In the address, the Governor laid out what most would consider a very liberal agenda. Sadly, there was nothing in his address that offers relief to the overtaxed citizens of Upstate New York or to stem the continued outward migration of people from New York state. In fact, some of his proposal will exacerbate the problems we face in New York.
For reasons that are unclear, in his $175 billion budget proposal, the Governor proposes to cut $59 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities known as AIM funding. Our local governments are already hamstrung by mandates coming out of Albany and to propose cutting their state funding seems vindictive more than anything else. Municipalities have already set their 2019 budgets so how they will make up for the loss of aid is unclear. Further, even if their budgets had not been completed it hardly seems like a positive solution for them to go back to our already overburdened property tax payers for more revenue. It will be imperative for the legislature to reject these cuts and at the very least provide funding for AIM at last year’s levels.
The Governor is also proposing to eliminate Extreme Winter Recovery funding that last year provided $65 million in funding for our communities to help with the cost of dealing with harsh winter weather conditions. One of the challenges we have upstate compared to downstate or compared to municipalities in warmer climates is the costs of snow plowing, snow removal and road maintenance due to cold snowy weather. I was pleased last year when the Governor and the legislature recognized these additional costs and provided funding to help municipalities deal with the expense. Unfortunately, winter is not going away and these expenses will be here again this year.
It was also disappointing the Governor included no increase in Community College Aid. We are fortunate to have Cayuga Community College, Onondaga Community College and Jefferson Community College in our area which financially relies on state and local support. By keeping the funding at last year’s level, this will presumably increase the cost on our counties and the students that attend. Additionally, in his higher education budget proposal the Governor allocates $27 million to fund the newly enacted Dream Act. Under the Dream Act, the state will provide financial aid to undocumented students. The priorities here are troubling, especially considering the hardship that many families face in sending their children to college.
Without a doubt this will be a challenging year and conceivably a difficult budget cycle. Nevertheless, as ranker on the Ways and Means Committee, during the budget hearings and the process going forward, my focus will remain on what we can to lower taxes, improve the business climate and provide the necessary support to assist our local communities and schools.
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.