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Hawley: 'Downstate rule rears head in state budget'

By Billie Owens

A view of the Assembly Chamber at 1 a.m. this morning as the Legislature still has five budget bills to pass.

Submitted photo and statement by Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

“As usual, the state budget was passed in the middle of the night, rushed through the Legislature with little time for public input or discussion and ridden with contentious policy proposals that should be debated separate from a spending plan.

“I am concerned that the Gov. can now close up to three state prisons within 90 days and state leaders are content with ending bail for some felonies, putting the public at risk and sending the message that those who have broken the law should be given more and more leeway.

“While we did secure funding for key bridge repair and infrastructure projects I am concerned at the growing disparity between Upstate and Downstate infrastructure spending with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) consuming billions of tax dollars per year with little oversight or accountability.

“I have been a champion of easing the burden on local governments for years and tonight our conference offered a budget amendment to fully restore Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding – this was shamelessly defeated by the Assembly Majority. Gov. Cuomo has drastically changed the AIM formula, forcing counties to fend for themselves instead of offering state help to bolster local services.

“I am pleased to see our direct-care professionals receive funding for retention and salary increases but more needs to be done to protect those who protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers. Our conference has advocated for a living wage for these dedicated men and women for years and will continue championing their cause until a true living wage is achieved.

“As session continues I will keep banging the drum for tax relief, an end to mandated Albany spending passed down to homeowners, reforming our charitable gaming laws and fighting the pro-criminal, anti-Second Amendment policies pushed by Gov. Cuomo.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley: 'Disastrous budget' for small businesses and farmers

By Billie Owens

Press release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley's office: 

“Barring the extreme disregard for transparency, integrity and inclusiveness in this year’s budget process, the legislation we passed over the last two days in Albany will wreak havoc on our small businesses and agriculture industry," Hawley said.

The budget includes virtually no tax and regulatory reform for small businesses, and a minimum wage increase to $12.50 per hour Upstate with an escalation to $15 in the future, which will destroy New York’s already-ailing business community. Upstate cannot afford such a drastic increase, and the burden will fall on the middle-class in the form of higher prices and vanishing job opportunities.

Further damaging to our small business community will be the 12 week paid-family leave program, entirely funded by already over-burdened taxpayers. This is another example of New York City liberals expanding government and reaching into the pockets of our business owners and residents. While paid-family leave has good intentions, it will be ripe with abuse and cause labor costs to skyrocket. We cannot afford another expensive Albany mandate.

As the former owner and operator of our family-owned farm, I know what it takes to grow New York’s agriculture industry. Unfortunately, this budget cuts agriculture local assistance by over $160,000 and offers little relief for farms transitioning to a higher minimum wage. Agriculture is one of New York’s premiere industries, and I will do what I can to rectify these abhorrent policies.”

Hawley slams Assembly Majority for 'tax-and-borrowing gimmicks' to complete new state budget

By Billie Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued the following news release today on what he says is the state Assembly Majority's use of "tax-and-borrowing gimmicks" to complete the new budget.

“After months of delay and behind-closed-door negotiations, the Assembly Majority finally finished their portion of the 2010-2011 State Budget tonight. Sadly, rather than pass a state budget that would properly close the $9.2 million budget deficit, limit state spending, and ease the burden on taxpayers, this budget instead increases taxes, fees, and
borrowing, while doing little to prevent future budget deficits from occurring.”

“The final assembly budget came to a total of $135.7 billion -- $1.7 billion more than the 2009-2010 budget -- and included $1.45 billion in new taxes and fees, while using vague ‘savings’ plans instead of real cuts. The most notable of which is the $330 million tax hike on clothing sales.

"However, what’s worse is the fact that the completion of this budget essentially came down to fuzzy math and unconventional borrowing that deferred job-creating tax credits and raided contributions to the state pension fund and other state funds.

“Specifically, the Western New York Energy LLC is one of the companies affected the most by this legislation. Under the budget legislation, this business will lose $2 million of their job-creating tax credits from the state.

"Add that to the proposal to collect $100 million in 2010, $970 million in 2011, and $870 million in 2012 on other businesses through the deferral of their job-creating tax credits, and it is clear that (Thursday's) budget legislation will send the wrong message to businesses who are located here and are considering to locate here.

“The Assembly Majority should be investing in businesses to promote job creation and to boost our economy. Instead, they continue to look for quick money grabs regardless of the long-term consequences.

"I voted against this budget legislation July 1 and encourage my colleagues in the Senate to return to Albany and make the difficult decisions by cutting back and doing the right thing for the ridiculously overburdened taxpayers of this state!

"By downsizing government and rewarding hard work ethic we can return our state to the ‘Empire State’ status sooner, rather than later or never.”

Hawley weighs in on 'the good, the bad and the ugly' aspects of budget extentions

By Billie Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued the following news release today after Albany passed its 11th "budget extender."

“After two and half months, and 11 emergency budget extenders, New Yorkers are still without a state budget. In that time, we’ve seen our schools, local governments, contractors, state parks, and small businesses left in jeopardy as their fates have been left in the hands of weekly budget extenders.

"Although the ‘good’ that has come out of these extenders includes the reopening of state parks, some contractual obligations being met, school districts receiving their state aid, and other essential state services remaining open, the ‘good’ has without a doubt come with plenty of ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ costs.

“The bad consists of the simple fact that since April 1, the more than $9 billion budget gap has hardly been addressed. Instead, the most recent extenders have raised fees by nearly $4 million, raided $80 million from the Environmental Protection Fund, and introduced ‘savings,' rather than make the real cuts that are needed.

Additionally, this process does not allow schools, local governments, and businesses with state contracts to formulate their own budgets. Even uglier, because of the lack of a transparent budget process, the ‘three men in a room’ may close these budget shortfalls with more taxes, more state borrowing, and even more of the special-interest-driven backroom deals that put our state in this fiscal crisis to begin with.

“These budget extenders are simply laying the framework for another over-bloated state budget to be passed through a piecemeal process. I again voted against the budget extenders and ask that my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate majorities open up the budget process, allow needed input from rank-and-file members, and see to it that it is passed immediately.”

Potential opponent takes issue with Hawley's no vote on re-opening state parks

By Billie Owens

Here's a media release from Chris Barons, Assemblyman Steve Hawley’s possible opponent this November, in response to Hawley’s ‘No’ vote on re-opening state parks:

Although I deplore the backroom politics and pretentious raiding of the Environmental Protection Fund, Mr. Hawley's assessment is short-sighted.

In March 2009, a study prepared for Parks & Trails New York by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) (Heintz, 2009), University of Massachusetts-Amherst, found that the combination of annual state and visitor spending at all New York State Parks supports up to $1.9 billion in economic output and business sales and up to 20,000 jobs throughout the state.

In February, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) released a list of closures and service reductions in order to meet the budget reduction, part of a comprehensive plan to close an $8.2 billion deficit.

The OPRHP’s list of closures included 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and 1 historic site. Included in the closure list was Allegany State Park, which provides $62 million in revenue and 860 jobs to its three-county area.

Park visitor expenditures within the Allegany Region were estimated to be between $33.7 million and $69.3 million annually with 87% of its visitors from outside the tri-county area.

Clearly the nine Finger Lakes Region Parks and three Genesee Region Parks would generate more local revenue than the $14.9 million outlay to keep them open. Allegheny Park alone generates nearly five-times the outlay, and there are eight other regions across the state.

Bill to reopen parks passed, Hawley voted no because it 'increases taxes on businesses'

By Billie Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced last week that the Downstate Assembly Majority "under the cover of darkness at 3 a.m." introduced legislation to reopen state parks and historic sites which were closed due to budget constraints.

In a press release, Hawley said he could not vote in favor of the bill, however, "due to its proposed $14.9 million tax increase on businesses and manufacturers, an $800,000 additional cost to Kodak, and the sweeping of the Environmental Protection Fund to the General Fund, instead of making the necessary cuts in state spending."

He says the bill will also be harmful to the agricultural industry since it will reduce funding for farmland protection and soil and water conservation.

"I have advocated for the reopening of state parks throughout the budget process, but this legislation and its increased burden on employers will only discourage job creation, while also setting a precedent for Albany to sweep state funds to close budget gaps,” Hawley said.

Paterson, Relentless- Proposes Spending/Tax Caps

By C. M. Barons

New York Gov. David Paterson layed down the gauntlet today, submitting legislation that if passed will mandate limits to unrestrained government spending.  The governor's solution to excessive budgets is represented in two bills, both caps- one on spending, the other on property taxes.  Paterson described his frustration with the state's fiscal condition, spotlighting the $60 billion in structural deficit shadowing the next four years and the exorbitant property tax bills imposed to offset deficit spending.

The governor has proposed a Constitutional amendment to cap State spending.  He cited increased spending- starting with the 2002-03 Fiscal Year to 2007-08.  State operating funds spending grew from $52.8 billion to $77 billion, an average annual rate of 7.86 percent- approximately 5% greater than the annual inflation rate.  According to Paterson, "If my spending cap had been in place in 2002, New York's annual spending growth during that period would have averaged 2.7 percent and spending would have been $16.6 billion lower in 2008." 

Gov. Paterson's property tax cap differs from previous proposals.  Those proposals focused exclusively on capping school property taxes; his proposal would limit all local property tax growth.  "My proposed property tax cap," he explained, "would limit tax levy growth for all school districts, counties, cities, towns, villages, special districts and fire districts to four percent or 120 percent of the annual increase in the consumer price index, whichever is less."   His bill is based on recommendations of the Commission on Property Tax Relief, and resonates with public opposition to paying the highest local taxes in the nation – 78 percent above the national average.

Paterson reminded that the current budget deficit demands tough choices and spending cuts and responsibility to correct mismanagement and restrain spending.  The two bills, underscored by urgings for belt-tightening, force the hand of the Legislature.  No longer can the Senate and Assembly lunch with the special interests and ignore fiscal irresponsibility.  The whole state will be watching when the ayes and nays are voiced.  Nay-sayers will clearly be acting against the will of the people.

Hawley says Lt. Gov's fiscal reform plan is 'a start but needs work'

By Billie Owens

This is a statement by Assemblyman Steve Hawley concerning a proposed fiscal reform plan by New York's Lt. Governor:

“Last night, Lt. Governor Ravitch clarified his five-year fiscal reform plan to my colleagues and I in the Assembly Minority Conference. While I agreed with him on the need to cut out social ‘yum yums’, or giveaways in the state budget, I am specifically concerned with his proposal to increase state borrowing by $2 billion a year for the next three years.

"We are not going to solve the state’s fiscal crisis by increasing our borrowing and coming up with budgetary gimmicks. In order to truly close out the budget deficit and steer New York out of this fiscal crisis, we need to make real spending cuts. I look forward to working with the Lt. Governor and my legislative colleagues in the coming weeks as the budget deadline approaches."

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