In just two short years, New York State has gone from being the poster child of dysfunctional government to one that is being lauded as a National example of how state government can and should work.
Today, my colleagues in the State Legislature and I continued this remarkable transformation by adopting a balanced, fiscally responsible State budget for the second year in a row! This budget, which contains NO new or increase in taxes, was completed in a full two days before the start of the new fiscal year. For the first time in recent history, we have a budget in place that reduces overall spending for the second year in a row!
My special thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his leadership in developing another transformative Budget for our State. Governor Cuomo, who shares our long-standing commitment to spending restraint, no new taxes, and private sector job creation, has made a tremendous difference in changing the direction of New York’s economy.
In addition to stopping any tax increases again this year, the budget will also help taxpayers by providing significant mandate relief for local governments, including a State takeover of the local share of Medicaid costs. It is estimated that this will save our local municipalities and property taxpayers $1.7 billion over five years.
While cutting overall spending, the Budget makes smart investments that will produce positive results in our communities. It continues to support education so our children have the resources they need to succeed, delivering the four percent increase in overall school aid we worked with the Governor last year to secure. As a result, schools across my Senate District will see an increase of over $12 million in day-to-day operating State aid for the 2012-13 school year. This budget also secures funding for the important issue of protecting our Finger Lakes from invasive species such as Hydrilla, which is now threatening the southern portion of Cayuga Lake.
More importantly, this Budget continues our efforts to promote regional, long-term job development and partnerships to create more private sector jobs.
One of these important job development projects that will take place right here in our region is a major expansion of Finger Lakes Community College’s Viticulture and Wine Technology program at the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park in Geneva. Working closely with Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Brian Kolb and I were able to identify and redirect $8 million from a dormant grant appropriation to construct a new state-of-the-art Viticulture Center at the Ag-Tech Park.
FLCC’s Viticulture program- the only one of its kind in the Northeast- is critically important to the Finger Lakes Region’s continued emergence as one of the premier winemaking areas of the Country. As the home of some of the most innovative agricultural research in the Nation and in close proximity to over 60 local wineries, the Ag-Tech Park is the ideal location for our future winemakers to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to continue developing New York’s wine and grape industry as one of our fastest growing economic engines. I am greatly pleased that we were able to work with the Governor to bring this important expansion of the program to Geneva as part of this year’s budget.
Economic development projects like the Viticulture Center demonstrate that our partnership with Governor Cuomo has been successful in establishing New York as a job-producing state once again. The 2012-13 State budget is another tremendous step forward that will bring our State to the forefront of our Nation’s economic recovery.