An agreement has been reached on the 2014-15 State Budget and all budget bills have been printed. The Budget holds spending growth below two percent for the fourth consecutive year, continuing a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of state budgets where spending grew at a higher rate than inflation or personal income growth. The Budget includes $1.5 billion in property tax relief for New York homeowners that is linked to and conditioned on approved plans for local governments to become more efficient. In addition, the Budget puts forward the states largest investment in education to date, including an increase of more than 5% in school aid; statewide, universal full-day Pre-k; a bond act to modernize classrooms; as well as signature reforms to fix Common Core implementation and protect students from unfair high stakes test results; and strengthen and support Charter Schools. Investments included in the Budget will make New York safer by strengthening penalties to crack down on texting-while-driving, make New York cleaner by growing the Environmental Protection Fund, and make New York fairer by allocating funding to help raise the age at which juveniles are tried.
Highlights of the 2014-15 Budget include:
Property Tax Relief:
- $1.5 Billion in Property Tax Relief: The Budget includes a new Property Tax Credit to provide relief to New York homeowners and address one of the primary drivers of the State's high property taxes the outsized number of local governments. The property tax relief package is designed to incentivize local governments to share services and reduce their financial burden on the taxpayer. In the first year under the reform plan, New Yorkers will receive property tax relief if their local governments stay within the property tax cap. The property tax cuts will be extended for a second year in jurisdictions which comply with the tax cap and have put forward a plan to save 1 percent of their tax levy per year, over three years. While localities may offer a variety of approaches, the plan is designed to incentivize county governments to convene and facilitate a process and submit a county-wide plan for approval. Over three years, the program will result in over $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief for as many as 2.8 million taxpayers.
Cutting taxes and Creating Jobs:
- Cutting Manufacturer's Taxes to Zero: The Budget agreement lowers the cost of doing business for manufacturers, making New York a more attractive place for firms to locate and create jobs. The Budget will establish a 20 percent real property tax credit for manufacturers who own or lease property and lowers the tax rate on income for all manufacturers from the current 5.9 percent to zero in 2014 and thereafter.
- Accelerated Phase-Out of 18-A Utility Surcharge: The Budget accelerates the phase-out of the 18-a temporary assessment for all customers. New Yorkers pay some of the highest energy bills in the nation and the temporary utility assessment exacerbates this burden on struggling businesses and families. The Budget will save businesses and residents $600 million over the next three years.
- Continuing the Success of the REDCs: The Regional Economic Development Councils created in 2011 have replaced the top-down approach to economic development with a process that focuses on the unique strengths and priorities of each region. The Budget provides $150 million in flexible new economic development capital funding and $70 million in State tax credits for a fourth round of the REDC process.
- Fulfilling Commitment to Western New York: The Budget fulfills the Governors $1 billion commitment to revitalize Buffalos regional economy by including $680 million in new capital appropriations for the Buffalo Billion program. This complements $150 million in prior-year capital appropriations and $170 million in tax credits reserved from the Excelsior Jobs Program to provide the full $1 billion for the initiative.
Major Education Investments and Reforms:
- School Aid: The Budget includes a $1.1 billion or 5.3% increase in education aid for the 2014-15 school year. High-needs school districts will receive nearly 70 percent of the 2014-15 allocated increase.
- Reform Common Core Implementation: The Budget puts into law a series of recommendations to immediately improve the implementation of the Common Core in New York State, including banning standardized bubble tests for young children, protecting students from high stakes testing based on unfair results, ensuring instructional time is used for teaching and learning and not over-testing, and protecting the privacy of students.
- Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget builds upon the success of the first-ever State-funded full-day pre-kindergarten program by committing to invest $1.5 billion over five years to support the phase-in of a Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten program.
- Protect Charter Schools: The Budget increases tuition funding for charter school students over three years: $250 per student the first year, $350 the second, and $500 in the third. The Budget will also promote the growth of charter schools by addressing their facility needs. Charter schools will be eligible for Pre-K funding.
- Smart Schools: The Budget includes a $2 billion general obligation bond act. Bond proceeds will fund enhanced education technology in schools, with eligible projects including infrastructure improvements to bring high-speed broadband to schools and communities in their school district and the purchase of classroom technology for use by students. Additionally, Smart Schools will enable long-term investments in full-day pre-kindergarten through the construction of new pre-kindergarten classroom space, replace classroom trailers with permanent classroom space and make investments in high-tech school safety projects.
Restoring Public Trust:
- Reforming Public Trust: The budget agreement includes further reforms to ensure New Yorkers have confidence that their elected officials are serving them honestly and with transparency. These proposals include tough new anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws, a test of public financing of elections at the state level using the 2014 Comptrollers race, the establishment of an independent enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections, increased transparency of political contributors to independent expenditure committees and disclosure of the outside clients or customers of State Legislators who had been referred by registered lobbyists.
New York Cleaner:
- Environmental Protection Fund: The Budget includes $162 million for the EPF, an increase of $9 million from 2013-14.
New York Safer:
- Crack-Down On Youth Texting-While-Driving: The Budget includes legislation to intensify the efforts to curtail the prevalence of texting while driving by young drivers. Young and new drivers convicted of texting-while-driving will have their license suspended for 120 days on the first offense, and a year for the second offense.
New York Fairer:
- Fund the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice: New York is one of only two states that continue to prosecute 16- and 17-year olds through the adult criminal justice system. The Budget includes funding for the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice to make recommendations on how best to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, improve outcomes for youth, and promote community safety.