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Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C,I,Ref-Lockport) joined Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) and members of the Assembly Minority Conference today calling for Albany to reconsider its priorities when it comes to state spending. The members proposed a list of 10 priorities, but Norris went further by also calling for cuts to be made in overall state spending.
Its simple math. Albany is currently spending more than it can afford. We must stop spending. It is tough, but we should make cuts. We need to prioritize where we do spend, and I am working hard for greater fiscal responsibility in our state budget, said Norris.
The assemblyman said too much money is being wasted on failed economic development programs that have resulted in less than lackluster job creation. Instead, that money should fund across-the-board tax relief, allowing New Yorkers to keep more of their paycheck and invest more in their local economy.
He said restructuring existing state spending could lead to significant savings, such as streamlining the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Though the New York City public transit authority is not something that many Western New Yorkers think about, their tax dollars go to fund it every year in the state budget. Funding for the MTA has been an expensive point of contention annually in state budgets as funding is continually increased without greater accountability or reforms. He said, Instead of handing the MTA a check, we need to hold them more accountable. With reports that $215 million is being lost due to fare evasion, I think this is one public authority that needs greater oversight and efficiency before more tax dollars are thrown at it.
He also pointed to fraud, waste and abuse of the states Medicaid program and pointed to new legislation that would provide free healthcare to illegal immigrants at a cost of $500 million. Even the governor has called for a reopening of the Medicaid Redesign Team to find more efficiencies and combat fraud.
Finally, Norris said state spending needs to be reprioritized to address the most pressing concerns of the state, such as infrastructure and basic services. In addition to maintaining the Middle Class Tax Cut and property tax cap, coupled with mandate relief, Norris said the budget should fund the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPS), restore Aid to Municipalities (AIM) funding without the imposition of any new taxes or mandates (including the governors proposed extension of the Internet Sales Tax), fund libraries, provide a wage increase for direct care workers, support small businesses through enactment of the Small Business Full Employment Act, and investigate whether or not more prisons need to be closed with a public hearing. Norris also said because Albany passed legislation to spend tax dollars on free college tuition for illegal immigrants, a greater investment should be made in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) so that struggling, hardworking citizens can also afford to obtain college degrees.