ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday evening that a deal has been reached to pass the 2019-20 state budget.
“This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done,” Cuomo said in a press conference Sunday. “There are a number of national firsts and it really grapples with the tough issues that have been facing this state for a long time.”
The 2019-20 state budget is a $175 billion spending plan that includes a $1 billion hike in school aid, criminal justice reform, the Green New Deal that seeks to make the state 100 percent carbon free by 2040 and an additional $500 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, among other provisions.
The budget also includes congestion pricing for drivers entering sections of Manhattan and a plastic bag ban that will prohibit the use of most single-use plastic grocery bags beginning in 2020.
Allyson Martino, of Ghent, said congestion pricing could negatively impact upstate businesses.
“Congestion pricing probably won’t affect me but I am against it,” Martino said. “It is going to affect a lot of upstate deliveries that go into the city, like the farmers. I think it will be very bad for business and it will hit farmers really hard.”
Rich Peters, of Athens, supports the ban on plastic bags.
“I am glad they are banning plastic bags,” Peters said. “Plastic doesn’t disintegrate — it stays for years and years, and when you go to places where they don’t clean up, you see it all over the side of the road. You can just use reusable bags.”
Also included is $10 million in funding for counties to allow for early voting, as well as a “state election holiday” that will give all workers three hours off in paid leave time in order to vote.
“This was not an easy one. It was a hard one,” Cuomo said of the budget. “But the hard ones are the good ones, by definition. It’s easy to leave the hard issues on the side. It’s easy. And that’s why they are hard issues. Because they were put aside year after year after year after year. Why? Because nobody wanted to pick them up. Because they were controversial and hard. Yeah, we are here to do the hard ones, because those are the ones that need to be achieved.”
The budget does not make provisions for the legalization of marijuana, an issue that had been on the table.
Ellen DeLucia, of Catskill, said she favors the legalization of marijuana for adult use.
“I want to pass marijuana for adult use,” DeLucia said. “Alcohol is legal and far more detrimental. Very few people will start marijuana just for kicks, whereas with drinking, because it is such a social thing and people are exposed to it so much, many people’s lives have been ruined by it. Having this evil shroud hanging over marijuana is ridiculous because this is far less harmful and I don’t see that people will become heavy drug users and go out of control.”
Felipe Gonzalez, of Greenport, favors the legalization of marijuana.
“They should legalize it because it’s crazy not to. There is a lot of money that can be made in taxes,” Gonzalez said.
With a $175 billion budget, local officials are still trying to figure out the specific impacts on the Twin Counties.
“We are still determining how Columbia County will be impacted,” said Matt Murell, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors. “There is a lot in it that we still aren’t very clear on. For instance, it looks like AIM (Aid and Incentives for Municipalities) will be coming out of the internet sales tax and the impact on the county is unclear. For the plastic bag law, counties can opt in or opt out for a 5-cent fee on paper bags, so we will have to have a conversation about that.”
Murell said there are some positive line items in the budget that he can point to at this early stage.
“I am pleased they are putting $10 million into operating costs to implement voting reforms and $14.7 million for the purchase of electronic poll books that people sign when they go in to vote,” Murell addded. “That is good because counties were afraid they would have to bear that cost and it would have been another unfunded mandate. There is a lot here and we need clarification.”
Not everyone is pleased with the budget’s outcome. Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, said the budget does not deal with the issues New Yorkers care about most.
“Banning plastic bags while protecting criminals, undocumented immigrants and corrupt politicians is the story of the 2019-20 budget,” Tague said. “There’s nothing serious in here about helping hard-working families or providing real relief to struggling business owners.”
Tague said he approved of one component of the budget, but that it’s not enough.
“While I’m pleased to see the real property tax cap being made permanent, it’s a sole breath of fresh air in the stagnant atmosphere of Albany politics that includes cuts to the winter recovery fund, AIM funding lower than needed, and protecting the arrest records of criminals, but I guess that’s what you get in a one-party government.”
State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, said she opposed the new taxes that were included in the budget.
“My Senate Republican colleagues and I voted against Gov. Cuomo and the Senate Democratic Majority’s bad budget because it included over a billion dollars in new taxes that will hurt families and make our state less affordable,” Jordan said. “The Democrats’ bad budget contained $1.4 billion in new taxes this year, $4.6 billion in new taxes next year, and a welfare-for-politicians’ scheme that gives $100 million in tax dollars to politicians to fund their nasty political campaigns. The Democrats’ budget was full of new taxes on internet purchases, shopping bags, prescription drugs, energy, and a new commuter tax.”
Jordan was also against the budget’s provisions to support undocumented immigrants, and said the budget will push people and businesses out of the state.
“In addition, their plan imposes more mandates to drive up local taxes, gives $27 million to illegal immigrants for free college tuition, and included a radical new plan to reduce sentences for illegal immigrants who commit crimes, for the sole purpose of helping them avoid deportation,” Jordan said. “The Democrats’ bad budget will hurt taxpayers and make it more difficult for our families, senior citizens, and small businesses to stay in New York.”
Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said he wanted to see the specifics of the budget before determining how it would affect the county.
“Until we get the whole thing and see what was actually passed, we won’t know how it affects Greene County,” Linger said. “Right now it doesn’t look like there is additional funding for roads. There is a lot to look at and see how it will affect us. The biggest thing is how many new unfunded mandates were passed.”
Michael Kracker, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a nonpartisan advocacy group consisting of businesses and trade organizations from upstate New York, saw both good and bad in the budget.
“The enactment of a permanent 2 percent property tax cap is a massive win for hardworking taxpayers across New York state,” Kracker said. “We’ve been advocating for this measure for more than a decade and we’re grateful that Gov. Cuomo and the members of the Legislature finally delivered on the promise to keep the cap for good.”
But Kracker also pointed to mandates and “billions of dollars in new taxes, fees and assessments” that could be a burden to businesses and taxpayers.
“There’s nothing fair about that,” Kracker said.
Jeremy Cherson, legislative advocacy manager for the environmental group Riverkeeper, applauded the state’s additional funding for projects aimed at cleaning up the environment.
“Gov. Cuomo, Speaker [Carl] Heastie and [Senate] Leader [Andrea] Stewart-Cousins deserve thanks for funding the first $500 million installment of the new $2.5 billion for critical clean water projects,” Cherson said in a statement. “This builds upon the historic investment of the 2017 Clean Water Infrastructure Act that has supported hundreds of millions of dollars in local projects to improve water quality and protect drinking water across the Hudson River Estuary.”
Cherson also said Riverkeeper was “thrilled” about the statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and encouraged the state to take it a step further.
“This is a huge win for clean water, as every day the plastic pollution problem worsens,” Cherson said. “We encourage local government to opt in to the crucial fee on paper that will encourage consumers to use reusable shopping bags.”
The budget does nothing to create needed jobs for New Yorkers or make the state more affordable, state Sen. George Amedore, R-46, said.
“This state budget does nothing to make New York more affordable. It includes nearly $6 billion in new taxes and fees, leading to higher costs in the grocery store, on your energy bills, for prescription medications and on our property tax bills,” Amedore said. “Yet, our upstate schools are not fully funded, our upstate roads and bridges are shortchanged and we continue to shift costs and burden our local governments with unfunded mandates.
“It’s a bad budget that doesn’t help create one new job, will hit our seniors and small businesses particularly hard, and won’t make our communities any safer,” Amedore said. “This budget is a confirmation of the reasons that so many New Yorkers continue to flee our state.”