Norris: Budget Should Focus On Essentials

A Column from Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C,I,Ref-Lockport)

This state budget is already proving to be one of the toughest of Gov. Cuomo’s tenure and with one party controlling the process, it is discouraging to hear how deeply progressive – not to mention expensive – this budget could get.

At already roughly $170 billion, the legislative majorities are advocating to spend nearly another billion in taxpayer dollars that we do not have. The state comptroller was forced to intervene to propose a revenue forecast number; though there is no obligation for the governor or legislative leaders to adhere to his recommendation as we now take the next step in the process – our one-house budgets.

Quite frankly, I am very concerned about the proposals each majority conference will make. Proposals like single-payer healthcare would bankrupt our state. Other proposals like increasing wages for incarcerated felons, while ignoring the needs of direct care workers, or giving free college tuition to illegal immigrants, while ignoring needed and overdue increases to the Tuition Assistance Program, prove that these downstate leaders have misguided budgetary priorities.

In these lean fiscal times, our state government should be focusing only on the most essential services, such as providing safe roads and infrastructure. As a longtime advocate for improving infrastructure in our state, I was proud to join with highway superintendents from across our district and the entire state at a rally in Albany for increased funding. I am pleased to report that the rally helped, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle joined our call. I am hopeful this funding will be delivered in the final state budget.

Another priority must be reprioritizing the billions of dollars the governor hands out in failed economic development programs. A better use of this money would be overall tax relief for the hardworking men and women of our state. Over one million people have left New York in recent years – and it’s not because of the weather. Our state’s famously-high taxes are pushing people out while Albany continues to spend.

Let’s cut the unfunded mandates on local governments that account for 90 percent of your tax burden. Let’s maintain the Middle-Class Tax Cut and property tax cap. Let’s do more to reduce the burden on employers so that they can do what they do best: grow and create jobs.

The new progressive one-party Albany has every opportunity to accomplish these priorities in this year’s budget. It only remains to be seen if they are willing. Please know that I will continue my efforts to encourage my colleagues to include these priorities in the final state budget so that the hard-earned tax dollars of Western New York are put to good use, or better – come back to you in real, substantial tax relief.