A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward

Progress is continuing in Albany to finalize a state budget prior to the start of the new fiscal year on April 1.  However, there is some serious work ahead.

The senate just passed a “one-house” budget resolution.  While not binding, the resolution offers a look at the priorities that will be discussed in the coming days and weeks.  I have grave concerns with the senate plan put forth by the new Democrat Majority and I voted NO on the resolution.

At a time when New York is losing population and our economy, particularly upstate, is in trouble, we need a fiscally sound budget that focuses on affordability and a revitalized economy.  Sadly, the plan advanced by the New York City lead majority failed to address those key priorities.

As ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, I took an active role in the legislative budget hearings, examining the details of the governor’s budget proposal.  Throughout the hearings, which spanned eleven days and countless hours, I asked the agency leaders and others who testified to explain how the budget plan would affect the lives of everyday New Yorkers.  The same question is still on my mind as I examining the Senate Majority’s budget resolution.

How is this budget wish list going to help people secure good paying jobs, pay their bills, and raise their families here in New York State?  There are no tax cuts to help people afford their first home, keep up with the rising cost of living, and pay skyrocketing property taxes.  There are no initiatives that will help our locally owned small businesses grow.  The cost of energy will not be dropping to help our upstate manufacturers.  On the heels of the Amazon debacle, there certainly is nothing to attract out of state businesses to New York

Last year, the governor and assembly proposed a combined $20 billion in new taxes, and my Senate Republican colleagues and I rejected them all.  Again this year, the governor is pushing for $1 billion in new taxes.  However, while my senate Republican colleagues and I have clearly stated the need to block new taxes, the new Senate Majority has embraced them as part of their tax and spend budget resolution.   In fact, they have added additional taxes that will only take more money from hardworking New Yorkers.

This budget plan will only accelerate the outmigration New York has been experiencing.  In the end, there will be even fewer of us left behind to pay the escalating tax bills.  The plan fails to fix the state’s affordability crisis, and it will not revitalize New York’s economy.

Prior to the release of the new Senate Majority’s budget, I joined with my Republican colleagues to call for a plan that blocks tax increases and would in fact cut taxes for those who are already paying too much.

A recent study by the Tax Foundation found that New York holds the unfortunate position of number one in the nation in combined state and local income tax burden. The non-partisan think tank also concluded that New York ranks 48 out of 50 when it comes to overall business tax climate, only California and New Jersey rank below us.  Changes are needed now.

In case you think this is simply partisan politics, a Republican railing at the Democrat majority, here is what the Democrat governor’s budget director had to say about the plan, “The senate one house budget is wholly incredible. The senate’s plan would increase spending by nearly $3.5 billion, compared to the Executive Budget while identifying no material spending cuts or new revenues.”

There is still time to formulate a sensible, fiscally responsible budget that will meet the needs of all New Yorkers.  As we enter the final weeks of budget negotiations, we need to control spending and delete all new taxes from the conversation. Affordability, tax relief, and measures that will encourage job growth must be priorities.