Cuomo’s Budget Proposal Receives Mostly Positive Reviews

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget proposal Wednesday left local officials with mixed reviews.

Though bipartisan support has been shown for several initiatives set forth, a few opposing views remain.

Almost two weeks after his State of the State address on Jan. 8, the governor again outlined several goals within the $137.2 billion budget.

Proposals included capital projects, proposed tax cuts, simplification of the tax structure, ethics reform and public financing for campaigns.

“My overall impression of Cuomo’s budget proposal was positive,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, adding that he was pleased with the governor’s emphasis on reducing taxes for businesses and, in particular, complete elimination of corporate income taxes for manufacturers upstate.

To encourage economic competitiveness, investment and further growth, Cuomo recommended lower rates for businesses and simplification of the tax structure. This included a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to 6.5 percent.

For upstate manufacturers, the tax rate would be reduced to 2.5 percent, the lowest rate ever, while property taxes on manufacturers would be reduced by 20 percent through a state credit program.

However, in order for these tax savings to transpire, Cuomo’s proposal for increased shared services among local municipalities must ensue, which was a controversial topic heard all over the state.

In the coming year, Cuomo said governments and school districts will need to work together to find savings equivalent to 1 percent of their tax levies, rising to 2 percent in the second year and 3 percent in the third.

Additionally, local governments would be required to apply those savings to tax relief, and could face forfeiting state aid if they don’t stick to their plans, Cuomo said.

“I thought that was positive because it gives a real financial incentive for cutting the cost of local government,” Goodell said.

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan pointed out some of the shared services already taking place locally, or in discussion, such as the proposed regional water district in the north county, merging of school sports programs, and potential combination of Jamestown Police and county sheriff’s departments.

“We have to have a grass-roots initiative where everyone sees a benefit,” Horrigan said. “I’m going to begin to catalog where we are sharing services. It’s easy to say we have too much government, but I think it’s important to point out where we are succeeding.”

Goodell agreed and said much of the progress in shared services in Chautauqua County is due to the efforts of elected officials.

“We have a pretty decent reputation in that area,” Goodell said. “It’s not at all uncommon when you see a road project, to see trucks from several different municipalities working on the job. It’s a tremendous savings.

Horrigan said he’d like to see costs of mandated services lowered, as 90 cents of every county tax dollar funds state mandates.

He declined to comment on Cuomo’s proposal for public financing of political campaigns.

“I don’t agree with using millions of dollars of taxpayer money to pay for personal campaign expenses,” Goodell said.

Cuomo’s budget is due April 1. If adopted on time, 2014 will be the fourth consecutive year of meeting the budget deadline.

“The last three budgets have been historic for our state,” Goodell said. “The government is proposing New York state join the rest of the nation in adjustments in exemptions from state tax.”