Taxes Galore: NY's Staggering New Budget Unveiled
Proposed $131.8B Tax-And-Spend Plan Has Critics Howling
Gov. Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver rolled out a record breaking, $131.8 billion budget plan on Monday.
New Yorkers, both rich and not so rich, will soon be digging deeper into their pockets to close the huge state budget gap. The new spending plan expected to be adopted this week is jam-packed with higher taxes and fees.
The hits for New Yorkers just keep on coming. After being socked with a whopping subway and bus fare hike, New York families making at least $300,000 are now being walloped with a 7.85 percent tax rate and those over $500,000, an 8.97 percent rate. But it's not only the rich who are being soaked by the budget unveiled by Governor David Paterson and legislative leaders.
"We made the tough choices necessary to address that challenge through shared sacrifice and responsible budgeting," Gov. David Paterson said in a written statement issued with legislative leaders. "The agreement we are announcing today closes the largest deficit in state history, stabilizes our finances and institutes critical reforms that will help eliminate waste and inefficiency in our government."
There are lots of new taxes and fees that will be annoying to everyone, an equal-opportunity spreading of the pain. Among those are vehicle registration fees, a cigar tax, a beer and wine tax, a utility assessment, an auto insurance surcharge, driver's license fees, a rental car tax and a registration fee for tobacco sellers.
"These numbers are absolutely staggering, and the height of irresponsibility on the part of the Democrat leadership in this state," said Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-L.I.). "The public should be outraged."
Even bottled water drinkers aren't immune to the fees. They'll be paying a nickel more per bottle because the drink has now been added to the 5 cent bottle deposit law.
"You know it's a really difficult situation. There are no clear solutions. It just seems to tax too much," said Upper West Side resident Jamie Kalfus.
"We have produced a budget that provides a solid foundation to move forward and address challenges ahead," Paterson said. "We have accomplished this with a budget that holds government accountable to the people of New York, and protects those who cannot protect themselves."
The details of the new budget include:
--Essentially flat state school aid. Aid to public schools would increase about $1.1 billion, according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and eliminate the $700 million cut Paterson had proposed in December. But that results in almost no increase for schools that have gotten bumps of billions of dollars from lawmakers pressured by school districts back home. School aid will total more than $21 billion, one of the highest per capita levels in the nation. But school advocates expected $1.5 billion more this year, even after Paterson's cut was restored, under a promise by the state following a court decision it lost for not providing a sound basic education for years.
"There are going to be layoffs of teachers and other educators," said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-allied advocate for public schools. "There are going to be cutbacks of programs and kids in districts that are already underfunded, the problem is going to continue ... and that's a travesty of justice."
The last time school districts received far less state aid than expected local property taxes were subsequently increased by an average of 10 percent.
--About $3 billion of taxes and fees, from motor vehicle registration charges to public college tuition and other costs that would affect everyday life for most residents.
--No more tax rebate checks to residents, although the STAR exemption program and NYC STAR credit will continue to provide $3.3 billion in property tax relief.
--A bigger bottle bill. A nickel deposit would be required of bottled water, to go along with carbonated drinks. The state will get about $115 million of the unclaimed deposits, with bottlers keeping the rest under a last-minute deal worked out with lobbyists for the Coca-Cola Co.
--Taxing little cigars often called cigarillos at the same 46 percent rate applied to cigarettes, instead of the 37 percent rate now.
Meanwhile, Paterson had proposed more than $1 billion in cuts from health care in his mid-December budget to the Legislature. He sought to force more funding to be moved from traditional and expensive hospital care to more efficient community-based and preventive programs. The Legislature restored about 69 percent of funding to hospitals, 73 percent to pharmacies, 60 percent to home care programs and 43 percent to nursing homes.
The Legislature also restored:
--$340 million of critical funding to New York City, Silver said.
--Funding for teacher training centers and adult literacy and bilingual education programs.
--$125 million more to the State University of New York, for a total of $2.5 billion in funding; and $86 million more to the City University of New York, for a new total of $1.4 billion.
--$49 million in cuts to community colleges.
--Almost $50 million to the Tuition Assistance Program, which provides financial aid to college students.
The Legislature also created a $50 billion program to provide low-interest loans to residents attending college and rejected a proposal for a gas tax.
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