In the past decade, over one million New Yorkers have fled to other states in search of lower taxes and a greater opportunity to achieve the American Dream. As a lifelong Western New Yorker, I want all of us to be able to afford to stay here with our families and loved ones in the communities we call home. But that dream is becoming harder and harder to achieve, and, I am sorry to report, this state budget will only put that dream further out of reach.
This downstate focused budget is a complete disaster, and I want you to know that I stood up for the people of Western New York and voted no on the budget and no on a 40 percent raise for the Governor.
At a whopping $175 billion, this budget breaks down to almost $10,000 per New Yorker. It was crafted by three downstate leaders behind closed doors and unveiled at the very last minute on a Sunday to lawmakers and citizens alike. No openness, no transparency, and the final package included substantial policy matters that have no business being in a fiscal budget discussion. And that debate occurred in the middle of the night under complete darkness.
This budget will continue to reverberate across the state and affect New Yorkers for decades. It raises state debt to $57 billion and implements $4 billion in new taxes that will hurt New Yorkers every day. Taxes on recyclable paper bags will make grocery shopping more difficult. Taxes on renting cars were doubled. Taxes will go up on internet purchases, and taxes will increase when you sell your home. The list goes on and on.
On top of all this, the governor forced through changes to the STAR property tax relief program to freeze the potential growth of your exemption to 0 percent. This is to encourage more New Yorkers to switch to the system utilizing a personal income tax credit; however, the new income eligibility to qualify for this program is slashed in half. This is going to cause widespread confusion with every homeowner across the state, particularly seniors who are receiving exemptions on Enhanced STAR. This action was unnecessary and is another example of how downstate leaders in Albany do not care about the taxpayers of upstate or Western New York.
Priorities matter in budgets whether in government, for your home or business. Thats why I advocate strongly for real investments in our upstate communities, especially in our education system, infrastructure and libraries. Unfortunately, this budget shortchanged these critical investments and actually froze the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding yet again, slashed Extreme Winter Recovery money by $65 million (which is used by local municipalities to fix pot holes and roads after the winter season), and reduced library construction aid by $20 million. It also reduced Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding for college students by $23 million. While leaving upstate priorities in the dust, the downstate driven majority added billions of dollars for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), funded the DREAM Act (which provides free college tuition to illegal undocumented immigrants) and spent millions of dollars on pet projects in New York City.
As you can clearly see, this budget is bad in so many ways, and I am proud to say I voted against it. However, I would like to point out two key items that are buried in the several thousand-page budget that I strongly advocated for and am pleased were included in the final budget: making the two percent property tax cap permanent and restoring funding for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Programs in Erie, Niagara, and Orleans counties.
Still, the cuts to upstate roads and bridges, reductions to libraries, and the overall continuation of Albanys secretive and dysfunctional tax-and-spend mentality made it easy to vote no on this downstate driven budget on behalf of the hardworking families of Western New York. I look forward to keeping you informed on state issues, and if you would like to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, simply send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org asking to be put on this list for updates.Please know, I will continue to vote down harmful legislation that hurts Western New Yorkers ability to live, work, thrive and retire here in the communities they love.