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Cuomo budget aims to fight against Trump tax plan

Cyril Josh Barker | 1/18/2018, 11:09 a.m.
From $770 million more for school aid, $200 million for NYCHA improvements to nearly $120 million for the Excelsior Scholarship, ...
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his executive budget Office of the Governor/Flickr

From $770 million more for school aid, $200 million for NYCHA improvements to nearly $120 million for the Excelsior Scholarship, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s FY 2019 executive budget has some winners and losers.

Cuomo unveiled the budget Tuesday, touting that it protects taxpayers from Washington’s “devastating federal attack” and “invests in the middle class.” He also wants to create jobs and fix infrastructure.

During his presentation he warned New Yorkers that state policies and federal policies are clashing and could leave Empire State residents getting the short end of the stick.

“Given the changes in Washington that we’re going to, that necessitate changes here,” Cuomo said. “The budget, as a budget, is going to be a challenging one. There’s a $4.4 billion deficit. We have tremendous federal cuts, especially in health care, and then we have pressing needs all across the state. So the budget as a budget is going to be difficult to resolve but that is actually the easy part of the equation.”

Cuomo has been especially critical of the recent tax plan signed by President Donald Trump, which he says does damage to New York because of the limits on the state and local tax deduction. During his State of the State Address, Cuomo announced his plans to sue the federal government, calling the federal tax plan “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”

“Washington’s tax plan now uses New York and California as piggy banks to finance tax cuts for Republican states,” he said.

The nearly $170 billion budget gives $769 million annual increase in school aid, which is double the statutory school aid growth cap, increasing education aid 35 percent since 2012. Nearly $10 million will go toward much-needed afterschool programs serving more than 6,200 children across the state in high-need communities.

Charter schools in New York City can expect to see increased support for new and expanding charter schools located in privately leased spaces.

“Education increase over the years is now $26 billion,” he said. “Twenty-six billion is a 35 percent increase since 2012—$6.8 billion. On top of that, the sound basic education formula that says we should get more funding to poorer schools. This has; our distribution formula would have 70 percent going to the poorest districts, which is the highest number ever.”

Recent headlines about violence in public schools apparently caught the ear of the governor. The state is investing $1.5 million over three years to support gang prevention in middle and high schools.

In human services, the budget calls for $100 million to implement “Raising the Age.” Funding will go toward raising the age of criminal responsibility and reform measures.

In an effort to combat the homeless crisis, the budget provides $100 million for the preservation, restoration or creation of affordable housing units in New York City and $200 million for projects and improvements for NYCHA.

The Department of Taxation and Finance is exploring restructuring options and issuing a preliminary report to outline options for state tax reform in response to the federal legislation. One way the governor hopes New Yorkers can see more in their paychecks is by reducing income taxes by shifting income tax from an employee paid system to an employer paid system.

So, who are the losers in the budget?

Cuomo’s budget is being highly criticized for cuts to the crippling MTA. The budget calls for $429 million for public transit with only $254 million going toward problems New Yorkers deal with, such as delays and system failures. The MTA needs $836 million for its action plan.

And although the budget appears to be positive for education, critics say it falls short for Black and Brown children. One of the most vocal on the issues was Assemblyman Charles Barron.

“Martin Luther King said silence is betrayal. I will not sit silently and allow Governor Cuomo to present this budget of over $160 billion that neglects Black and Brown children living in poverty and going to underfunded schools,” Barron stated. “This racist neglect is unconscionable and unacceptable. Shame on you governor! The state owes our struggling schools $4.2 billion to settle the campaign for fiscal equity debt. The governor refuses to pay it. Stop the racism governor and pay the debt!”

Barron and others believe that the $338 million in Foundation Aid would not be enough to prevent classroom cuts across the state and doesn’t address educational equity.