The fiscal climate of the State presents a number of challenges. The Governor’s budget addresses many of those challenges. In particular, capping local Medicaid costs is an important step in property tax relief.
I also am supportive of his efforts to dedicate more capital assistance to our higher education facilities. While the Governor is right to recognize that both public and private higher educational facilities need improvements, I believe the SUNY system must always be the first priority when taxpayer dollars are used to fund higher education.
Needed SUNY capital projects in our region include the development of the Orange County Community College’s Newburgh Campus, renovations to SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Delhi’s student union buildings.
I am disappointed, however, that the Governor has again targeted the Middletown Psychiatric Center for closure. As I have successfully done in the past, I intend to fight to maintain the services offered at this facility. I am also concerned about a proposed increase in the mortgage recording fee within the MTA region. The rail service West of the Hudson River needs massive improvements. The people deserve clear commitments from the MTA before any new revenue is considered for that agency.
I also appreciate the Governor’s expressed recognition that the State’s education finance system is "archaic". Real education finance reform should include changing the way our schools are financed at the local level. I will continue to lead the effort in the Senate to make that happen.
The Governor has laid out a plan which addresses many of the State’s fiscal needs and provides the ability to pay for it. I look forward to working with him, and my colleagues in the Legislature, to develop the 2005-2006 State Budget.