It looks as though Governor Andrew Cuomo has scored big: He finessed an on-time budget agreement between top legislators in the Senate and Assembly on Sunday – the first time in five years.
The legislature has until March 31 to officially vote the budget into law.
However, although the $132.5 billion budget is on time, restores money for senior centers and eliminates a $10 billion deficit – primarily through spending cuts and without increasing taxes – there are a few not-so-bright spots that should not be swept under the rug.
The following are five items to which this year’s budget agreement was not so gracious. Their fate wasn’t as great, and they are items you might want to know about:
Rent-control regulations are set to expire in June, giving landlords in New York City the ability to raise rents to market levels for new leases. This change will greatly impact the availability of affordable housing, as the job market continues to tremble. Democrats are pushing for the rules to be extended, but Republicans oppose the measure.
Teacher Seniority Rules
Cuomo is proposing reducing school aid by $1.5 billion, or 2.9 percent. So teacher layoffs are imminent. Nothing in the budget will change that fact. However, Mayor Bloomberg has fiercely advocated for the state to do away with teacher seniority rules, which bases layoffs on tenure, not merit. The state Senate supported the measure, but Assembly Democrats opposed it and are leaning towards alternative education reforms proposed by Cuomo instead. As of today, seniority rules will rule.
Many state legislators were calling for a cap on property tax increases, including Cuomo himself who ran on the platform, at two percent or the rate of inflation -- whichever is lower. But alas, the governor backed down from his promise, saying that trying to stick the cap in now is too complicated. So, without a cap, property taxes can go up as high as the city council deems necessary.
Aside from education, Medicaid is the largest driver of state spending. And Governor Cuomo is proposing to reduce it by $982 million, or 2 percent. State law uses formulas to set the budgets in those areas, which would have resulted in 13 percent increases in the coming year. But instead, Medicaid will see a 2 percent decrease. Cuomo is known for calling these automatic increases wasteful spending and "a metaphor of Albany dysfunction." His move to cut Medicaid comes as no surprise.
The Millionaire's Tax:
This is not a new tax, because it already exists. The so-called millionaire's tax, exacted on those who make $200,000 or more a year, raises up to $5.3 billion a year. And it is set to expire in December. Although $5.3 billion could go a long way in helping to offset the budget deficit, Senate Republicans have pushed back against extending the tax. Also, Cuomo has staunchly opposed adding any new taxes to the budget, and so left this one out as well... although critics argue that extending an existing tax does not constitute a new tax, as this tax was already on the books.