Budget proposal filled with downstate spending
By Marc W. Butler
After spending some time poring over the governor’s budget proposal, it leaves me with the same sense of disappointment as it is filled with downstate-heavy spending, costly programs, and hidden tax increases.
The governor has spent his early weeks of the year setting his gaze on higher office and touting a lofty progressive agenda, which will prove to be costly for average hardworking middle class families of our state.
Worse still is that the governor has been laying down a foundation of blame directed at the federal government and localities.
I think it’s fair to say that the governor’s focus has been on the presidency for some time. He’s set his sights on 2020 and is using New York as his sandbox to “prove” to liberal progressives that he’s their guy.
This year, New York is facing a possible $4 billion budget deficit. To compensate for his past and continued policies that have contributed to this emergency, the governor has peppered throughout his budget proposal revenue boosters or taxes on New York’s hardworking families. These proposals include the discontinuation of the energy service sales tax exemption, which would cost New Yorkers $96 million in the coming fiscal year and $128 million annually in subsequent years. He places a cap on the STAR Exemption benefit growth to zero, which would cost homeowners $49 million in 2018-19.
This doesn’t make a dent on this deficit. It’s clear reductions in spending are needed.
I am frustrated by pressure the governor forces on our local governments to “consolidate” while he has done little to alleviate the unfunded mandates which are to blame for high costs of living in New York. Further still, using his insincere version of “ethics” reform would require same-day voter registration as well as early voting, which would amount to more costly mandates on our county governments.
Our upstate local communities need investment and attention from the state. The governor’s solution to revitalizing downtowns is the continuation of his Downtown Revitalization Program which pits 10 “winning” cities against each other to divide up a $100 million pot. The governor has gamified almost every aspect of government and investment, but I have serious reservations as to whether this is the best way to lift up and support our upstate communities. He further proposes to eliminate $1.8 million worth of village per capita aid, which helps small villages like those found in the Mohawk Valley and North Country. Elsewhere in his budget, he proposes to cut $11.5 million to agricultural aid, which supports rural districts like the one I represent.
The governor’s proposal provides $438.1 million to Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) and $39.7 million to the Marchiselli Program to repair bridges, the rates from the previous year. His budget proposal offers another $100 million from his PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY.
This, however, is not enough to repair the overall decline in our vast local infrastructure due to lack of state investment and pales in comparison to the billions being spent in downstate New York like the rebuild of the formally named Tappan Zee Bridge which costs roughly $4 billion. In last year’s budget the governor gave $546 million to work on JFK Airport roads alone, and now he plans to give a $194 million subsidy the highly mismanaged Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Upstate New Yorkers continually have to fund billions or forgo its share in windfall settlement money to support downstate infrastructure. The governor fails to see the gross inequity in funding for our region.
Our state and budget are not items or entities which the governor should use for his political gains. His flagrant use of the budget and state policy for his own means puts upstate New Yorkers at a disadvantage. I urge him to abandon this approach and really come to the table and listen to our proposals to make this a budget that will work for middle-income families, small businesses and the many people relying on the state to make wise decisions with the programs and services we offer.
I welcome input on this or any other legislative topic. Constituents are urged to contact me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling my district office at 315-866-1632.
Marc W. Butler (R,C,I,Ref-Newport) is a New York State Assemblyman. He represents the 118th Assembly District.