End Of Session Report

 

The New York Senate has finished work in Albany and, all in all, 2006 was a
productive session, building on the success of 2005. After passing the
second on-time budget earlier in the year, we were able to use the rest of
session to provide property tax relief, to promote Medicaid fraud prevention
and to strengthen anti-crime laws.

That said, some of the agreements reached and solutions adopted were only
partial steps toward real resolution. And several other challenges, like
worker’s compensation reform, the rising cost of health insurance and school
funding reform, were left unresolved.

After several attempts, we were able to come to agreement on property tax
relief, passing a rebate plan that will return real dollars to homeowners
across the state. This relief, however, is just a short term answer to a
much larger problem. We need a comprehensive approach to reduce property
taxes that encourages government consolidation, eliminates unfunded mandates
and improves the formula for state education aid.

When we talk about a more comprehensive approach to property tax relief,
there is no doubt part of the solution also lies in real Medicaid reform.
Last year, the Legislature passed a cap on the local contribution to
Medicaid. We followed that this year by passing a measure to reign in fraud
and misuse of Medicaid dollars. This will certainly help reduce unnecessary
costs in the Medicaid system and that should translate into less pressure on
property taxes.

In addition to property tax relief, the Legislature this session eliminated
the state sales tax on clothing under $110, ended the marriage penalty tax,
added a $330 child tax credit, and capped the gas tax.

The gas tax cap, in particular, had an immediate impact on prices at the
pump and saved all of us money on each visit to the gas station. I have
always said, however, that we need an energy plan that puts money in our
pockets today and prepares us for energy independence tomorrow.
Fortunately, the cap was passed along with a package of legislation designed
to encourage alternative energy use and development. I was particularly
pleased that we adopted a tax credit to encourage the use of biodiesel in
home heating fuel, an idea I proposed last fall. Still, there is much more
we can do to encourage biofuel use and production. As the ranking minority
member of the Agriculture committee, I will continue to call for smart
energy solutions that benefit local farmers.

This session we were also able to reach agreement on important
anti-crime legislation. Most notably, we ended the 5-year statute of
limitations on rape, correcting an injustice and removing a hurdle that will
result in more rape cases being solved as DNA evidence becomes more
available. We also expanded the criminal DNA database.

In the final days of session, we also passed budget reforms that will
improve transparency in the budget process. With this budget reform and a
second on-time budget this Spring, our state took steps toward a more open,
responsive and responsible government.