By Michael H. Ranzenhofer, State Senator - 61st District
After years of record spending increases and countless tax and fee hikes, the conclusion of the 2011 Legislative Session marked a dramatic turnaround for State government. With new leadership in the Senate, as well as a new Governor, a lot was accomplished– including an on-time budget, property tax cap, ethics reform, and NY-SUNY 2020.
New York still faces major challenges ahead and a great deal of work needs to be done, but I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the positive steps that were taken during this year’s session:
1. A Strong Property Tax Cap: After hearing from so many of my constituents, I made capping property taxes a major priority. I sponsored and voted for the 2% cap on property taxes and I am pleased to report that it has been signed into law. The tax cap will prevent dramatic spikes in property taxes and stop residents from being taxed out of their homes. In addition, the new law includes $127 million in cost savings for local governments in the form of mandate relief and also establishes a Mandate Relief Council.
2. A Responsible, On-time Budget: The 2011 State Budget closed a $10 billion deficit without raising taxes and fees, and instead reduced spending for the first time in more than 15 years. The budget cut Medicaid by $2.4 billion, reduced State operating costs by 10% and consolidated government agencies.
3. A Better Economy and Job Creation: The budget made the Recharge NY program permanent so that businesses’ energy costs are reduced by providing low cost hydropower. The Excelsior Jobs program strengthened incentives for companies to hire. The budget also phased out a multi-billion dollar income tax for thousands of small businesses. These three initiatives will help the private sector to create jobs and the economy to grow.
4. NY-SUNY 2020: This initiative will help develop the University at Buffalo and its UB 2020 plan by providing up to $35 million in capital funds, as part of the Challenge Grant program. The legislation ensures more stable tuition costs and prevents unpredictable spikes – so students and their parents can accurately plan for the costs of attending a four-year SUNY college or university.
5. Landmark Ethics Reform: Western New Yorkers are tired of the scandals that have rocked Albany over the years. That’s why I supported the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 to strengthen disclosure requirements for elected officials, establish a stronger, independent ethics commission and ensure more accountability in our State Capitol.
All of these initiatives represent a new start for New York. While these changes to the Albany status quo were long overdue, I will be sure to keep you updated as I continue working for you, your family and our community.
Senator Ranzenhofer's Monthly Column appeared in the Amherst, Clarence and Ken-Ton Bees on July 20, 2011.