Joining voices with numerous community members who have contacted his office today, New York State Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) expressed his disappointment with the budget agreement reached by the Democratic leaders of New York State. From increased taxes to skyrocketing spending, the deal that Governor David Paterson reached in secrecy with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was criticized by most who live or work on Long Island.
The budget plan, which would raise state spending to $132 billion if approved by the Legislature, was put together in secret by the three leaders with very little input from representatives from both parties. The discussions were so clandestine that most members of the Legislature were unaware of the details when the budget was announced to the public even though year-to-year spending was increased by $10.5 billion or nearly 10 percent. That is 7 times above the rate of inflation.
Senator Flanagan, on behalf of the people he represents, was outraged by the plan and the manner in which the plan was formulated: “At a time when all elected officials need to work together for the betterment of our entire state, the three men in a room have left even their own fellow Democrats out of budget discussions. They have avoided any input from those who represent the very people who will have to cover the cost of this ill-conceived budget and that is the wrong approach at the wrong time.”
In a clear sign of the secrecy and lack of information, the school aid outline was unavailable to all but the three men who designed the spending plan. That means that rank-and-file Democrats who are going to vote on this budget will have a limited opportunity to review the impact this budget will have on the schools they represent.
According to New York State Senate estimates, a Long Island family can expect to pay $4,700 to $5,000 more a year in higher state taxes and fees as a result of this budget. These increased taxes and fees would impact numerous everyday activities, including increased utility taxes that would result in New Yorkers paying the highest gas and electric rates in the country. They would also pay more to register their cars, to renew their hunting and fishing licenses, to send their children to college, to rent a car or to buy bottled water or beer.
Additionally, the Democratic leaders of New York State are poised to use the current economic crisis to pass the largest personal income tax increase in State history even after the state received $25 billion in federal stimulus monies.
All together, initial estimates say that the new tax increases will add up to over $8 billion in this budget.
And, in a shot right at the economic needs of Long Islanders, the budget agreement would also eliminate the very successful Middle Class STAR Rebate checks that delivered millions of dollars to Long Island homeowners. Unlike the STAR exemption program, which remains in place, these checks provided direct property tax relief to homeowners in our region.
“Long Islanders need property tax relief and this budget actually removes a program that people need to survive. The Middle Class STAR Rebate checks helped our elder residents pay their bills and our hard-working families make ends meet, but now the checks are being eliminated just when they are needed the most. This is a program that works and should be restored for the good of all homeowners throughout our state,” added Senator Flanagan.
The budget also lacks any new initiatives to create sorely needed jobs for workers who need them or to improve the State’s hard-hit economy. Instead, it takes a hard line on small business owners who are already struggling to survive and forces businesses to pay higher income taxes, higher energy costs, and higher health insurance costs.
"This budget spends too much, it taxes too much and it lacks any innovative ways to stimulate our economy. We are hitting our homeowners and our business owners at the very time when we should be helping them. It is an unmitigated failure negotiated in complete secrecy, and there is absolutely no way I will support it,” concluded Senator Flanagan.
March 30, 2009 - Long Island Business News
March 29, 2009 - Newsday