The New York State Senate Finance Committeereleased its analysis of the 2006-07 proposed governor'sbudget which concludes that past tax reductions and increased accountability in state spending have strengthened the state’s financial picture, resulting in a record-high reserves, as well as a strong surplus that should be used to fund tax cuts and increase investments in education, health care and job creation efforts.
"It means that we can return tax dollars to New York's hard working, overburdened taxpayers," said Finance Committee Member Senator James L. Seward. "The senate majority has made it very clear that we must return as much of the budget surplus as possible to taxpayers because it is their money, not ours."
The report projects a general fund surplus this year of $3.3 billion, including a $552 million reserve being used to accelerate tax refunds.
The senate majority has proposed a $2.4 billion property tax reduction plan that includes direct rebate checks to taxpayers and an expansion of the STAR program. In addition, the senate majority will not back any new tax increases in the budget.
The Senate Finance Committee staff report illustrates the dramatic recovery of the state’s financial condition since the economic downturn that resulted from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Since 1995, New York State has enacted tax cuts that will save taxpayers a cumulative total of more than $167 billion by 2008-09. The tax cuts have made New York State more economically competitive and resulted in a record high total of $7.2 billion in combined reserves for 2005-06 and 2006-07, compared to less than one billion in reserves in 2002-03.
"These tax cuts, combined with effectively managing out-year budget gaps and increasing accountability, have made the state’s fiscal health strong," Senator Owen H. Johnson (R-C, Babylon), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said. "We have the resources we need to reduce more taxes, especially property taxes, to increase funding for schools and to enact a responsible, on time budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers."
Members of the senate majority conference have formed individual subcommittees that are reviewing the executive budget and will make recommendations to the conference that will become the senate’s budget proposal. The senate’s budget plan will serve as the basis for conference committee budget negotiations.
"This will be the most open, transparent and public budget negotiation process in the history of the state," Senator Bruno said. "We will show public budget hearings, public leaders meetings and public budget conference committees throughout the state on cable television. We will bring the budget process into people’s living rooms and we will work together with the governor and the assembly to enact a budget on time for the second year in a row."
The Senate Finance Committee staff analysis of the SFY 2006-07 executive budget can be viewed online at www.senate.state.ny.us -- click on "Senate Reports."