A Common Sense Budget
The New York State Legislature recently completed passage of the fourth consecutive on-time state budget, a historic feat that hasn’t been accomplished in nearly four decades. This demonstrates that the State Senate is working together in bipartisan fashion with the Assembly and the governor to deliver real results on issues that are critically important to New Yorkers. These issues include providing more tax relief, job opportunities and a high quality education for every child.
A key priority for Senate Republicans has been to provide meaningful property tax relief for hardworking families and senior citizens. In past years, we championed the 2 percent property tax cap and the STAR property tax relief program. The 2014–15 state budget builds upon our efforts in three important ways: new property tax relief, increased school aid and record funding for STAR.
A new property tax relief program will encourage municipalities and school districts to operate more efficiently, and hold the line on tax increases. In return, homeowners in these communities will receive a new property tax rebate check in the mail. This important new program simplifies the governor’s original property tax freeze proposal, and it is expected to deliver $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief to millions of New York homeowners over the next three years.
The new state budget also includes a record commitment to improving the quality of education for our students. State school aid will increase by more than $1.1 billion, bringing the state’s total investment in education to more than $21.6 billion. Not only is this fine news for students, parents and teachers, but it will also help to reduce pressure on local property taxes.
With the record funding for the STAR property tax relief program included in the budget, middle class families will benefit from a total of $3.4 billion, including more than $900 million for enhanced STAR to help senior citizen homeowners.
More tax relief isn’t the only good news for seniors in the state budget. We have significantly expanded the income eligibility for New York’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program, and included $4.1 million in added funding. These changes will provide prescription insurance coverage to an additional 25,000 senior citizens across New York State.
To help businesses succeed and grow, the budget also contains several important tax reductions and reforms that reflect public input generated during a series of tax reform hearings I co-chaired across the state last year. These measures include reductions in energy taxes, the elimination of the corporate income tax on manufacturers, and important reforms to the estate tax, which will encourage the preservation of family farms and family-owned businesses.
Though New Yorkers are willing to provide a helping hand to those in need, they do not like seeing their tax dollars wasted or abused. That’s why for two consecutive years Senate Republicans passed bills to crack down on the misuse of welfare Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. This year the Assembly joined our efforts, and new rules will now prevent EBT cards from being used at such places as strip clubs, liquor stores, casinos and OTB parlors.
In order to protect taxpayers and keep New York moving in the right direction, the new state budget keeps spending growth below 2 percent, which is consistent with the local spending cap that applies to school districts and municipalities. This is a common-sense fiscally responsible budget that attacks the problem of high property taxes, lowers the tax burden on businesses and provides vital support for our struggling schools.
Going forward, we will continue our efforts to help reduce taxes, create new jobs and give all New Yorkers the opportunity to succeed.
Republican State Sen. John A. DeFrancisco is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.