State Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida) today laid out a vision for how the State Senate can help direct discretionary stimulus funds to achieve a broader goal of economic development, while also closing specific budget holes that could be detrimental to economic stability. He noted that, with an expected $50 billion multi-year deficit still predicted for the state, tough decisions still had to be made and that any relief created by federal funds must be targeted to the right programs and purposes.
“Much of the federal stimulus will go directly to infrastructure projects and to specific issue areas like local education relief and county health costs containment,” said Senator Valesky, Vice President Pro Tempore of the New York State Senate. “As we consider what any budgetary relief will mean for the state, we must not forget that the overarching goal is to spur economic growth – not to sustain governmental growth.”
The $787 billion federal stimulus package was developed in part to enable infrastructure projects that promote economic growth. An estimated $26 billion from the federal stimulus package will go to projects and programs within New York State. Much of that funding will be directed to infrastructure projects. Other funds will be targeted to bolster education and to help address raising health costs. Yet, there is a growing sentiment among some interest groups that the stimulus funds will mean that all the Governor’s proposed cuts to the state budget will be restored and that difficult decisions can be avoided for another year.
“The tough decisions still need to be made, and rather than just wash away all the proposed state spending cuts, we must focus any fiscal relief on priorities that will contribute to economic stabilization and growth,” said Senator Valesky. “In my opinion, any budget relief from stimulus funding should be used to reject proposed taxes and fees that would only dampen the economic impact of the stimulus and to restore economic development-related items, like higher education and job saving programs.”
Senator Valesky continued, “Specifically, the relief should help us make needed investments in higher education, especially SUNY. It should empower us to focus Upstate economic development efforts and create long-term funding for successful state programs like Power for Jobs – a program that has proven to keep manufacturing jobs in our area. And, stimulus relief should enable us to move forward on a statewide high speed rail system, so that we can access additional federal stimulus funds set aside for rail projects.”
Specifically, Senator Valesky believes stimulus relief should allow the state to:
- Reject the proposed tax on soda, and other taxes and fees.
- Roll back the sales tax extension to keep non-profit events and recreational activities, like skiing and amusement parks, free from sales tax.
- Restore cuts made to the State University of New York.
- Extend job-preserving programs such as Power for Jobs.
- Move forward on the development of a statewide high speed rail system.
“For the last few months, I have been working with the Governor and with local congressional representatives to identify local shovel-ready projects in Central New York that will spur our economy,” said Senator Valesky. “These projects’ funds will be used to spur growth, and the budgetary relief should do the same, with smart and targeted use. These funds cannot be used to simply avoid the proposed state spending cuts.”