Legislative column by Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino, R-Sayville
Gov. Cuomo has proposed a $152.3 billion state budget, a spending plan that I believe needs improvement. Considering that the state is funded by the hard-earned dollars of New York residents, the state needs to be better stewards of these funds. More must be done to carefully trim spending, so investment in critical areas can be maximized.
I believe we need better focus ensuring fair school aid funding for local Long Island schools. We must invest in infrastructure, including improved drinking water and sewer systems, which is intimately linked to a community’s ability to grow and thrive as they envision. Long Island residents face some of the highest taxes in the state and nation. We need to work diligently to remove tax burdens faced by families in Suffolk.
School taxes on Long Island are among the highest in the state, with roughly 68 percent of schools being funded by local property taxes, making the region costly for middle-class families. Last year I was proud to have helped secure $273.3 million in aid to schools in my assembly district, which included a $21.4 million increase. Additionally, we were able to restore $433 million in school aid statewide. I support better investment in our local schools to help relieve homeowners of crushing property taxes, while ensuring a quality education is still provided to our children. I will work closely with my legislative colleagues to ensure this is accomplished. Strong schools are important to society and our communities.
Another priority of mine is to increase state aid for local infrastructure projects. Each community is empowered to outline their vision, whether they are looking to grow into a robust downtown district with shops and restaurants or looking to preserve a more rural or residential identity. However, a deficiency in local infrastructure in our roadways and water and sewer systems can significantly hamper the vibrancy and economic health of a community. I propose that funding to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs), one of the most critical state aid programs to localities, be increased by $150 million for a total $588 million investment. Additionally, I would support a program to help renew and update safe drinking water and sewer systems in local communities. Every dollar from state infrastructure aid is a dollar saved in local property taxes.
The governor has spent billions of New York dollars on so-called economic development programs, which are often based on cronyism and didn’t do much to help local communities like ours. To me, investment to improve infrastructure is one of the strongest and most lasting ways in which New York can have a positive impact on the economy and local communities.
Lastly, New York state must consider the impact that its spending has on middle-class families. I don’t want Long Islanders to leave our region with the feeling that there are no opportunities, or worse yet, that they can longer afford to call New York home.
The governor will be launching an ad campaign touting himself as the champion of the middle class. Much of what he’ll tell New Yorkers he’s accomplished are items we’ve fought for in previous years. I am proud to have stood up then for hardworking families, and I will continue to do so.
The governor’s advertising campaign, however, doesn’t share that he’s proposed an estimated $800 million in new taxes and fees. Cuomo has even made efforts to hide his tax increases as a gimmick; one particular example is his proposal to cap the growth of STAR Exemption savings, which over the next two fiscal years would amount to $148 million in increased costs to New Yorkers. This policy will hurt the middle class.
Albany, including the likes of our governor and many progressive Democrats in the legislature, fails to understand the impacts these burdens have on families. As we’ve seen, the governor is seemingly more concerned with headline-grabbing policy agendas, rather than carefully weighing spending with efforts to reduce costs. New York is right to invest in itself, but in the areas that matter and not at the cost of overburdening taxpayers.