Following a recent written demand for more state aid for Long Island, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) today personally called on the Spitzer administration to give Long Island its fair share. Senator Flanagan presented his thoughts at a recent Division of the Budget hearing that was held in Hauppauge.
Since the purpose of the hearing was to allow for public input into the budget process, Senator Flanagan called for a cooperative effort that would provide acceptable funding for all regions of the state.
"This meeting presents a great opportunity for people to voice their opinion and opens the budgetary process up to everyone. As a first step in the process, it allows for a realistic discussion and I look forward to working cooperatively with the administration as we move forward," said Senator Flanagan. "And as this process unfolds, I will push to make sure that the needs of Long Island are known and that the budget reflects the financial reality of our region"
Senator Flanagan stressed the need for this year's proposal to reflect the needs of the Long Island residents. To that end, he called for it to differ from last year's original plan which called for a flat-lining of state aid to many Long Island school districts while offering substantial increases to other parts of the state.
According to Senator Flanagan, if that aid package had been adopted, it would have decimated the school system of Long Island and caused a huge increase in property taxes across Long Island. While the final budget included a record increase of $220 million in state funding, it took the efforts of the Senate to get the additional funding which was originally denied to Long Island in Governor Eliot Spitzer's proposed budget.
Senator Flanagan also called for renewing both the successful Rebate NY direct property tax relief program and the High Tax Aid formula, which have both delivered millions in state aid for Long Island homeowners. Both of these programs were eliminated in Governor Spitzer's initial budget last year but restored by the Senate.
"The main issue facing us is the overriding need our residents have for property tax relief. Our families are overtaxed and any loss in state funding or cuts in tax relief programs hurts our homeowners," said Senator Flanagan. "I want the administration to understand that there are three important issues facing Long Islanders and they are property taxes, property taxes and property taxes. The state needs to provide our schools with funding so taxes can stabilize and give our homeowners the tax relief they need."
Senator Flanagan's testimony mirrored the recent joint Long Island Senate Delegation letter calling on the state education department to remember the needs of our region. That letter, which was sent to State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills and Chancellor Robert M. Bennett, outlined the Delegation's disappointment with the 2008-09 Regents State Aid proposal, which was released in October. It also highlighted the fact that the plan would unfairly impact Long Island residents and increase the already heavy burden faced by area taxpayers.
While the overall Regents' proposal would increase school aid throughout the state by almost 10 percent, a majority of the increase would be directed to schools outside of Long Island. This is due to the Regents call for a reduction in the minimum increase in basic state aid for 150 school districts throughout the state that are in the "save harmless" category - which included nearly 90% of Long Island schools in Governor Spitzer's initial budget proposal last January.
The eight members were also highly concerned with the renewed call to eliminate High Tax aid formula, which delivered millions of dollars to areas like Long Island. This formula recognizes the strong local commitment of residents who pay higher school taxes and provides these districts with additional funding to ease the burden faced by property taxpayers.
"While Governor Spitzer's budget will be submitted in January, this hearing and the Board of Regents proposal provide us with opportunities to begin the dialogue now. The needs of the children and taxpayers of Long Island are too important to allow any delay," stated Senator Flanagan. "We must be creative and work with the administration to put forth the best budget for all of New York State. But we must also make sure that the needs of our region are not sacrificed for the betterment of any other portion of our state."
To view web casts of these hearings, please click here.
Any resident who would like to submit their ideas regarding the budget can e-mail their thoughts to the Division of Budget atBudgetHearing@budget.state.ny.usor by visiting the Division of the Budgetweb site.
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