A Legislative Column from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac)
Earlier this year, I expressed my appreciation to the Assembly Majority for keeping controversial policy proposals out of the Assembly one-house budget resolution. Since then, that appreciation has completely disappeared as more controversial policy changes found their way back into the final budget, which passed in the wee hours of the night earlier this week. Too quickly has this state government, dominated by one-party rule, slipped back into the old ways of ramming through controversial legislation while taxpayers across the state are asleep.
The state’s new budget created a long laundry list of costly mandates, along with cuts to local government assistance, new tax hikes and taxpayer-funded handouts. Democrats also approved policy changes that do more to shield illegal immigrants from federal deportation proceedings by reducing specific criminal sentences- an effort that inches New York closer to becoming a “Sanctuary State.”
Like many budgets, that doesn’t mean it was all bad. It did include some positives I was proud to advocate for, such as:
· A permanent property tax cap;
· Restored funds to the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer to Peer Program in Putnam and Westchester counties;
· Rejection of the governor’s recreational marijuana proposal;
· Rejection of Westchester County sales tax hike within the budget;
· Restored funding to Child Advocacy Centers, as well as the United Way 2-1-1 Call Centers; and
· Funded Center for Excellence Programs including $925,000 for NY Medical College COE in Precision Response to Bioterrorism & Disaster.
Still, despite these efforts, the bad far outweighs the good. Some of the negative highlights include:
· Cut the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding by $59 million;
· Forced sharing of county sales tax revenue to offset state cuts to AIM funding;
· Failed to provide increased funding for promised support of direct-care workers
· Cut construction aid to local libraries; and
· Eliminated $65 million of Extreme Winter Recovery funding, with no increase to the CHIPS program to support our local roads, bridges and culverts.
Controversial policy changes
· Enacted the “DREAM Act” to provide taxpayer-funded financial aid, and more “free” college through the Excelsior Scholarship Program for illegal immigrants;
· Eliminated cash bail, with some exceptions, and changed rules for discovery within our state’s criminal justice system;
· Reduced the maximum misdemeanor criminal sentence from 365 to 364 days as a way to shield criminal illegal immigrants from activating federal deportation proceedings;
· Added an anti-business, employer-mandated three hours of paid time off for all employees for ANY election (general, primary, school district, village, fire district, library district, etc.); and
· Created a new commission made of unelected partisan appointees, whose recommendations will have the full force of law, to develop and implement a taxpayer funded financing program for political campaigns.
More new taxes including, but not limited to:
· New tax on vapor products;
· New excise tax on sale of opioids without specifically dedicating funding to support treatment of substance use disorders;
· Auto rental tax increase;
· New York City Real Estate Transfer Tax increase;
· New Congestion Pricing Program in NYC; and
· New tax option on paper bags.
And don’t forget the generous pay raise for the governor, passed after the last budget vote while most New Yorkers were waking up to go to work on April 1. No, I know it was April Fools’, but sadly that is not a joke. When fully phased in by January 2021, the governor will become the highest paid governor in the country.
The reality is, New York state residents already face the highest total tax burden of any state in the nation, and we are in the midst of an affordability crisis highlighted by the surge of out-migration caused by New Yorkers fleeing their home state for greater opportunities elsewhere.
Each year, the budget presents our state government the greatest opportunity to right-size government and provide meaningful tax relief to residents. This year the total budget cost taxpayers a whopping $175 billion. Sadly, while this budget does accomplish some good things, the budget places more burdens on taxpayers, not less. For those reasons, other than voting to pay back our state’s debt obligation, I opposed this year’s budget.
I hope that moving forward our leaders in state government will be able to do better by working together to build a better state for all New Yorkers to enjoy.