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COLUMN: Budget misses opportunity to move state ahead

— The 2013-14 New York State budget passed with total spending at $141.2 billion. Overall, we missed our opportunity to create a better state and left things status quo. We missed the chance to make our state friendlier to all businesses and provide real relief for taxpayers. Instead, we extended energy taxes for all residents, while providing tax credits to the film industry. The budget also cuts from developmentally disabled and successful cancer screening programs, which makes little sense in this day of escalating health care costs.

Our state is repeatedly ranked the worst state to do business; however, these rankings seem to have no affect on the revenue-generating mentality that plagues Albany. We did not allow an energy tax known as 18-A to sunset in this budget, as previously scheduled. Leaders agreed to continue the tax until 2018. Every utility ratepayer in the state pays this tax that was enacted in the 2009 budget, and businesses and farmers contribute even more to this collection because it is based on usage. Yet the budget continues to give preferential treatment to the film industry by providing $420 million in film tax credits. I am not opposed to tax credits but we need to create more judicious policies for all businesses that help our economy. Removing 18-A would have been a good place to start, as this would save ratepayers $500 million a year.

Our leaders in Albany decided to give a $350 tax credit to families with dependent children under 17, as long as they earn between $40,000 and $300,000. This is expected to cost the state $350 million and is only for those with dependent children under 17 – not for those without kids or for seniors with low income. This rebate check will be mailed to qualifying families in 2014. At the same time, this budget cuts about $90 million from developmentally disabled health services. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were confounded by these cuts, and voiced opposition during the budget debates. I am all for giving money back to the people, but it seems that the families who earn as much as $300,000 would not count a $350 rebate check as windfall from the government, or be in favor of taking funds away from our most vulnerable population.

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