Governor George E. Pataki presented his Executive Budget on January 17th, kicking off the timeline for considering and passing this year's budget.
A few of the highlights of the Governor's proposed budget include: greater tax relief from local school taxes for seniors and other home owners under the STAR program; a $500 heating fuel tax credit to seniors; $1.1 billion in business tax cuts over several years; 10 percent discount in the E-Z Pass toll program for drivers of hybrid and other cars that get at least 45 miles per gallon and meet air quality standards; and a $500 tax credit for replacement or renovation of old home heating systems.
The Governor also proposed tackling Medicaid fraud by establishing a Medicaid inspector general and improving the accountability in the system. The Senate agrees that Medicaid fraud hurts every single taxpayer and takes resources away from the truly needy. The Executive Budget also includes $1.3 billion in Medicaid cost containment actions. In addition, the budget would implement the next phase of the local Medicaid cap and the State takeover of the costs of the Family Health Plus program.
The Governor's budget proposal affects dozens of agencies, and it includes hundreds of policy changes. Many proposals are very controversial and there is a lot of work to be done in the next two months.
The Senate is committed to passing the budget on-time this year as we did last year. The Senate and Assembly have jointly established the following time frame for reviewing and acting on the budget: the Senate and Assembly will release their analyses of the Executive Budget by January 23rd; we will conduct joint legislative public hearings from January 23rd through February 16th; the revenue forecast will be released on February 27th; and both the Senate and the Assembly will adopt budget plans by March 13th.
If these plans are different, then the Senate and Assembly will hold joint conference committee meetings from March 14th through the 24th to resolve the differences in the plans that were adopted by each house. We will then have March 27th through March 31st to pass the joint legislative budget bills that were agreed upon in the previous week.
As planned, both the Senate and Assembly released their budget analyses by January 23rd. These documents are available for review on the Senate and Assembly websites.