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by Jay Gallagher

Monday, March 22, 2010

Not all smoke and mirrors

The Senate budget plan expected to be voted on tonight is, surprise, not all smoke and mirrors - it includes real cuts in spending, especially education and health care.

No new taxes and some gimmicks, but still somewhat fiscally sound.

The Senate made the first move in adopting a budget today, proposing a resolution that will be the basis of negotiations (supposedly in public) with the Assembly. Voting on a final budget package is still most likely weeks away.

Among the highlights of the Senate plan:

-- a cut of about $1.4 billion, or 5 percent, in aid to local schools. Education groups said it would mean the elimination of 1,400 jobs across the state.

-- a reduction in of $1.1 billion in expected health-care spending.

-- a $700 million “one-shot,’’ or one-time revenue, from refinancing state tobacco bonds.

-- no new taxes on sugary drinks or cigarettes and no wine sales allowed in grocery stores.

-- $250 million from collecting taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations.

-- three prisons would close, parks would stay open and college-tuition-assistance grants would be maintained.

‘We really are biting the bullet,’’ Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said today.

But the cuts also include deep reductions to some state agencies. League legislative director Barbara Bartoletti said she feared the Board of Elections may face such severe cuts that it won’t be able to do its job of monitoring the election process.

At least initially, the Senate Democratic majority has rejected Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch’s plan to borrow $2 billion for expenses. But much more water will go over the dam before a final plan is adopted.

The Assembly is also expected to adopt its budget resolution this week - also with no new taxes, but with deep cuts in education and other spending.

One thing clear right now: the thought-to-be-all-powerful education lobbyists have some work to do to get lawmakers to agree to just keep spending level next year.

1 comment:

Ann M. Gardner, Long Island said...

That 1400 number may be low. Our school district alone is proposing the elimination of over 50 teaching positions, plus about 15 teaching assistants and aides. All to to keep the new school budget's tax increase under 2%.

Some of these cuts will be achieved by attrition, but there will be a significant number of layoffs as well unless the teachers' union joins other district staff in agreeing to a pay freeze.

Teachers, students, parents and other community members have been filling the weekly School Board meetings with record crowds, and our kids are getting a first-hand lesson in economic realities.