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COLUMN: Assessment on utility bills to continue; gun law to be challenged; competitive grants

— This week I wanted to share with you my thoughts on a few different items of interest happening in Albany.

Energy Tax continues

The 2009 budget contained a new tax for utilities. This, in turn, was unfortunately passed down to ratepayers. The "Temporary State Energy Utility Service Conservation Assessment" or 18-A was scheduled to sunset in March 2014. This year, the Governor's budget proposed to extend this tax for five more years until 2019. This tax costs taxpayers $500 million each year.

I was sorry to hear this proposal included. We need to end our unnecessary tax on businesses and residents and lower the cost of energy here so we can be more competitive with other states when it comes to job creation. I don't believe we should balance the budget with more or continued taxes.

Gun Law to be challenged

On Jan. 29, the media reported that the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association has filed a notice that it plans to ask a judge to overturn the newly passed state gun law. The association's notice cites constitutional grounds: the Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) and Fifth Amendment (nor shall private property be taken). I voted against the bill in the Assembly. The gun law was rushed through for a vote. Legislators were given virtually no time to review the 40 pages and the public was not given any time to comment. Further, I do not believe it improves public safety. Nor will it help prevent the recent spate of gun tragedies. Rather, it penalizes law-abiding gun owners. I'm pleased that the court challenge did commence.

Competitive grants for school aid?

Education aid is slated to increase for a total spending of $889 million. Some of the ideas proposed include creating a full-day pre-K program. However, there is not enough funding to provide this for all schools in the state so the Governor has proposed a competitive grant process, designed to target higher need districts. Essentially districts would compete for a total of $25 million in funding. The Governor also proposes to extend learning time, via competitive grant process. The grants are awarded based on the school district's need, student's need and the district's proposal to target high need students.

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