By Marjorie Byrnes
Breaking every spending record in the state’s history, this $212 billion budget is simply irresponsible. In addition to the $212 billion budget, New York state also carries $59.9 billion in debt. The budget relies heavily on $12.6 billion in federal aid and new taxes. Next year, the federal aid will be gone but the 6.6 percent increase in spending won’t. “Tax-and-spend” rules the day.
The infusion of federal aid should have been used to stabilize our budget and economy. Our economy continues to struggle back from being shut down, record unemployment and New Yorkers moving out of state to more business-friendly areas. The message coming out of Albany does not evince an understanding that our state is in trouble. In fact, quite the opposite. This budget adds $4.5 billion in new, permanent taxes and increased spending. This budget commits our state to annual funding that is not sustainable.
Certainly, there are many provisions of the budget that I agree with. Relief to small businesses, funding for highway infrastructure, along with financial support for our schools, disabled citizens and libraries, chief among them. But Democrats in Albany cared more about creating an alternative unemployment fund for undocumented persons (The Excluded Worker Fund) than supporting small business relief. The Excluded Worker Fund was allocated $2 billion, with each applicant receiving up to $15,000. Small business relief across the entire state was only allocated $1 billion. This disparity is unconscionable.
The budget also failed to include any funds to expand broadband. This failure will hurt our communities. The budget does authorize a broadband study. It also requires companies to provide broadband at an affordable cost ($15 per month). I agree this is very important, but before we can have affordable broadband, we must have access to broadband.
Further, the budget impinges on our rights as a community to make decisions on large-scale energy projects (solar/wind). Previously, the New York State Department of Public Service was given the authority to determine the location and size of large-scale energy projects. In this year’s budget, another agency, NYSERDA was given the authority, using a holding company, to acquire, sell or transfer rights in “built-ready” sites to developers. This is being allowed to expedite the development of renewable energy projects — a further constraint on Home Rule.
The governor is also authorized to close prisons on a 90-day notice through the budget. A similar provision was in the budget a couple years ago and had a devastating effect on our area when Livingston Correctional Facility closed.
These are just some of the budget failures and examples of Albany’s indifference to the hardworking citizens of our state. Many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. We need to support our local economy, to support our community. But Albany just does not get it, and this budget is further proof of it.
Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R,C-Caledonia) represents the 133rd Assembly District.