The budget process this year has been a nice change, because for the first time since I have come to the State Assembly, we have a partner in the executive who will work with us to make things better for all New Yorkers. With Governor Spitzer’s executive budget proposal as a solid base, the Assembly passed budget bills on Monday that would lower taxes, improve the business climate of our state by strengthening local economies, as well as address the needs of the state health care system.
All Long Island homeowners know far too well that taxes are far too high. To help alleviate some of the strain, the Assembly’s budget proposal provides $1.8 million to the Town of Islip to help deliver essential services and ease local property taxes, and would include a multi-year funding structure to help localities plan ahead financially.
Further, the Assembly’s budget proposal would deliver the governor’s recommended 3-year, $6 billion property tax cut. To ensure that working families keep their hard-earned money in their pockets, our proposal includes provisions to:
- expand the child tax credit to include children under 4; currently, the credit only includes children aged 4 to 17;
- close tax loopholes for big corporations, forcing them to pay their fair share that ordinary taxpayers have been covering; and,
- create a sliding scale Middle Class STAR program, with increased tax relief tied to income.
With the Middle Class STAR program, eligible Suffolk County residents would see an increase in savings from the current $954 average to between $1,240 and $1,717; seniors who qualify for Enhanced STAR would see an increase from the current $1,683 average to $2,188.
Our budget recommendations in the Assembly this year build on the tax cuts we passed last year, including the cap on the gas tax, elimination of the state sales tax on clothing and shoes under $100, elimination of the marriage penalty, and providing property tax rebates, as well as instituting the child tax credit.
In the area of healthcare, the Assembly takes to heart Governor Spitzer’s initiatives to restructure Medicaid costs. Our plan would support the governor’s measures to create a New York State False Claims Act, strengthen and add new positions to the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, and grant new powers to the Attorney General to find and combat fraud and abuse, saving taxpayers billions of dollars.
The Assembly’s plan would also increase eligibility for Child Health Plus, allowing access to health insurance coverage for an additional 400,000 of the state’s uninsured children, as well as restore the hospital and nursing home “trend factor.” This 2.5% inflation adjustment – amounting to $182.6 million to hospitals and $145.4 million to nursing homes statewide – helps hospitals and nursing homes to cover rising medical costs to ensure that they can continue helping our loved ones. Patient care must be our top priority when dealing with health care reform.
Over the next few weeks, the Assembly will work with the Senate to create a comprehensive budget based on the governor’s proposal, and I will be fighting at every step for Suffolk County’s fair share. I believe that we in the Assembly have put forth an excellent plan for the state, and I look forward to an on-time passing a comprehensive, on-time budget that will provide for the needs of Suffolk County families.