Statement by Senator George Onorato
State Senator George Onorato (D-Queens) made the following statement regarding the 2009-2010 State Budget which received final passage by the Senate on April 3:
"The 2009-2010 State Budget is by no means a perfect plan, but it does address a yawning $17.7 billion budget deficit without decimating New York’s commitment to health care, education, college aid, job creation, our environment and any number of programs that are vital to our state’s residents and the overall future of the Empire State.
"To help close this historic budget gap, the Legislature and Governor – among other actions – significantly cut state spending, allocated $7 billion in federal stimulus funding, and asked wealthier New Yorkers to contribute a bit more in income tax to aid us in overcoming these extraordinary fiscal challenges. In my district, this temporary income tax surcharge will affect only 0.6 percent of my constituents, and about four percent of taxpayers statewide, while raising $4 billion to support critical state programs and services.
"While the overall state budget rose to almost $132 billion, it is important to realize that the use of state dollars, when not combined with federal funds provided to New York, only rose by one percent. Most of the increase in the size of the budget can be attributed to the $7 billion we received through the stimulus package and that we were required to spend this year.
"Despite the serious fiscal challenges we faced with this budget, we were able to restore more than $1 billion in cuts to health care programs, while instituting reforms to advance primary and preventive care. We also increased education funding by $405 million to $21.9 billion, restored almost $50 million in cuts to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), protected our higher education opportunity programs, restored $10.5 million to our libraries, and created a new low-cost loan program to help more students go to college. Initiatives included in the new budget will also create more than 86,000 new jobs, including many in emerging ‘green’ industries, and increase funding for environmental programs. We also restored cuts to the Supplemental Security Income program for elderly and disabled New Yorkers and the EPIC prescription drug program for senior citizens.
"While there is unquestionably pain and sacrifice in this new budget, I believe we have taken needed action to address our fiscal challenges, instill new accountability in state finances, and get New York back on the road to economic recovery. We have a long way to go, but this has been an important start."