Monthly Column: Budget review process in full swing
By: Michael H. Ranzenhofer
In mid-January, Governor Cuomo unveiled his Executive Budget proposal for 2014-2015. Now, the budget review and approval process is in full swing.
Many of the tax relief proposals outlined in the State of the State address were outlined in greater detail, including a two-year freeze on property taxes, lowering business taxes, eliminating taxes for Upstate manufacturers, and accelerating the phase-out of the utility tax. As I mentioned in my column last month, these proposals may have the potential to continue chipping away at New York’s high tax burden. However, closer examination is required.
In an effort to diverge from the reckless spending spikes of years past, the Executive Budget proposal continues to exercise fiscal discipline. Overall, the proposal holds the line on State expenditures by reducing expenses for the Department of Health and the Department of Labor by a combined savings of over $550 million.
At the same time, the Executive Budget makes strategic investments in Western New York: a $25 million increase in funding for Roswell Park Cancer Institute and $680 million to pay the State’s remaining balance on the “Buffalo Billion.”
The Executive budget proposal also strengthens the property tax relief in the STAR program by $40 million.
Lastly, the Governor has included some of the language from the Public Assistance Integrity Act in his budget proposal as well. His provisions would prevent public assistance from being used at liquor stores and casinos. While I am encouraged that curbing welfare fraud is on the Governor’s radar, his proposal falls short of going far enough to protect your tax dollars by failing to prevent the purchase of cigarettes and other tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and lottery tickets with public assistance, too.
Now that the Governor has released his budget proposal’s details, I plan to scrutinize and review all aspects of the plan in the coming days and weeks ahead. I have started to work already with my colleagues in the State Senate and State Assembly as a member of two Budget Subcommittees, Taxes/Economic Development and Education.
In an effort to keep you informed about budget-related developments, I have added a new State Budget information page at my website, ranzenhofer.nysenate.gov, so that you can:
• review specific details of the Executive Budget, including briefing books and specific budget details;
• stay up-to-date on new developments as the budget review and approval process moves forward; and
• share your input on the budget plan.
I look forward to hearing about your concerns and priorities throughout the 2014 Legislative Session. By working together, I am hopeful that a balanced budget plan can be developed, in order to help New York State move in the right direction.
Senator Ranzenhofer's monthly column appeared in the Amherst and Clarence Bee on February 19th.