State budget passes on time

Cuomo wields bat while Legislators given balls at signing

BY KATHY KAHN

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo touting DREAM Act at SUNY Orange’s Newburgh campus in 2013. The DREAM Act was slashed from his proposed budget, which passed March 31.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo touting DREAM Act at SUNY Orange’s Newburgh campus in 2013. The DREAM Act was slashed from his proposed budget, which passed March 31.

Spring training has only just begun.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday thanked the New York State Legislature for approving the $138 billion 2013-2014 budget on time, one he said “passed with overwhelming margins, making it truly a collective, cooperative effort.”

After state salaries, benefits and agency budgets are doled out, here’s what’s trickling down to New York State residents:

Taxes:

With property taxes high on residents’ angst list, the budget sets aside for $1.5 billion in property tax relief—but with caveats: local municipalities and school districts find ways to share services and reduce their financial burden on taxpayers. In addition, they must share costs and consolidate while staying within the two percent tax cap. Those municipalities who can manage to stay within the cap, as well as decrease spending by one percent the first year, two percent the second year and three percent by the third year, will earn reduced taxes for their residents.

Renters and low income-homeowners will see an $85 billion “circuit breaker” tax in the form of a refundable tax credit against personal income tax when property taxes or rent exceeds a certain percentage of their income.

For New York’s 65 and over population, the budget increases the income threshold from $29,000 to $50,000, expected to increase the number of beneficiaries by 15 percent, or 7,000 more seniors. The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) goes into effect this year.

Manufacturers will see their taxes go from 5.9 percent to zero starting in 2014. The MTA tax levied on all counties who have the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s footprint—even if it’s just a pinky toe within its borders-will continue to pay the surcharges and payroll taxes.

Schools

Of the $138 billion, $1.1 billion will be going statewide to public schools, a 4.5 increase, increase tuition funding for students attending charter schools and put the brakes on Common Core state tests for K-1 students. $300 million was allocated for New York City’s universal Pre-K program and another $40 million for the rest of the state.

A $2 billion SMART School bond act, targeted to bring technology to the classroom, will be on the November ballot, along with Cuomo’s bid for a second term.  

Cuomo was disappointed the DREAM Act failed to pass but hoped it would be taken up during the 2013-2014 Legislative calendar.  “I also hope we come to a resolution about teacher evaluations…we haven’t accomplished everything—there’s a lot more to do.”

Healthcare

$1.2 billion in capital funding for targeted investments to complement projects supported by the Medicaid waiver.

By March, 2014, the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) is predicted to generate over $17 billion in federal savings, allowing the state to reinvest up to $8 billion of that amount into upgrading the state’s healthcare delivery system. Note: These amounts are based solely on projections.

$65 million has been set aside for the State Health Information Network of New York to continue to upgrade the statewide electronic medical record system.  If successful, the investment will leverage up to $30 million of federal Medicaid funds for these projects for a total of $95 million over the next three years.

$38 million will be added to community mental health services, funding 628 supported apartments and 122 new “waiver” slots that provide enhanced services for children including, respite, skill building, in-home support and enhanced care coordination.

Campaign Finance Reform

Cuomo said the new Public Trust Act “has accomplished the first step, but we’re not done yet. We need to pass a more comprehensive plan.

The Act, allowing prosecutors to crack down on public corruption in the state, create voting reforms permitting 16- and 17-year olds the right to vote and campaign finance reforms will ensure residents will know who is paying for political campaigns and reduce the influence of wealthy donors and put a cap on contribution limits.

Cuomo introduced a “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act to probe systemic public corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York in 2013. The Moreland Act, created in the early 1900’s, has been eliminated. It was not clear if the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption will remain in place.

To see the entire text of the 2014-2015 New York State budget, visit http://publications.budget.ny.gov/eBudget1415/ExecutiveBudget.html

Albany’s newest “three men in a room”–Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver–were clearly pleased by the newly passed budget.

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli questioned how the state would attain that $2 billion surplus, since there are no specific proposals to outline how the Legislature can make that happen by 2016-2017.

Incidentally, DiNapoli will no longer have access to pre-auditing contracts by Cuomo’s purchasing operation before they are signed, those contracts estimated to be nearly $5 billion this fiscal year, leaving surplus funds to be distributed as the Governor sees fit.

Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s NY Director for Public Advocacy Jeff Leb thanked Assemblyman Jeff Klein and Senator Dean Skelos for a school budget resolution that “clearly demonstrates non-public school students in New York are a priority, crediting the $4.5 reallocation of funding for private schools and Yeshivas and the funding for universal pre-K for those communities that ask for it to be a step in the right direction.

Cuomo, handing baseballs to the signers of the new budget and wielding a baseball bat, said New York had scored a “home run.” It may be a home run for getting the budget in on time, but as for the win, the games have only just begun.

 

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