A number of important issues will be front and center in Albany as the new legislative session begins. Development of the state budget is at the top of the list. The budget is due by April 1, and I will be working to meet that deadline. Timeliness is important. However, a sound fiscal plan that meets the state’s needs takes precedence.
Serious challenges are on the horizon. New York continues to lose population and we cannot ignore the negative effects that outmigration is having on our state. To reverse this damaging trend we need to create new opportunities for growth and success, and we must make New York more affordable. As I review the governor’s forthcoming budget proposal, I will do so with those priorities in mind.
In my mind, a good state budget is one that meets our state’s needs while controlling spending, cutting taxes and creating an environment for job growth. Raising taxes, inventing new surcharges and deferring credits that businesses have been promised, as the governor has proposed in the past, won’t get the job done. We need to focus on growing our economy through fiscal discipline and policies that will help boost our state’s business climate.
We need to make a commitment not to raise taxes, and in fact, I am proposing tax cuts — for families, senior citizens and businesses. We also need to end burdensome regulations on job creators, fund infrastructure improvements and stop spending on failing economic programs.
In the past, I have helped secure senate passage of a two-percent cap on state spending and a permanent two-percent property tax levy cap. I will continue to advocate for these measures going forward.
The last eight state budgets have held state spending at or below two percent. That self-imposed cap ensured the state was spending only what taxpayers could afford, while investing in education, road and bridge repairs and other initiatives that create new jobs. Ultimately, capping state spending has saved taxpayers nearly $52 billion on a cumulative basis since the 2010-2011 budget. We need to make this cap part of state law to ensure we continue to exercise fiscal responsibility.
The property tax cap was first enacted in 2011 to limit the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. By keeping within the cap, taxpayers statewide have saved $37 billion and are projected to save $67 billion cumulatively over the first 10 years of its implementation. Making the cap permanent will protect the continuation of this significant savings for current and future taxpayers.
After the governor presents his budget proposal, joint legislative hearings will begin. 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.
I have served on the Senate Finance Committee for a number of years and have had a hand in the hearings. This year, I will take on a greater role serving as the ranking Republican on the finance committee.
Once the hearings conclude, Senate budget subcommittees will commence. Essentially, the committees take a specific portion of the governor’s 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 their own budget resolutions. 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 section will be available shortly with all of the latest budget information.
Finally, if you have any thoughts, feel free to send me an email through the website to add your voice to the budget debate.
State Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, represents the 51st Senate District.