We all know New York needs to be more affordable for our families, our seniors and our small businesses. This year my colleagues and I in the State Senate Republican Conference focused on a comprehensive agenda to help make New York more affordable, more economically vibrant, and more secure for our families.
Maintaining Fiscal Discipline
The budget protects taxpayers by adhering to a self-imposed two-percent spending cap for the eighth year in a row. Adhering to the cap was instrumental in helping eliminate a $4.5 billion deficit that the state expected to face this year. Capping state spending has saved taxpayers nearly $52 billion on a cumulative basis since the 2010-2011 budget.
Rejecting Tax and Fee Increases
The Senate led the successful fight to reject $1 billion in onerous tax-and-fee increases proposed by the Governor, and $20 billion more proposed by the Assembly, including new taxes on internet purchases and new DOT fees. The final budget also protects the continued roll-out of the landmark $4.2 billion Middle Class Income Tax Cut that took effect in January, and will reduce tax rates on middle-class families and thousands of small businesses by 20 percent over the next several years.
Protecting and Expanding STAR Property Tax Relief
The Senate made it a priority to build upon the highly successful property tax cap that has already saved taxpayers $37 billion and worked to ensure the Governor’s proposed cap on STAR property tax relief benefits was rejected, saving $49 million. The budget also extends the property tax rebate check program and many homeowners will see their rebate checks double to an average of $380 this year and $532 next year.
Protecting Taxpayers from Negative Impacts of Federal Tax Changes
The budget follows the Senate’s lead in decoupling the state and federal tax codes to prevent New Yorkers from taking a $1.5 billion state tax hit as a result of recent federal tax changes. It holds harmless New Yorkers who may have to pay more in state income taxes because of the changes at the federal level, and prevents the state from benefitting from the sudden revenue increase at the expense of taxpayers.
Making Retirement More Affordable and Accessible for Private Sector Employees
The budget creates a program that provides a simpler way for private employees to save up for retirement through voluntary payroll deductions. Many small business owners and job creators in New York currently face costly administrative and financial barriers to providing retirement savings plans to their employees. This program would give employers, on a completely voluntary basis, the opportunity to utilize existing state administrative resources to help workers that choose to participate in the program and contribute to Roth IRAs to help them save for their future.
Protecting New Yorkers from Overpaying for Prescription Drugs
A Senate initiative to protect consumers from unfair prescription drug pricing is included in the budget. The reforms help consumers become better informed about the price of drugs and prohibits two costly practices – gag clauses and clawbacks – used by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Prohibiting these costly practices will help fight the rising cost of prescription drugs for all New Yorkers. This provision ensures that audits conducted by PBMs are fair and follow established industry standards and guidelines. Prior to its enactment in the budget, the Senate led the way and passed a bill earlier this year to accomplish these important changes. S6940, passed both houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon and Senator James L. Seward.
Keeping $700 Million in Brownfield, Historic, and Other Business Tax Credits In Place
The final budget prevents the deferment of tax credits including the state’s Historic Tax Credit and Brownfield Cleanup Tax Credit programs so that private investment in under-developed communities is not jeopardized. These credits and all but five of the state’s other business tax credits would have been deferred for multiple years under the Executive Budget proposal, but the Senate fought to save the $700 million in credits so that they can continue to promote business growth, create jobs, and revitalize communities.
Growing NY Strong
Together, the Senate and Assembly succeeded in restoring and adding more than $13 million beyond what the Executive proposed for agriculture programs, totaling $54.4 million. This year’s total funding is an increase of over $3 million from last year. Dozens of programs – investments in cutting-edge agricultural research, support for the next generation of family farmers, environmental stewardship, and protections for plant, animal, and public health – will be funded, with significant increases including:
- $1.5 million, for a total of $1.9 million, for the Farm Viability Institute to help New York’s farmers become more profitable and to improve the long-term economic viability and sustainability of farms, the food system, and the communities which they serve;
- $1 million, for a total of $9.28 million, for Agri Business Child Development Program, to provide quality early childhood education and social services to farm workers and other eligible families;
- $1 million, for a total of $5.43 million, for Cornell Diagnostic Lab;
- $1.1 million for Taste New York, including $550,000 for the New York Wine and Culinary Center;
- $750,000 for Farm-to-School programs;
- $544,000, for a total of $750,000, for the Apple Growers Association;
- $500,000 for the Farm-to-Seniors Program;
- $225,000 for Maple Producers; and
- $138,000 for EBT at Farmers Markets. In addition, the Senate again secured $5 million to support local county fairs and $5 million for animal shelter improvements.
Preparing Workers for Successful Careers
The budget provides key investments in job training and workforce development initiatives so New Yorkers can enhance their job skills – providing a pathway for new opportunities, financial security, and career success. Specific highlights include:
- $5 million for the Next Generation Job Linkage Program that assists employers in identifying potential jobs, defining their necessary skills and providing employees with the appropriate training;
- $5 million for the SUNY/CUNY Apprentice Initiative, a targeted training initiative that helps employers refine the skills of new hires and enables more experienced employees the chance to upgrade their skills;
- $4 million for the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), a highly successful not-for-profit that works with businesses and the AFL-CIO to provide focused training for workers and for workforce transition support to help stop the outsourcing of jobs to other states. An additional $3 million is also provided for WDI’s Manufacturing Initiative;
- $3.6 million for Business and Community College Partnerships that support innovative, specificallytailored workforce training programs coordinated between individual businesses and community colleges; and
- Increased support for Early College High Schools to help prepare students for college-level coursework that promotes future academic performance and enables students to get their high school diplomas while also earning free associate degrees for high-skilled jobs or taking other college credit-bearing courses.
Increasing Education Funding to Help Children Succeed
The final education budget includes record support for schools – $26 billion, including an increase of $1 billion over last year. This four-percent increase continues the Senate’s commitment to funding education at a rate higher than the growth of the rest of the budget. Other highlights include:
- Nearly doubling the Governor’s Foundation Aid proposal with $281 million in additional funding, for a total increase of $619 million in 2018-19;
- Fully funding expense base aids at $240 million;
- Increasing funding for charter schools;
- Increasing funding for STEM programs in non-public schools by $10 million for a total of $15 million;
- Continuing $15 million in security grants for non-public schools;
- Restoring a $7 million cut in the Executive Budget for non-public school immunization funding;
- Creating the “No Student Goes Hungry” program to provide students of all ages, backgrounds, and financial situations access to healthy, locally-sourced meals to address child hunger. It includes an expansion of the Farm-to-School Program to utilize locally-grown, quality meals, which will support local agriculture and an improved learning experience for children.
Preparing Students for Bright Futures Through Higher Education
The final budget provides $7.6 billion to support higher education in New York. Other highlights include:
- Providing $1 billion in funding for tuition assistance and financial aid this year;
- Restoring $35 million for Bundy Aid;
- Increasing base aid funding for community colleges by $18 million - $12 million for SUNY and $6 million for CUNY - to help prevent tuition hikes;
- Including $200 million for educational opportunity programs and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), among others;
- Restoring $200 million in Executive Budget cuts to SUNY and CUNY’s capital programs;
- Providing $2 million for child care centers at community colleges to help working parents succeed in school; and
- Supporting New York’s Bravest, firefighters would be allowed to take up to one CUNY course that pertains to their line of work for free, similar to what police officers are currently offered.
Promoting Economic Growth Through Infrastructure Investments
To ensure New York has the infrastructure in place to attract and expand businesses, the Senate has secured $122 million in new capital funds to support investments in transportation, environmental mitigation, aviation, and other economic development-related infrastructure projects throughout the state.
Providing Safe, Reliable Transportation
To help localities repair and rehabilitate local roads and bridges, the enacted budget provides an additional $65 million in one-time Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Program (CHIPS) funding for extreme winter recovery, for a total of $503 million.