At times, I have had to vote on legislation that if enacted would have both a positive and negative effect on my district and the constituents I represent. In the past, voting on the state budget often created this dilemma because different policies frequently were included in a single budget bill. For example, school aid increases were often placed in a revenue bill that increased taxes. This year’s state budget, however, created no such dilemma for me. It was, for the most part, awful and therefore an easy no vote.
The $175 billion state budget that was passed early in the morning of April 1st could appropriately be described as the NYC/Cuomo budget because all of the major initiatives contained in the budget were the priorities of the Governor and NYC Democrats. While not only did it contain questionable policy initiatives, this year’s budget also continues New York's long tradition of taxing and spending—the same policy that has caused millions of people to move out of our state over the last decade. On top of all that, there was little to nothing in the budget for Upstate New York.
Governor Cuomo calls this year’s budget the most liberal budget he’s done. Few, with the exception of the recently-elected self-described socialist, would disagree. First, this budget includes $1.2 billion in taxes that will increase to $4.4 billion by 2020. These taxes are broad based and include additional sales tax on internet sales, an increase of the auto rental tax, a tax on vapor products, and the extension of the millionaire’s tax among others. While these taxes are substantial, they pale in comparison to the fees that will be imposed to bail-out the NYC transportation authority, a subsidiary of the MTA. While not necessarily directly affecting Upstate, the Governor successfully advocated for NYC congestion pricing in the budget which would impose a toll on any person who drives into Manhattan below 61st street. While the amount of the fee is currently unknown, the congestion pricing plan will need to raise enough revenue to fund $15 billion for MTA capital projects.
The budget also included other policies that have been championed by the Governor and NYC liberals such as: expanding the state’s tuition assistance program, otherwise known as TAP, to illegal immigrants; implementing a ban on single-use plastic bags and allowing counties and cities to opt into a 5-cent fee on paper bags; laying the groundwork for public campaign financing; and, mandating that all workers get three hours of paid time off to vote on Election day. The Governor and his allies in the legislature also included a number of so-called criminal justice reforms in this year’s budget which might prove the most dangerous of all the policies included in this year’s budget.
While this budget will be remembered for what is in it, we also must recognize what was left out and unfortunately what was left out were policy priorities for Upstate New York. This year’s budget: cut Aid and Incentives for Municipalities by $59 million and instead mandated counties to restore that funding; provides no year-to-year library aid increase; provides no broad-based mandate relief; provides no base increase to the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program and also cuts the Extreme Winter Recovery program by $65 million; provides no tax cuts for small businesses; and fails to provide any additional oversight of our state economic development programs. Opening the budget process up so that Upstate lawmakers could have made their case for these programs may have resulted in a better budget for Upstate but the 3-people-in-a-room rule prevailed and all 3 had NYC interests in mind. My colleagues and I will continue to press back and remind them that there are more than 8 million New Yorkers north and west of Westchester County and that we deserve better. If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.