As the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I anticipated that the Governor would propose reducing the State’s education budget, given the enormity of the economic predicament in which our State finds itself. I am concerned not only about the impact these proposed reductions will have on local property taxpayers, but on the quality of education and the services so vital to students. The Governor’s proposed cuts fall disproportionately on schools and those property taxpayers in the 41st Senate District.
As a long standing advocate for mandate relief, I am pleased the Governor included several measures which would aid districts in managing proposed reductions. Given the present fiscal circumstances, there is no better time than now to provide school districts with mandate relief and greater flexibility to reduce costs.
Education and health care comprise 52% of the State Budget and as such, reductions were anticipated. I am, however, extremely concerned about the Governor’s proposed health care cuts. Hospitals, long term care, pharmacies and other sectors of the health care industry, which have endured cuts in previous years, will suffer further under this budget. I am hopeful savings can be achieved without jeopardizing patient care.
Given the tremendous job losses we have seen recently, we must recognize the importance of investing in job creation. With the proposed cuts in so many vital programs and services, and the tremendous number of new or increased taxes and fees the Governor has proposed, it is essential that we get people back to work, especially upstate.
I am also troubled the Governor has proposed to eliminate the STAR Rebate Program. New Yorkers pay extraordinarily high property taxes and eagerly await the arrival of their rebate to help ameliorate the sting of writing the check to pay their property taxes. Reducing the burden on local taxpayers must continue to be a priority.
These are tough times, and tough times require tough choices. In the coming weeks, we must look carefully at the fee increases and proposed cuts in the Governor’s budget and assure that when we arrive at the conclusion of the process, the resolution is equitable. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues, the Assembly and the Governor to produce a budget that is structurally balanced and puts the State on solid fiscal ground for the coming years.