After a winning 2011, New York is once again a force to be reckoned with. However, there is a great deal of work left to be accomplished before declaring victory. Just like any sports team that has an early lead, making the right halftime adjustments is the key to victory. In order for New York to come home a winner we need to follow my “Keys for Success.” My game plan focuses on four main components - economic development, mandate relief, reform of the education aid formula, and continued flood recovery assistance.
New York is once again open for business. The regional economic development council approach, funded through last year’s state budget, produced a number of worthy initiatives. Now it is time to go even further.
While I strongly support another round of grants, it is even more important that we make New York more business-friendly. In order to attract new companies and assist existing businesses expand, over-regulation has to stop. Government red tape and unnecessary regulations are not the enhancements CEOs look for when deciding to open shop.
New York also needs to provide additional funding for broadband/high speed internet expansion in rural areas. Lack of this technology hinders business growth, hurts our schools, and detracts from our quality of life. The continued funding of our state-sponsored agri-business programs is also a high priority. Enhancing our state’s number one industry, agriculture, is vital to our upstate economy.
Last year I was proud to vote in favor of the property tax cap, a long overdue tax relief tool. Unfortunately, without mandate relief, the cap is like a taking the football field with only half a team. Substantial mandate relief measures are needed so local governments and schools are able to provide essential services and keep property taxes in check.
Let’s start with the mother of all mandates – Medicaid. I am co-sponsoring legislation calling for a phased-in state takeover that will gradually eliminate the local share paid by counties. This will not only free up local resources but will also lead to improved fraud control.
A constitutional amendment is also needed to allow the legislature to eliminate regulations that put an undue financial burden on the state or local governments. The state senate overwhelmingly passed legislation I sponsored last year that would remedy this situation, this year the state assembly needs to act as well.
Schools across the state are being asked to do more with less, which is a reality that education administrators are dealing with as best they can. Wealthy districts are sometimes forced to drop one extracurricular activity or cut a fifth language. Many schools within my district are at the point where basic educational needs are suffering.
The current education aid formula used in New York is outdated and shortchanges low-wealth, rural districts. We need a level playing field so each and every New York student receives the tools needed to compete and succeed at the next educational level or in the job market.
Many communities are continuing to rebuild following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and additional steps are needed.
I am sponsoring legislation (S.6060) that would offer flood victims an income tax credit against the property taxes they paid on property that suffered substantial storm damage and is no longer valued at its pre-flood level. I am also sponsoring legislation (S.5886) that would create a comprehensive state-wide flood mitigation program run by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that would help rebuild streams to prevent future problems.
Along with my four primary keys for success, I am also concentrating on additional steps to right size state government, halt insurance fraud, and improve upstate roads and bridges. It all starts with the state budget. We need to repeat last year’s successful process and close a $2 billion deficit without new taxes, fees or borrowing – and we need to do it on time.