ALBANY – There’s just a couple of days remaining for lawmakers in Albany to agree on and finalize an on-time state budget.
April 1 is the deadline for the 2016-17 state budget. This week the process is focused on Assembly leader Carl Heastie and Senate leader John Flannigan meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to hash out a final deal.
Among the sticking points is an effort to settle on a final minimum wage increase for the state, with the GOP controlled senate pushing for a lower increase than the $15 an hour supported by Gov. Cuomo and the Democratic controlled Assembly.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial proposal calls for a $15 minimum wage to be phased in by 2018 for New York City and 2021 for the rest of the state. But Republicans in Albany say the increase would create a hardship for small upstate businesses along with farmers.
In addition to the minimum wage issue, lawmakers are also trying to settle on final numbers for education funding, tax relief, and also seeing if a final paid family leave agreement can be worked into the budget. The latest reports say that the paid family leave will be in the budget, but details on how it will be phased in need to be ironed out.
MUNICIPAL AID STRONGEST IN ASSEMBLY BUDGET
Another issue that differs between the Governor, Assembly and Senate budgets is municipal aid for local governments. Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi has been banging the drum for more municipal aid for the past several years, noting that the state funding the city receives now is actually lower than the aid it received in 2008, prior to the start of the great recession. Teresi says even though the state economy has since rebounded from the recession, that rebound hasn’t been reflected in the amount of aid earmarked for local government.
“the last I knew the governor had proposed no increase whatsoever in general purpose revenue sharing, freezing it at the same amount that its been at for cities and villages across the state, dating back to 2008. In 2009 and 2010 there was an actual cut for villages and some cities like Jamestown and there’s been no restoration with that, as there has been for school aid,” Teresi told WRFA on Monday.
Teresi said that this year, there has been an effort to increase state aid for local government in both the governor’s version of the budget and the Assembly’s version, but not in the Senate’s version.
“The Senate version of the budget does not give any increase whatsoever to cities, but does restore the funding for some villages in the state and, interestingly enough, the Senate actually gives funding to the five new villages that have been created in New York State during the past five years or so. So in an era when it’s been the policy of the state government to reduce the number of small village units of government, the Senate’s budget actually rewards new villages that have been created elsewhere around the state,” Teresi said.
The mayor said that of the three budget versions, the Assembly’s would be the most favorable for Jamestown.
“The Assembly budget gives a 10 percent increase as a way to begin the corrective process of what has been taken away or frozen for local governments. That 10 percent increase for Jamestown would result in a much needed $460,000 increase in state revenue for Jamestown,” Teresi explained. “Had that happened in time for this year’s budget, we would have not only stayed within the 2 percent property tax cap, we would have had no property tax increase at all, had state revenue sharing kept pace over the past five or six years.”
Budget discussions between the three state will continue Wednesday in Albany, with a final budget compromise expected to be announced either Wednesday night or sometime on Thursday.