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Minority conference makes pitch to create ‘affordable’ New York for all, especially local communities

Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) and members of the Assembly Minority Conference called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to include critical measures to reduce costs, boost economic growth and improve New Yorkers’ quality-of-life during the crafting of the final 2019-2020 New York State Budget.

“The first rule of creating a budget should be ‘do no harm;’ however, recent history has shown lawmakers are too willing to disregard basic, sound accounting in order to advance their political agendas. New York has a serious problem wasting money. Taxpayer bank accounts are not a bottomless piggy bank, and for too long they have been treated as such,” Leader Kolb said. “Our budget priorities reflect the reality that New Yorkers are leaving in droves because they simply cannot afford to live here. If you’re not thriving, you’re dying; and New York definitely isn’t thriving.”

Some of the proposals championed by the Assembly Minority are:

  • Make the 2 Percent Property Tax Cap Permanent: Make permanent the Real Property Tax Cap, which is set to expire June 16, 2020, and expand the cap to include New York City. Over the past 10 years New York has lost more than 1 million residents to other states, with out-of-control property taxes cited as one of the chief causes;
  • Provide a Living Wage for Direct-Care Workers: Provide the funding that was promised to ensure direct-care workers, who provide vital care for those who cannot take care of themselves, receive a living wage;
  • Keep the Middle-Class Tax Cut on Track: Ensure the Middle-Class Tax Cut is fully implemented by Fiscal Year 2024-25, as intended, providing $4.2 billion in tax relief. New York consistently ranks as one of the worst taxed states in the U.S.; tax relief is crucial to fixing the state’s broken economy;
  • Increase CHIPS Commitment: Increase Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program funding by $100 million per year over the next five years. The state has one of the oldest infrastructures in the nation, with some systems more than 100 years old;
  • Fund Libraries: Increase funding for libraries by $5 million. Considering wasteful projects like the governor’s $15 million “film hub” later sold for $1, there is no excuse to not provide more access to educational materials and technology;
  • Unfunded Mandate Relief: Require the state to pay the cost of any mandate—states too often force expensive requirements on localities with no way to pay for them—it hands down to local governments;
  • Provide Help to Small Businesses: Enact the Small Business Full Employment Act to provide tax and regulatory relief. It would include such provisions as a 15 percent Personal Income Tax exemption, reduced corporate rate from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent, an employee retainment tax credit, a tax credit for new hires, a tuition assistance tax credit, review board to eliminate burdensome regulations and a tax amnesty program;
  • Increase TAP, Student Loan Relief: Enact our “Affordable College for All Initiative” to help alleviate student debt, increase the Tuition Assistance Program and mitigate soaring college costs;
  • Address Proposed Prison Closures: Require Corrections Commissioner Anthony Annucci to testify before the Legislature and explain to the public Gov. Cuomo’s plan to close three state prisons without the one-year notification window required by law; and
  • Keep AIM Funding Intact: Maintain the funding levels and processes by which Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) dollars are provided to localities. Simply put, the potholes we drive over each day will be there a little longer, the family member who works in the village office might get laid off and the community park upgrades that were on track are now derailed if there is not adequate funding for local governments.

Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski), the ranking member on the Assembly Ways & Means Committee, said there must be a greater emphasis on relieving the economic pressure on New York residents.

“Our Conference is committed to protecting small businesses, middle-class taxpayers and homeowners. Local governments are being crushed by mandates, taxes are through the roof and Gov. Cuomo is brazenly proposing to cut critical funding to municipalities already under severe stress,” said Barclay. “There is something very wrong with this picture. New Yorkers can only take so much more abuse at the hands of spend-happy lawmakers.”

A number of organizations around the state expressed support for the recommendations of the Minority Conference.

“Making New York a more affordable place to live and do business should be a top priority for our leaders in Albany. Unfortunately, the trend has too often been the opposite approach, and our Upstate communities have suffered as a result,” said Michael Kracker, executive director at Unshackle Upstate. “We appreciate Leader Kolb and his Conference advancing reforms that will help grow our economy and strengthen our communities. A permanent property tax cap, relief for struggling small businesses, much-needed mandate relief and fiscal sanity will help get Upstate growing.”

“New York must embrace the small business economy by enacting bold strategies to support and grow local entrepreneurship. Our state must also finally address our prohibitive tax burden by making the tax cap permanent, eliminating costly unfunded mandates and regulatory burdens and providing critical income tax relief so small businesses can grow and hire. The small, independent businesses that drive New York’s economy and sustain its communities look forward to advancing these shared priorities in 2019,” said Greg Biryla, NFIB’s New York State director.

“We appreciate Leader Kolb’s focus on pro-growth legislation. The Business Council remains hopeful that leadership in both houses, and the governor, will take the next few weeks to focus on legislation that will promote private-sector investment and job growth across New York state, and re-think any bill that puts additional expensive mandates on state businesses or local governments,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of the Business Council of New York State, Inc.

“County governments and their taxpayers have shouldered too much of the state’s mandates for too long. We need to end the reliance on local property taxpayers for funding decisions made in Albany. In addition, local governments are partners with the state and, as such, deserve revenue sharing from the state, where taxation originates. Efforts to have counties supplant state obligations should be strongly opposed. I applaud state legislative efforts to reject these proposals,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties.

“The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) supports all efforts to increase aid for college students, particularly student aid programs that allow students to pursue their degree at the college or university, public or private, that best meets their needs,” said CICU President Mary Beth Labate.

“Enhanced state investment in local roads and bridges is critical to maintaining a modern and highly-functioning statewide transportation system,” said Dennis S. Davis, president of the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association and Oneida County Department of Public Works commissioner. “Half of the bridges and 87 percent of the roads in New York state are owned by local governments. An increase in CHIPS funding as proposed by the Assembly Minority Conference would help every local highway department to better meet its obligations to our mutual constituents who drive every day. Our association’s members look forward to working together with our state representatives to deliver increases in transportation funding as state budget deliberations continue.”

“CHIPS funding is equitably distributed to every municipality statewide; an increase is critical to improving the safety and efficiency of our local transportation system. On behalf of the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, we appreciate the efforts of the Assembly Minority Conference and look forward to working together during the 2019-2020 budget process to support the needs of our mutual constituents,” said Patrick Mahar, Town of Denmark highway superintendent and 2018-2019 NYSAOTSOH president.

“Minority Leader Kolb has long been a #bFair2DirectCare champion and we thank him for his continued support. It is gratifying to have broad bipartisan, bicameral support for direct-care workers and the New Yorkers with developmental disabilities they support,” said The #bFair2Direct Care Coalition. “Providing a living wage to the more than 100,000 hard-working, dedicated DSPs must be included in this year’s budget. We are hopeful that money for the next phases of that living wage funding will be included in the final state budget.”