his credit, in his State of the State address, the Governor did spend a significant time talking about Upstate New York.

It is good that he realizes that we continue to struggle economically.

However, instead of proposing broad-based reforms such as tax reform that could provide a real economic boost to Upstate New York, the Governor is proposing three $500 million challenge grants that will be awarded to three out of seven Upstate regions.

Under the Governor’s proposal, the regions will compete for these grants with the Governor’s handpicked committee deciding who the winners will be.

At this time, it is unclear what criteria the Governor will use in order to chose the winners.

Further, he did not mention any economic plan for the regions who fail to win a challenge grant.

Apparently, they will simply be out of luck when it comes to economic development.

On a good note, regardless of what criteria, if any, there will be, I am confident that Central New York will be able to successfully compete for one of these grants, if indeed, what the Governor is proposing is enacted.

The Governor has proposed a number of other initiatives which I look forward to discussing in future columns.

In the meantime, it is my hope the issues of leadership in the Assembly are resolved forthright and the legislature and Governor can focus on the state 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 barclaw[email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.