I am pleased that Governor Pataki has emphasized the importance of tax cuts. The Executive Budget, like our Senate property tax rebate program-Rebate New York- advances a plan that would send a direct property tax rebate check to every senior taxpayers eligible for the STAR property tax reduction program. Our Senate Rebate New York Plan provides a greater and more extensive benefit that would deliver a school property tax rebate checks for all STAR recipients.
The Governor’s proposal for a cost of living adjustment for seniors receiving STAR is also similar to our Rebate NY proposal, but not as broad. I also look forward to learning more about the Governor’s program to establish a heating tax credit of $500 for low income seniors struggling to heat their homes.
I support the Governor’s efforts to establish a pro job tax reduction plan, including its emphasis on small business initiatives, to make New York a more desirable place to do business. This would help New York State be more competitive in attracting and retaining business.
As the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I am committed to protecting educational opportunities for all students in the State. The Governor has proposed an increase in school aid of $634 million. However, not only does the Governor’s budget fail to provide an increase in operating aid, but a portion of this, $375 million is unallocated Sound Basic Education (SBE) funding. Obviously there is much more to learn about the Governor’s plan.
In regard to the Governor’s proposal to increase the number of charter schools I believe that caution is required when we talk about expanding charter schools in New York State, when the funding mechanism continues to put the burden on local school district and their taxpayers. I will also encourage the restoration of funding for BOCES and special education.
The Governor also appropriately emphasizes the importance of combating Medicaid fraud. The Governor’s budget includes a plan to improve accountability in the Medicaid system through the creation of an independent office of Medicaid Inspector General. Last year’s cap on Medicaid that we created resulted in a statewide savings for counties of $1.1 billion.
I am pleased that the Governor emphasized the importance of developing renewable energy. I look forward to learning more about these proposals.
The Governor remains committed to keeping the public safe from sexually-violent predators including more intense supervision of sex offenders in the community and enhancements to the Sex Offender Registry.
Overall I am very pleased with the upbeat message delivered today by the Governor. It is important that further discussion on these proposals begin immediately so we may move forward toward adopting an on time budget.