The newly enacted state budget, just passed in Albany, includes a number of highlights that will pay real dividends for the people of the 51st Senate District, and New York as a whole. Record education funding, a significant middle-class tax cut, and crucial resources for upstate infrastructure are just a few of the leading items that I worked hard to advance.
Local schools will have more resources than ever before to help students reach their full potential while, at the same time, keeping property taxes in check. In total, education aid is up $1.5 billion and will total nearly $25 billion in the coming year.
The budget puts an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which was first imposed in 2010 over my objection. The GEA budget cuts have cost our school districts billions of dollars, and have been one of the top concerns of local school administrators over these past six years. The governor had originally proposed a two year phase out of the GEA, but my Senate Republican colleagues and I made it clear that it had to go this year.
People will also keep more of their hard-earned money thanks to a $4.2 billion middle-class tax cut. Over 4.4 million taxpayer s will see savings under this plan, including thousands of small business owners who file under the Personal Income Tax (PIT). This broad-based tax cut will reduce middle class tax rates by 20 percent. It will also establish the lowest middle class tax rate since 1948, and represents one of the largest income tax reductions in state history.
Additionally, the budget will build upon several other programs I have long supported.
This year, more than $2.7 billion will be used to fund New York’s STAR and Enhanced STAR programs. These two outstanding programs deliver significant tax relief to millions of middle class families and senior citizens.
The new state budget fully funds and additional round of property tax rebate checks. This fall, millions of homeowners will receive much needed tax relief through a check in the mail. The rebate checks will provide an average savings of $350 per household.
Another top priority that I established at the start of the legislative year was to ensure that the state devoted needed resources to repair our upstate roads and bridges. Quality roads and bridges are indispensable when it comes to improving our economy and making sure the motoring public is safe.
The new state budget will re-establish fairness in funding by pumping $27.1 billion over six years into our upstate infrastructure. This will put us on par with spending directed toward New York City transportation. The budget also commits $438 million to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) to help local governments move forward with highway, road, and bridge repair projects.
Local roads, bridges, and culverts are the foundation of our state’s infrastructure and the numbers bear that out. Every time you leave your house, chances are high that you are doing most of your traveling on a local road maintained by dedicated county, town, and village transportation workers. In fact, local roads and bridges account for 87 percent of the roads, 52 percent of the bridges, and 48 percent of the vehicle mileage logged in New York State.
There are plenty of other budget highlights – help for our farmers, assistance for senior citizens, funding to help make college more affordable, record support for environmental protection programs – just to name a few.
Overall, the state budget meets the diverse needs of our state, exhibits fiscal restraint by staying within a two-percent spending cap, and provides a strong foundation for continued economic growth.