As the nation’s economic picture worsens, New York has been faced with tough choices about how to keep our fiscal house in order. Earlier this week, the legislature went into special session to find ways to reduce public spending. After difficult negotiations, the Assembly passed a bill that would limit spending by more than $1 billion over the next year and half – reducing this year’s budget by $411 million and next year’s by $600 million. On Wednesday, the revised budget was finalized and signed by the Governor.
I am proud of the tough stance the Assembly took on property taxes. The “circuit breaker” approach what we passed represents real and immediate tax relief to working- and middle-class renters and homeowners, without damaging the fiscal stability of our schools. Maintaining funds for our schools, and holding the State to the task of living up to the principles of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision were major priorities for me personally, and I was proud to work with my colleagues in holding to those principles during such a difficult time.
What’s a ‘circuit breaker’? A lot of people have been asking me that question especially since I was quoted in a New York Sun article on Tuesday, saying that I support that bill (A.11838) instead of a property tax cap. The video (put out by the New York State United Teachers – NYSUT) above gives a very short answer. The union, which represents New York State teachers, has a more complete FAQ on their website.
The Assembly fought hard to ensure that the revised budget avoided deeper cuts to core health care services, like Medicaid. But there is much about the cuts that were approved, like the reductions in premiums paid to insurers (and so ultimately to doctors), that concerns me greatly. I am also disappointed by the reduction of aid to the City University of New York (CUNY). And I was dismayed that funds for accessible polling stations were chopped.
The Governor issued this press release which gives an accounting of the cuts, which are largely across-the-board 6% spending reductions, with some important excceptions. Also, here is a link to a video of the press conference held by Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver, and other leaders of the Legislature after the budget was finalized.