Budget Gets An “F” For Failing To Serve Upstate And Southern Tier

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C,I,Ref-Big Flats) on the 2019-20 State Budget
April 3, 2019

At the close of the passage of the state budget, Speaker Carl Heastie remarked that he thought that 2019-20 state spending plan was like a student getting a 97 percent on a math test. This may be true for what the budget does for New York City; however, for what this expensive $175 billion budget does for upstate New York and the Southern Tier, it deserves an “F.”

It is clear those who crafted the budget were more focused on chasing down headlines and promoting their progressive agenda, which does little to serve the people of the Southern Tier. The budget focused on New York City, rewarding those who break our laws, and outright ignoring upstate New York.

This budget gave free college tuition to illegal immigrants while law-abiding students are going broke with college debt. On average, students in New York are strapped with $32,200 in college debt. The governor and legislative majorities respond to this by also failing to expand the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to make it more accessible to middle-class families and students.

This budget is rife with policies which coddle those who break our laws, including the reduction of misdemeanor sentences to protect law-breaking immigrants from being deported. This policy will only help the MS-13 gang, a gang the federal government has recognized as a serious problem in our state. It further protects those arrested by prohibiting the release of arrest records and mug shots, which, let’s be honest, will benefit corrupt politicians when they break the law.

The leaders in Albany failed to invest in our communities. They did not increase funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and entirely cut the Extreme Winter Recovery Program, which help our communities in repairing our roads and infrastructure. Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding was also reduced by $59 million, an important stream of funding to help our local governments serve the public well.

This budget did not include any small business tax relief and increased burdens on small business owners, who provide a majority of jobs in our state. It failed to address unfunded mandates, which are the policies forced upon our local governments, driving up the costs of property taxes. Families can’t keep up with the expense of living in our state, and those in power refuse to address the problem head on.

Compounding all of these problems is the refusal by the leaders in Albany to improve transparency in state spending. The Senate and Assembly Majority has essentially rubberstamped the governor’s “economic development” programs which have been little more than discretionary pots of money for the governor to dole out funds for pet projects. They have failed to deliver on promised job growth and, instead, have given the state a headache with corruption scandals. This could have been fixed with a required database of large spending deals in our state, where the general public could easily see where the governor and Legislature are spending taxpayer dollars.

This budget is just another example of how downstate politicians don’t care about upstate New York or its taxpayers. The governor and the Senate and Assembly Majorities worried more about giving themselves raises rather than address what can be done to reduce spending and the burden on taxpayers, like those living in my district. Year after year there are residents leaving our state, and it is due to the complacency of those in power who refuse to address costly spending, the burdens placed on residents, and the economic opportunities quashed by job-killing policies. Make no mistake, this budget deserves an “F“ for failing you.

I welcome input on this or any other legislative topic. Please contact me by email at friendc@nyassembly.us or by calling 607-562-3602.