Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) announced today that a number of new state laws, including elimination of the marriage penalty, a personal income tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel and an increase in the minimum wage, will go into effect on January 1, 2007.
The tax credits and reductions that take effect will save almost $1 billion. "The main goal has been to reduce the tax burden on New York residents and these laws will deliver some much needed tax relief. This represents great movement in the right direction and a great starting point as we again make providing tax relief the number one priority for the upcoming Senate session," stated Senator Flanagan.
The new laws include the following:
Medicaid Inspector General- Sponsored by Senator Flanagan - In 2006, the Legislature passed legislation establishing an independent Office of Medicaid Inspector General within the State Department of Health. Effective January 1, 2007, this law directs the Inspector to establish regulations requiring each Medicaid provider to implement Medicaid Provider Compliance Programs to organize available resources. This will help resolve payment discrepancies and detect inaccurate billings as efficiently as possible and will impose checks and balances on the system to prevent future recurrences.
Empire State Child Tax Credit - Beginning this year, taxpayers will be allowed a personal income tax credit equal to one-third of the federal child tax credit for children between the ages of four and seventeen. This tax credit will save New York parents $600 million in 2007.
Marriage Penalty Elimination - Currently, a married taxpayer is allowed a standard deduction of $14,600 if he or she files a joint return or $6,500 if he or she files a separate return. However, a single taxpayer is allowed a standard deduction of $7,500 and results in a tax penalty for married taxpayers. The Legislative Budget would increase the standard deduction for married taxpayers to $15,000 for joint filers and to $7,500 for separate filers; thus eliminating the marriage penalty. This will save married taxpayers $41 million in the coming year.
Mental Health Parity- Sponsored by Senator Flanagan - A new law will provide parity in insurance coverage for mental illnesses. The law was named in honor of 12-year-old Timothy O'Clair of Rotterdam, who sadly took his own life in 2001 after repeated bouts of depression and will require insurance companies to cover most mental illnesses in a manner comparable to their coverage of medical care. It would also require coverage for a broad range of mental illnesses and conditions specifically related to children.
Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Personnel - With approximately 130,000 volunteer firefighter and emergency personnel in New York State, many counties offer a partial exemption against their property taxes for service in these volunteer fire departments.
In an effort to encourage more New York residents to join their local volunteer fire departments, the Legislature provided a $200 personal income tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel not receiving the local property tax exemption. This move will save these volunteers $26 million.
The Legislature also has expanded the property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service providers to include school taxes. This measure would need approval by the local school district.
Protection for Spouses of Volunteers - Authorizes at local option the continuation or reinstatement of a volunteer fire/ambulance worker exemption to an unremarried spouse of a deceased volunteer. This would apply in cases where the deceased volunteer had been previously receiving the exemption for such property and had been certified as having been an enrolled member and served in the volunteer fire service or the volunteer ambulance service for 20 years or more.
Rights of Crime Victim - Sponsored by Senator Flanagan - This new law directs the Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services to develop and implement a standardized procedure to be used by police and district attorneys to notify crime victims of their rights and the programs designed to assist them.
Regulating Fire Services - To offer more transparency with fire districts, a number of new laws will take effect this year. The measures will not restrict the fine service that these volunteer companies provide but will offer taxpayers increased understanding of their operation.
As part of a measure that requires all volunteer firefighter service award program sponsors or administrators to obtain annual audits by an independent accountant (which takes effect June 30, 2007), the new law directs that such program sponsors make their annual statements of contribution, plan documents, and summaries of such plans available to participants and for public inspection and copying.
As of January 1st, all fire district resolutions that relate to capital reserve funds are subject to a mandatory referendum. This law also specifies that expenditures from and transfers between such funds continue to be subject to the same degree of public approval as is currently required.
Additionally, all fire districts will be required to hold a public budget meeting on the 3rd Tuesday in October to allow discussion of the proposed budget. New York State law also specifies that these meetings must be conducted and scheduled in a manner that maximizes participation.
And to improve public awareness of fire district proceedings, requires such districts to post notice of upcoming hearings and elections year round.
Tax Benefits for Disabled Senior Citizens - Grants multiple owners of property who meet the qualifications for both the senior citizen and disabled person exemptions the option of choosing the one exemption that is most beneficial to such owners.
Veteran Tax Exemption - This measure will exempt any military decorations, including ribbons, medals, minimedals, and lapel pins from sales tax when sold to a purchaser who is a veteran of the United States. Veterans who receive this exemption will be required to present proof of his or her veteran status to the vendor in the form of discharge papers or other official documentation and active members will be asked for proof or other official documentation of actual military service to the vendor.
Protection for Children with Autism - Sponsored by Senator Flanagan - Clarifies the definition of autism spectrum disorders, thus expediting the autism diagnosis process and ensuring that insurance companies will not deny coverage.
Emergency Preparedness for Pet Owners - To provide security to residents with pets, this new law requires that State and local disaster preparedness plans provide for the utilization and coordination of programs to assist individuals with household pets and service animals. The new law requires that particular attention be paid to means of evacuation, shelter, and transportation options.
This year, Senator Flanagan also worked to implement the following initiatives that went into effect during 2006:
For a list of additional measures or for additional information about the changes listed here, please visit Senator Flanagan's web site at www.senatorflanagan.com.
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