As New York legislative leaders representing both the Assembly and Senate discuss and debate their goals for the upcoming state spending plan, with an April 1 deadline looming, a number of ideas have been put on the table. I recently urged my legislative colleagues to consider the following items that have statewide ramifications.
Final budget needs to be responsible
First and foremost, the final state-budget agreement needs to reflect the interests of 19 million New Yorkers — not simply what might fit the political agenda of the newly elected mayor of New York City. Since January, the financial and legislative wish-lists of Mayor Bill de Blasio have received a great deal of attention, from both media and Albany lawmakers. But as statewide representatives, we need to be responsible to all New Yorkers. To do so, budget discussions should keep these priorities in mind:
- Education is always one of the most-discussed budget issues, and this year is no different. The tragically flawed implementation of the Common Core standards has hurt children, parents, and school districts. We need to address it now.
- As new education proposals surface, like universal pre-kindergarten, we should first fulfill our commitment to restoring the school-aid cuts of 2011 in the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). School districts across the state have waited long enough for this critical funding to return to prior levels.
- Despite several complex tax-relief proposals, no one has addressed the true driver of skyrocketing property taxes — unfunded mandates. For years, Albany has forced local governments to pay the costs of implementing state policies. As those forced costs have risen, so have property taxes. Mandate relief is the only sure and sustainable way to lower the tax burden on homeowners.
- It is never more evident than at the end of winter that our local road and highway departments need help. New York has an aging infrastructure, and we should provide the necessary resources to ensure the roads, bridges, and highways our families travel on are safe and properly maintained.
- Job-creating small businesses are the backbone of our local and statewide economies. Unfortunately, New York’s “Tax-Fine-Harass” mentality has driven jobs and businesses away. The final state budget needs to include assistance for small businesses, and implement policies that dramatically improve the toxic environment that has plagued our state for too long.
- As true community assets, local libraries provide services and programs that are invaluable to children and families. They are a foundational part of learning and discovery for people of all ages. Albany’s financial commitment in library aid in the final state budget should be reflective of how critical these institutions are in every corner of the state.
As we approach the April 1 budget deadline, I will continue to fight for common-sense programs and a responsible state spending plan — one that represents the taxpaying public rather than personal politics.
Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C–Canandaigua) is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 131st Assembly District, which encompasses all of Ontario County and parts of Seneca County. Contact him at email@example.com