While passing the New York State budget was an important success this year, we still have much work to do in the New York State Legislature. Earlier this month, my colleagues and I in the Senate outlined our agenda for the final two months of the 2007 Session.
Our priorities include: help for small businesses, additional property tax relief for senior citizens and lawsuit reforms.
The Senate's proposed budget included an energy tax credit to help small businesses afford the rising costs of energy. It was not included in the final State budget, but we will continue to pursue this issue. We also need to address the Power for Jobs program, that provides low-cost power for business, as this program is scheduled to expire this year. The Senate will also pursue measures to help small businesses afford the high cost of health insurance coverage for their employees, including tax reforms and health insurance savings incentives.
The Senate will also be seeking greater property tax relief under the STAR program. Last year, we expanded the program’s benefits by sending rebate checks to homeowners. The Governor sought to change the STAR program and eliminate the rebate checks. However, the final budget agreement preserved the checks, which directly benefit homeowners. While the budget increased the rebate checks for many homeowners, we need to do more to provide greater property tax relief to senior homeowners.
We are also supporting Tort Reform and Wick's Law Reform. Studies have shown that the lawsuit industry costs New Yorkers $14 billion each year, or almost $800 per person, and adds hundreds of millions of dollars every year to the property tax burden, because of runaway lawsuits against municipalities. They also drive up costs for businesses and make New York’s economy less competitive. We need to make sensible reforms to the system to get it under control. The Senate also supports reform of the Wick’s Law, whether it’s making changes to the threshold or other reforms that can reduce costs of construction. This would also help reduce costs incurred by municipalities.