For the second year in a row, the people of New York have a budget before the April 1st deadline, and for the second year in a row our state is closer to having a Legislature that is more open and more responsive. The budget I voted to adopt is not just on-time, it is also a strong budget that provides property tax relief, improves school funding and protects higher education.
This budget reduces the property tax burden in several ways. First and foremost, the budget includes $805 million in property tax rebates for home owners. This is money that will end up right back in taxpayers’ pockets. The budget also includes expanded STAR tax breaks for seniors totaling $72 million. While I am pleased to help deliver these rebates, one of the best ways to relieve the property tax burden is to prevent increases in the first place. This budget also reduces the need for increased local property taxes by improving state aid to cities and municipalities. The budget includes a 29% increase for Syracuse, a 24% increase for Rome and Auburn, a 20% increase for Oneida, and an average increase of close to 20% for towns over last year.
The budget we passed today will also increase funding for local education. In the executive budget, the Governor had proposed school aid numbers that would have resulted in no increase for many Central New York districts and a drop in aid for 15 local school districts. Working with my colleagues in the Legislature, we rejected the Governor’s inadequate school aid proposal and came up with a plan that will mean increases in state funding over last year’s aid for all the school districts in the 49th Senate District. The budget also approves funding for the first phase of the multi-year plan to renovate Syracuse City schools.
In addition, this year’s budget includes great news for higher education, reversing the Governor’s proposals to slash valuable programs like TAP and resisting his effort to increase SUNY tuition. The budget makes an investment in agriculture by funding important programs and expanding property tax relief for farmers. And, the budget recognizes the work of local firefighters with a statewide tax credit for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
While I am pleased to have helped craft this on-time budget, as always I believe the real credit lies with the people of New York who demanded an on-time budget, who called for a more open process, and who sought an end to business as usual in Albany. For the second year in a row, we used a more open process, confirming that an open system of government is a more efficient system.
There is still a lot of work to be done in Albany. We have certainly taken the first steps. But we have to keep moving forward with reform. We have to keep demanding an end to dysfunction. And we have to continue the fight for a Legislature that is more open and more responsive.