The New York State Democratic majority in the Assembly and the Senate along with Governor David Paterson enacted a state budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
According to the governor's office, the budget closes a $17.7 billion budget gap, the largest in state history, and reduces the state's out-year gaps by over 80 percent from approximately $60 billion to $11 billion. It also includes a record $6.5 billion in recurring spending reductions, nearly twice as much as in any other budget.
"From the first day I took office, I said we needed to face up to our budget problems honestly and forthrightly," said Governor Paterson. "I laid out a path for action that balanced the difficult choices necessary to reduce spending with needed reforms that will make our government more accountable to taxpayers, and the Legislature has been a strong partner in that effort." _
However, state leaders on the other side of the aisle believe the budget will be hard on Long Island residents. One of those state leaders is Assemblyman Tom Alfano, who called the budget "a disaster."
Despite a need to cut expenses, Alfano said that the budget increases spending by $10 billion and increased taxes to pay for it. "This budget spends and spends and spends and taxes middle class families and seniors. It's unbelievable that for months all we've heard about from the Governor and Senate Democrats is how we need to cut spending and do more with less," said Alfano. "This budget is $10 billion dollars more than last year's budget. The stimulus package from President Obama was supposed to be used to cut taxes and they blew it. The President gave us a life preserver and the three men in a room told homeowners to drown."
One initiative in the budget to save money is the elimination of STAR rebate checks that are mailed out each year to homeowners to help ease the burden of New York's and especially Long Island's high property taxes.
Alfano also pointed out that Long Island schools lost out on its percentage of state aid funding, which, he said, is normally 13 percent and is now 5 percent.
Alfano also said the budget "guts" the Empire Zone in Elmont. "They took away the incentives and made the thresholds totally out of reach for small business and medium size business. The zone is useless; it can't help anyone under this budget. The facts are very simple. You can't take away economic development and just hope you create jobs and you can't tax your way out of a recession," he said.
Critics of the budget also point out that it increases taxes on utilities. The state budget will even affect bottled water drinkers who will pay a 5-cent deposit on bottled water. "The average taxpayer will have to pay more for property taxes because the Democrats have stolen their STAR rebate checks, which are eliminated in this budget. They'll have to pay more for bottled water, for hunting and fishing licenses, for auto rentals, cigars and beer. For parents sending their children to SUNY schools, they will be paying $310 more for tuition, but the state will be taking 80 percent of it to balance the budget," said Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos.
However, state Democrats feel that these difficult economic times called for making tough decisions in order for the state to have a balanced budget. "With economic conditions worsening by the day and no region of the state immune to the pain of economic challenges not seen since the Great Depression, we made the tough choices these difficult times demand," said Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith.
The 2009-2010 fiscal year begins June 1 and ends May 31, 2010.