WINNER, COLLEAGUES OFFERING BUDGET AMENDMENTS
Albany, N.Y.–State Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) said today that he and his colleagues in the Senate Republican conference are offering a series of amendments to the 2009-2010 state budget to address shortcomings in a fiscal plan negotiated and agreed upon by Governor Paterson and the Legislature’s Democratic leaders.
“The three leaders have talked about their concern for Upstate, but they haven’t acted on it in their budget. So Upstate Republicans will be doing everything we possibly can to hold them to their words and pledges,” said Winner. “There has to be room in this state budget, during this time of economic crisis and struggle, for actions that strengthen the foundations of the Upstate economy, encourage job growth, and work toward greater economic security for Upstate workers and their families, employers, and entire communities.”
Among the amendments being offered by Winner and Senate Republicans are proposals to:
-- in an amendment sponsored by Winner, eliminate agreed-upon changes in the state’s Empire Zone program. Under the Democrats’ plan, Empire Zone decision-making will immediately be taken out of the hands of local administrators ( http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20090402/NEWS03/304029968/-1/NEWS ) and the entire Empire Zone program will be eliminated next June;
-- reauthorize the Dairy Assistance Program, first approved in 2007 to provide $30 million in direct assistance to state dairy farmers facing low milk prices, high operation costs and other factors that threatened the collapse of many farms. Earlier this year, Winner wrote to Paterson and urged his administration to prepare for a similar dairy crisis this year, when the average price per hundredweight being paid to farmers is even lower than it was two years ago and farmers face equally high production costs;
-- eliminate the higher utility tax contained in the Democrats’ budget that would result in higher electric and gas bills for consumers statewide, and extend the Power for Jobs program for two additional years, until June 2011;
-- implement a series of tax cuts for small businesses and manufacturers, including significant reductions in corporate taxes for all small businesses and a new manufacturing tax credit, in order to encourage economic growth Upstate;
-- create a new SUNY college tuition plan that would allow parents to enroll children, under the age of 14, in a program that would lock in current SUNY rates as a way to help families avoid the volatility of market-based college savings plans and hold down future tuition costs, as well as encourage greater investment in the SUNY system as an Upstate economic engine;
-- include an additional $7.4 million in funding to fully restore state aid to local public libraries;
-- provide additional funding to lessen the impact of anticipated changes in Medicaid reimbursement rates on rural and community hospitals;
-- restore the STAR property tax rebate program, which would provide the following, projected rebates in 2009 to area homeowners: Chemung County ($453 Basic STAR rebate, $426 Enhanced/Senior STAR rebate); Schuyler ($393 Basic, $385 Enhanced); Steuben ($439 Basic, $414 Enhanced); Tompkins ($440 Basic, $412, Enhanced); and Yates ($310 Basic, $302 Enhanced); and
-- enact a series of state mandate relief measures for school districts.
Republican lawmakers, government reform advocates, Upstate business groups, and others are opposed to the Paterson-Smith-Silver, $131.8-billion budget plan for taxing too much, committing New York to unmanageable future spending and, most of all, for not containing a single new, meaningful initiative to jump-start the upstate economy.
The head of the state’s leading business advocacy organization, Kenneth Adams, president of the Business Council of New York, ( http://www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2009/033009budgetoutrage.htm ) called the Democrats’ plan “the worst budget ever.” Critics of the budget being acted on today are also stressing that it ignores pledges made earlier this year by Paterson and the Senate’s new Democratic majority that they were committed to addressing Upstate’s challenges. In his State of the State message in January, for example, Paterson said, “We must also reaffirm our commitment to specific programs and projects targeted at revitalizing Upstate.”