Final State Budget? Bad News for Upstate Region

George Winner

March 20, 2009

Albany, N.Y.–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) criticized today an agreed-upon 2009-2010 state budget plan for taxing too much, spending too much, and dashing hopes for any short-term economic turnaround in upstate New York.

“Right out of the box, New York’s Democratic leaders are going to raise your taxes and put your job at risk so they can afford higher government spending,” Winner said.  “It’s even worse than I imagined.” 

Winner and the members of the Senate Republican conference are still poring over the details of the final budget plan agreed upon and printed over the weekend by Governor David Paterson and the state’s Democratic legislative leaders, but he said the early findings are not encouraging for upstate New York workers, families, or employers.

Over the past several weeks, Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have been roundly criticized by government reform advocates, newspaper editorial writers, and individual legislators like Winner for the secrecy of this year’s budget adoption process and its complete lack of public negotiations, despite a 2007 budget reform law intended to ensure public scrutiny.   

“This budget will tell the story of what’s wrong with one-party rule in New York government,” said Winner.  “There was no one in the room to hold anyone else accountable.  There was no one in the room willing or able to fight for upstate or to say ‘no’ to an addiction to taxing and spending.”

Winner said that this year’s final budget, which is expected to increase spending by at least $10 billion to approximately $132 billion, will also hike state taxes and fees by an amount approaching $10 billion.  According to one Senate analysis, the new taxes and fees will cost the average upstate family of four nearly $2,400 annually.

In addition to eliminating the state’s two-year-old STAR Rebate property tax relief program and raising state income tax rates, the final budget will also put in place higher taxes and fees on bottled water, utilities, SUNY students, owning and operating a motor vehicle (so-called “driver’s taxes,” including higher registration and license fees), wine and beer purchases, trout and salmon fishing, health insurance policies, wireless devices, auto rentals, and many other tax and fee increases that would impact individuals and businesses.

Additionally, Winner said that the final budget begins the process of dismantling the state’s Empire Zone program, currently upstate New York’s No. 1 economic development tool.  It calls for an end to the program next June.

“It’s the worst possible time to do away with the Empire Zone program,” said Winner.  “It’s going to stop upstate job creation dead in its tracks and could spell the end of the line for upstate communities already on the edge of the economic cliff.”