When the story of this year's budget is written, there will be no shortage of adjectives used to describe both the process of how this budget came to be and how the end result will be viewed. There can be no doubt that this is not only the most secretive budget in the history of New York, but also the most short-sighted and destructive budget passed through the Assembly chamber.
In short, this budget spends too much and provides no incentives for the people of New York to stay or for businesses to continue investing in our failing economy. Even before the collapse of Wall Street and the decline in tax revenue to state coffers, Governor Paterson told the people of New York that this year's budget would have to be one of the leanest ever. The governor told every state agency to tighten their belts and make do with less, in preparation for a budget he said would be fundamentally different from those of years past.
Nine months later, it seems Governor Paterson has forgotten that one-fifth of the state's revenue was lost when the Dow Jones plummeted to 7,000 points and that we are facing a $16 billion deficit. How else would he explain a budget that increases spending by 9 percent, for a total of $131.8 billion, more than $10.5 billion over last year. Only in Albany could state leaders reduce a budget deficit by spending more while also raising taxes and receiving billions of dollars in stimulus money from the federal government.
During this time of economic crisis, with so many families having trouble making ends meet, Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver and Senator Smith eliminated the Middle Class STAR rebate program, a program the Republican members of the Assembly fought hard to have put into law in the first place. This elimination of nearly $1.5 billion in property tax rebates is in addition to the $2.3 billion in fees and taxes families and businesses will have to pay, with families making $300,000 per year paying 14.5 percent more in income taxes.
In the long run, this budget pushes New York State ever closer to the brink of bankruptcy. Not only does this state already have over $50 billion in outstanding debt, but each year we fail to produce a budget which reduces spending and encourages investment in New York is another year closer to fiscal disaster only years ago would seem unimaginable. When the federal stimulus money runs out in two years and Long Island families see double digit property tax increases, they need only look back on the budget passed on March 31, and know who to place the blame on; Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver and Senator Smith.