A number of important issues are under discussion in Albany and development of the state budget is at the top of the list. The budget is due by April 1st, and I believe we can meet that deadline for a seventh consecutive year. Timeliness is important, however, there are other factors that take precedence.
While touring my senate district to lay out my priorities for the year, I stressed the need to create new economic opportunities, promote growth, and make New York more affordable. As I review the governorís budget proposal, I do so with those priorities, and the needs of the 51st senate district, in mind.
One major avenue to increased opportunities is a strong education. The governorís budget includes a $1 billion increase for our public schools, which is a good starting point. Next, I will be reviewing exactly how the funds are distributed and fighting for our low wealth, high need districts through a revamped Foundation Aid formula.
I am pleased the governor is concentrating on college affordability. However, his free tuition plan for SUNY schools is fraught with challenges and censors student choice. Along with the cost, the plan leaves private colleges out of the funding equation. I believe we can come to an agreement on a better plan to lower college costs and help students graduate without a mountain of debt.
Considerable state resources are earmarked for infrastructure improvements and clean water initiatives. This is welcome news. Upgrading our roads and bridges while protecting our natural resources are important economic, environmental, and quality of life concerns.
The governorís plan is short on real mandate relief measures that are needed to help cut property taxes. His call for municipalities to share services is commendable, but most are already doing so. More needs to be done in Albany to lighten the local tax burden, like paying for indigent legal costs.
The budget proposal lacks sufficient help for our small businesses. Broad-based tax relief, ending oppressive job killing regulations, and enhanced workforce training are just a few of the measures I have proposed to lower the cost of doing business in New York while ensuring that a highly trained workforce is ready to fill new jobs.
As we fine tune the state budget, we start with joint legislative hearings. These hearings, each of which focuses on a programmatic area, are intended to provide the appropriate legislative committees with public input on the governorís budget proposal. The hearings are webcast live so anyone interested can hear from state agency and department heads as they answer specific budget questions from senators and assemblymen. The hearings continue through Tuesday, February 28, 2016.
Once the hearings conclude, senate budget subcommittees will commence. Essentially, the committees take a specific portion of the governorís budget proposal, dissect it line by line, place it under a microscope, and fine tune the plan to make sure it is fiscally sound and in line with public priorities.
Next, both the senate and the assembly will pass what is known as budget resolutions. And then additional negotiations between the two houses and the governor will take place before a final plan is enacted.
If you are interested in learning more about the state budget I would encourage you to visit my website, www.seward.nysenate.gov. A special page section is available that is updated on a regular basis and includes all of the latest information on the state budget. The page allows you to review specific details of the governorís proposal, and will also keep you posted on new developments related to the budget review and negotiation process.
Finally, if you have any thoughts, feel free to send me an email through the website to add your voice to the budget debate.