A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
The 2017-18 New York state budget has been passed. The budget was nine days late breaking a streak of budgets that had been, for the most part, on-time for the last six years.
The $163.2 billion budget is a behemoth.
Not only does this budget continue New York’s reputation as a high tax state, this budget also ensures that New York spends more than almost any other state in the nation, second only to California.
That being said, as happens every year, there is good and bad to be found in this budget.
The following are some of the major highlights.
· Enacts the Excelsior Scholarship program. This is a three-year phase-in that gives eligible students (those with household income of $125,000 or less) up to $5,500 in tuition to SUNY schools. This only applies to students who take a full course load of 15 credits per semester. Moreover, students who take advantage of this scholarship program are required to stay in New York after graduating for the same number of years they received the scholarship or else the award will be converted into a loan.
· Enables Ride-sharing services in Upstate New York. This year’s budget, at last, puts in place a regulatory framework for Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Upstate New York. Pursuant to this framework, when TNC drivers are logged into the TNC app, they will be required to have insurance equal to $75,000 for injury or death to one person/$150,000 for injury or death to two or more people/$25,000 for property damage. When the TNC driver is engaged in a prearranged trip, he or she must have $1.25 million in total liability coverage. Counties and cities with populations over 100,000 are permitted to prohibit the pick-up of any person by a ride-sharing company. Of course, New York could not go without taxing the service. A New York state four percent tax will be imposed on the price of every ride. Localities however are not allowed to impose any tax on the service.
· Increases School Aid. This year’s budget increases school aid by $995.4 million for a total of $25.2 billion. This is an increase of 4.1% over last year. Moreover, while there are a number of school aid categories, the general-purpose aid category, known as Foundation Aid, is increased by $700 million more than last year. This will assist many low-wealth school districts located in Central New York.
· Raise the Age. The budget raises the age of criminal responsibility from 16 years of age to 18. This essentially removes certain criminal cases involving 16 and 17-year-old defendants from being tried in criminal court and moves them to family court. Also, it requires separate incarceration facilities for 16 and 17-year-olds convicted of certain crimes.
· Workers’ Compensation Reform. This year’s budget included workers’ compensation reform that will hopefully achieve much needed savings for both private and public employers. The various reforms include, among other things, updating medical guidelines that reflect advances in modern medicine and placing more definitive caps on overall payments.
Despite much of the rhetoric coming out of Albany, what unfortunately is missing from this year’s budget and budgets from prior years is any initiative that will be transformative for New York State and the upstate economy.
This budget will do little to dispel the well-earned reputation that New York is a tax and spend state that is expensive to live and do business in.
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