The State Senate has now passed an on-time, balanced budget for the third consecutive year. I voted for many parts of the budget, which lowers taxes for families in the Hudson Valley, reduces the cost of doing business in our communities, and helps create a fiscal climate that promotes job creation and economic development. However, I supported a number of initiatives that would have made this budget better had they been included.
Energy prices are among the most significant factors driving the high cost of living in New York State. That is why I was an early, vocal advocate for ending the 18-a energy surcharge immediately rather than extending and phasing it out over the next three years as the budget dictates. An immediate end to this tax would have brought real relief to middle-class families and businesses struggling with out-of-control utility bills. During the budget debate, I proposed an amendment that would end this unfair tax immediately, but the Republican majority cCoalition voted it down. Nonetheless, I will continue to fight the 18-a surcharge in order to lower energy costs for hardworking New Yorkers.I have also been adamant in my opposition to closing the Beacon Correctional Facility. The closing will disrupt our local economy and send jobs out of our area. Despite the hard work of many community leaders, provisions in the new budget will, sadly, shutter the facility. I voted against this part of the budget, but now that the closure has been authorized, I will work to see that the site is re-purposed in a way that will create new good jobs and greater economic activity.
I also supported a Senate resolution commemorating April as Autism Awareness Month. I have listened to the stories of families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities throughout my district, and am concerned that with fewer funds, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) will not be able to provide these individuals with the assistance they need. I have been troubled by significant cuts to the OPWDD and have worked diligently to protect these funds. However, this fight is not over, and I will work with Senators from both sides of the aisle for the disabled and their families and look to find ways to remedy the impact of these cuts.
As a whole, the state budget took some important steps toward putting New Yorkers back to work and creating an economic environment that encourages innovation and job creation. This plan will send over $1 billion directly back to middle-class families over three years and reduce the cost of doing business with $800 million in business tax cuts over three years and unemployment and workers’ compensation reforms that will save employers $1.3 billion.
I will continue to work to boost our local industries by promoting common-sense initiatives that support the goals of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council: advancing research and investment in the bioscience industry, expanding high-tech manufacturing, and capitalizing on our region’s rich natural resources to drive agriculture and tourism.
This budget, although nowhere near perfect, provides a foundation for future economic prosperity. However, for the Hudson Valley to truly thrive, we must continue our efforts to put New Yorkers back to work and ensure they are allowed to keep more of their hard-earned money.