New York State Assemblymen Tom Alfano and Bob Barra joined with Senator Dean Skelos across the street from Belmont Park in Elmont to express their belief that the state budget recently passed by the Democratic majority in the Assembly and Senate will be damaging to Long Island.
The elected officials chose to hold a press conference near Belmont Park because, they said, the state budget failed to provide for video lottery terminals (VTLs) at Belmont Park, which, some believe, would have brought in more revenue to the state and help spur economic growth in Elmont.
Skelos was critical of the state budget for its effect on the Empire Zone for Elmont. "Look across the street at the empty parking lot. We have a plan that develops that lot and brings jobs right here to Elmont. What did this budget do? It kills the Empire Zone," he said.
The biggest impact of the state budget, however, may be felt in Long Island residents' pockets. The budget does away with the STAR property tax rebate check many count on to reduce the burden of Long Island's extremely high property taxes. Skelos, the Senate Minority Leader, estimates that a typical family of four earning over $80,000 will see an increase of $2,400 in taxes as a result of the state budget being passed.
The state budget also increases taxes on consumer goods such as cigars, beer, wine, cable and satellite television, imposes a 5-cent deposit on bottled water and, perhaps most damaging, increases taxes on utilities. In addition, the state budget also increases fees in the department of motor vehicles for registrations and license renewals and increases tuition for SUNY and CUNY schools.
"People have had it. They've had it with all the taxes and they are sick of politicians constantly taxing and taking away critical programs like the STAR rebate check," said Alfano.
"Taxes are out of control in New York State to begin with. This budget just made things much worse," said Barra.
The Republican leaders were also critical of their Democratic counterparts for passing a budget that increases spending by 8.7 percent.
Democratic Senator Craig Johnson, who represents the area, voted in favor of the budget. Johnson maintains that the budget called for tough decisions in order to close a deficit. "This has been a very difficult budget process, where hard decisions had to be made to help get New York back on the right track," he said, pointing out that enacted state budget makes use of federal stimulus money to restore state aid to school districts that was cut as part of the governor's budget proposal.