At first glance, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget looks acceptable: 2.7 percent cuts across the board; deficit reduction; consolidation of agencies. A reining in of wasteful spending and cuts to frivolous programs are exactly what this state needs, but there are many parts of this budget that fall flat for Long Islanders.
The proposed budget doesn’t even address the onerous MTA payroll tax, it simply leaves it in place and forces small businesses to lose more of their hard-earned profits. If we are going to pull New York out of this mess we must establish a positive business climate. The MTA tax simply undermines any economic progress Long Island companies are trying to make.
School aid is another area where our region is ignored. I do not agree with the Governor on his proposed $1.5 billion cut to overall aid. Long Island has been feeling the brunt of these large and unscrupulous aid reductions for years and it is not right. I do believe that every area in the budget should face scrutiny, but these school-aid cuts are too large and would impact Long Island property-tax payers too directly.
I would have liked to see real Medicaid reform in the governor’s proposed spending plan, but, unfortunately, specific fixes for this bankrupt program were absent. Currently, Medicaid comprises 45 percent of our state’s budget and within the next decade that number will climb to 50 percent. It will continue to absorb tax dollars unless we get in front of this issue. Responsible cuts to Medicaid need to start now or else we are going to get to a point in the not-so-distant future where this entitlement risks plunging the entire Empire State into terminal fiscal decline.
The upcoming budget process will be long and arduous, with many budget bills being contentious and many of us wanting changes. Cuts need to be made, but it must be done with families, taxpayers, businesses, and schoolchildren in mind. However eager we are to resolve New York State’s budget problems we have to remember that we cannot compromise necessities or leave past failures in the current budget. There is much Long Islanders should object to in this budget, but it is a step in the right direction.
Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) represents the 9th District in the New York State Assembly. The assembly district includes West Islip.