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January 23, 2014

In Our Opinion: Cuomo's budget has something for all

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The Daily Star

---- — If we didn’t know beforehand, we could have easily surmised by the state budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed Tuesday that this is an election year, and that Cuomo’s name will be on the ballot.

There would appear to be something for nearly everyone in Cuomo’s $137.2 billion proposal.

• An increase of 4.6 percent for federally and state-funded Medicaid;

• 3.8 percent more money for schools;

• $1.5 billion to initiate statewide pre-kindergarten programs over the next five years;

• $2 billion to bring broadband and more computers to classrooms, a bond act that would have to be approved by voters in November.

• Something almost unheard-of in New York state — lowering taxes.

Cuomo wants the Legislature to approve cutting the tax rate on net corporate income from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent, establishing a 20 percent real property tax credit for manufacturers and eliminating net income tax on upstate manufacturers.

He also proposes raising the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $5.25 million and cutting the top rate from 16 percent to 10 percent. Homeowners in local jurisdictions that stay under a 2 percent tax increase limit would be given a two-year property tax freeze.

It is important to remember that historically the New York Legislature is the place where governors’ proposals go to die long, painful deaths leading to missed deadlines for state budgets.

However, lately the state has been on a three-year winning streak, and Cuomo is promising a fourth straight on-time budget. State Sen. Jim Seward, R/C/I-Oneonta, agreed with the governor Tuesday in a media statement.

“I share in the governor’s optimism that we will produce a fourth straight on-time state budget that keeps spending in check, enhances private sector job growth, and delivers meaningful property tax cuts,” Seward said.

But Seward questioned whether it’s the right time for the Democratic Party-cherished pre-kindergarten proposal to be approved by the Legislature.

“While I applaud the universal pre-k initiative,” Seward said, “we need to strike a balance, and make sure existing programs are properly funded before expanding in new areas.”

Seward also took issue with the Common Core Learning Standards imposed upon state schoolchildren and their schools, and we agree with him that special attention should be paid to a special commission proposed by Cuomo to deal with the unpopular program.

“Improving student achievement is a reachable goal,” Seward said, “but we won’t get there through non-stop high stakes testing, and a lack of suitable professional development for our teachers. Real action is needed to remedy this situation.”

Republicans will like the tax cuts. Democrats will applaud universal pre-K. When you’re running for re-election, something for everyone would appear to be the way to go.