Assemblymember Cahill Comments on 2018 Budget Priorities

January 16, 2018

Today Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) issued the following statement in reply to Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Executive Budget presentation, a $168.2 billion proposal which focuses on restructuring the state tax code in the face of federal tax law changes and the need to fill a $4 billion budget gap:

“In the face of a massive deficit, this year is posed to be one of the most fiscally challenging in recent memory. The Governor offered proposals, plans and studies to meet constraints created by lower than anticipated tax receipts and the all-out assault on New York from the federal government and President Trump. Congressional action to eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes is projected to cost New York taxpayers $14 billion at a time when critical programs, particularly health care are also suffering massive cuts. The Governor pointed to the $48 billion more New Yorkers send to Washington than it receives from the federal government in services. Our budget process now appears to be defined by plugging holes to fund massive tax breaks across the country for the nation’s largest corporations.

The proposal to transition to a state payroll tax can be a step in the right direction to counteract the Congressional mandate that our residents subsidize this federal tax plan. Less clear were references by the Governor to charitable structures which would be set up to provide traditional state services. The federal tax laws regarding deductibility are clear; individuals receiving services cannot claim those expenses against their individual tax liability. The Executive is correct that these are extremely difficult times. Resorting to gimmicks and vague plans that would likely be ignored by the federal government and overruled by the courts do not rise to the challenges we face. Besides mentioning that these payments may not be matched ‘dollar for dollar’ the Governor himself made reference to the questionable legality of these proposals, but offered minimal clarification to residents.

On the issue of education, parents, students and community members sought leadership in ensuring that our State gets serious about funding our schools so that every child receives an equitable education regardless of their zip code. Unfortunately, today’s budget release is 1.2% shy of previous state projections when it comes to education aid. New York’s questionable past when it comes to appropriately funding education means that we must do more every step of the way. The announcement that a $769 million dollar or 3% increase would be offered is an encouraging start but well shy of the $1.6 billion increase amount proposed by the Board of Regents. We must remain steadfast that funds are focused on ensuring that all students in our schools everywhere in New York are provided with a 21st century education.

While the Governor rightfully pointed out that property taxes are amongst the highest in the nation. The idea that shared services can provide some temporary relief and savings for individual communities does not provide the long term solutions necessary to combat the threat to the fiscal security of homeowners and families across the State. Now is the time to consider larger solutions such as the source of education funding, school district boundaries and the services provided by our Boards of Cooperative Education Services. Sadly, the Governor mention of this problem provides little in substance for tangible solutions.

Health care funding also commanded an appropriate focus in the address. After acknowledging drastic federal cuts, the Governor proposed new taxes on health insurance and short term fixes through money grabs from non-profit health insurance companies converting into for profit entities. At a time where there is growing uncertainty about our nation’s healthcare system instead of disruptive proposals it is important that New York provides a balance in the marketplace that ensures access and continuity of care.

Other funding efforts released in today’s address included another attempt by the State to create an internet sales tax. If successful, such a tax is projected to create $80 million from online purchases. Another $127 million is expected through a new tax on prescription opioids.

The address, short on specifics, leaves the legislature with a great deal of work ahead. We are all eagerly awaiting the details of the Governor’s proposals. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that despite these financial hurdles, that New York State government continues to provide a framework which promotes economic security for middle class families and upward mobility for our citizens. Today is an important day in presenting a plan for the State Budget, but is only the beginning of a critical process of review and deliberation,” concluded Mr. Cahill.