BATAVIA — A polarized response emerged Wednesday as Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled her proposed state budget.
Calling it a balanced, thoughtful plan, Hochul unveiled a proposed $227 billion fiscal 2024 executive budget. The spending plan represented a $5.4 billion or a 2.4 percent increase over the current year.
The spending plan would boost aid for local schools and increase funding for health care and anti-crime efforts.
n A total $34.5 billion for aid to local schools.
Hochul said the 10 percent hike is the largest-ever increase in school aid, including a $2.7 billion foundation aid hike. The budget also includes a 3 percent increase in SUNY tuition rates.
n Providing tax relief for farmers and creating new agricultural markets.
n Indexing New York’s minimum wage to the inflation rate, saying “If costs go up, so will wages.”
n A total $8.1 billion for the state’s public safety agencies including hiring more state police and prosecutors.
It will also include $337 million to decrease illegal firearms and resulting gun violence and increase crime analysis. Hochul is likewise proposing new revisions to the bail laws to allow judge to use more discretion on serious crimes.
n A total of $7.6 billion in child care assistance and marking the eligibility process easier.
n A $1 billion mental health plan to “overhaul” the approach and care of people dealing with mental illness including new inpatient psychiatric beds and money to expand mental health programs in schools.
n Expanded housing in New York by building 800,000 new units
n Hochul also proposes a $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax.
Negotiations will begin with state legislature leaders to pass a final budget plan by the April 1 deadline.
Hochul emphasized that New York is at a pivotal point and can’t afford to “sit on the sidelines” to solve the issues facing the state, Her goal, she said is to create a more livable, affordable and safer New York.
Initial reactions as of Wednesday afternoon included:
State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda — “In the midst of an unprecedented affordability crisis, the governor presented a state budget that continues to tax and spend without providing any real relief to struggling New York families and businesses. New York is facing a public safety crisis, and yet, there was no specific plan to fix the state’s disastrous bail laws.”
Instead of presenting solutions to make New York more affordable, Ortt said, the budget adds billions of dollars in new spending and imposes a new payroll tax that will hurt downstate New York businesses.
“As the budget process moves forward, the Senate Republican Conference will continue to focus on solutions to make New York safer, stronger, more affordable, and more free,” he said. “New York needs a rescue plan — this isn’t it.”
State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay — “There is no more obvious message that New York State is on the wrong track than our unrivaled national standing as ‘number one’ for the outmigration of our residents. That fact should be a call to action for our governor as she charts the path forward for our state.”
Although they will be delving into the budget’s details in the coming days, Borrello said the initial reaction is that the proposed budget is more of the same policies which led New York to its current status.
“Rather than make badly needed structural reforms in programs where growth is exploding and leading us toward dangerous levels of debt as Comptroller DiNapoli noted this week, this massive $227 billion budget simply funnels more money into areas of the budget that we know are rife with inefficiency and abuse, such as the MTA and Medicaid,” Borrello said. “Missing is the tax relief that our residents need to keep household budgets afloat as inflation and rising energy costs compound New York’s already-high cost of living. The stronger public safety measures and bail reform rollbacks New Yorkers have cited as their number one priority are nowhere.
“Our small businesses, who are crying out for relief from the nearly $8 billion in pandemic unemployment debt that they have been unfairly saddled with, have apparently been hung out to dry once again,” he continued.
Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, R-Caledonia — “With a veto-proof supermajority in place, the state legislative majorities have the ability to pass any budget they want this year. The governor has already proposed the most expensive spending plan in state history, full of downstate-driven policies such as reimagining accessible dwelling units into a statewide mandate. This state budget is just part of the plan by the democratic socialists controlling Albany to micromanage everything we do and to continue to push hardworking New Yorkers out of state for good.”
State Sen. Pamela Helming, R-Canandaigua — “The governor has proposed a budget that pushes state spending to a new record-setting level at a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet. This budget grows state government, places more mandates on local businesses and provides little relief to working families and seniors. We can do better and we must do better. As the budget process continues, I will be working with my colleagues in the legislature to make our state a more affordable and safer place where people want to live.”
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher — “Gov. Hochul said today, “Don’t forget the farmers,” and she didn’t in the proposed state budget. Her economic development plan, prioritized in her budget address, includes a refundable investment tax credit for agriculture that will incentivize improvements on family farms across the state.
“This is especially needed following years of low commodity prices, high inflation, and a pandemic, all things that have caused deep concern in the farming community,” he continued. “We greatly appreciate this important step forward from the governor, but also express concern that a higher minimum wage rate tied to inflation will be a step backwards. Farms are small businesses facing significant inflation costs, just like all New Yorkers are confronting. Making the cost of production even more expensive raises a red flag for those in the business of feeding this state.”
The Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors will be meeting next week to analyze the individual spending lines in the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ budget and to determine the organization’s budget priorities.
“Our members and staff are already engaging with lawmakers to make the case for investments and sound public policy in the final state budget that will support our family farms, food system, and local economies,” Fisher said.
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