4 Aug

The state legislature passed the budget last night. It was 125 days late – the second-latest-ever – and it lurches towards bridging a $9 billion shortfall by raising taxes and fees. Most notably for already recession-weary New Yorkers will be the abolition of the state sales tax exemption on clothing costing less than $110. You can do your clothes shopping in Pennsylvania, again.

Spending, naturally, will increase overall by 2.4%.

There was no debate on the floor of the State Senate.

There will be a billion dollars’ worth of savings through across-the-board spending cuts, and a measure was passed that would have long ago adversely affected Dale Volker. From now on, convicts serving time upstate will no longer be counted as part of the local upstate population. Instead, they will be counted as residents of the communities they lived in when arrested. Had this been in place previously, Volker’s district may have been abolished altogether, and this will have serious implications when districts are redrawn.

The SUNY autonomy plan was withdrawn, and UB 2020 holdout Bill Stachowski didn’t get his way, as usual. Although he relented on this issue, he claims that a “framework” or “outline” of some future agreement on SUNY was reached, but ideas aren’t bills, and bills aren’t law. The Assembly’s budget bill omitted SUNY, and the Assembly had left town, so the Senate never took up the issue in its final vote.

In the end, the “tough choices” that were made in Albany consist of panicky hole-filling. The interests of downstate and upstate New York have never diverged more, and never before has the downstate legislative leadership more starkly disregarded upstate’s needs. The reforms that are done are too infinitesimal to be granted the monicker “gradual”, and fundamental solutions to longstanding chronic problems with state governance are ignored.

New Yorkers – already taxed higher than most Americans – will be taxed even more now, and an already unattractive state for people and business will become even uglier. While downstate hits the occasional economic speedbump, upstate has been in an ever-widening sinkhole for two generations, and the current governmental structure ensures our perpetual influence-free status.


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