Borrello Votes Against State Budget Bills
State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, voted against state budget legislation as the state budget swelled by 3.8%.
The Legislature and governor waited until late Tuesday to release specifics to the public about some of the most contentious parts of the budget, from a tax hike on millionaires, to an agreement to legalize mobile sports betting, to a $2.1 billion fund for undocumented immigrants and other workers who have been excluded from COVID-19 assistance.
Mobile sports betting could bring in another $99 million that New York would direct to education funding, according to lawmakers who hope that could jump to $500 million by 2026. New York’s gaming commission would seek bids for companies who would run the state’s mobile sports betting program, and New York would boost spending on addiction treatment for problem gaming and sports programs for underserved young people.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers who weren’t eligible for federal COVID-19 stimulus payments or unemployment aid will be able to apply for one-time unemployment benefits under the new $2.1 billion fund. Workers could prove eligibility with a foreign birth certificate or a U.S. high school diploma, for example.
Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat representing Queens, said New York is the first state to pass such a fund, which could reach an estimated half a million, largely undocumented workers.
“This nation’s economy has long been built on the backs of our undocumented workforce, and it is their essential labor that has kept our nation running throughout this pandemic,” she said, adding: “I am hopeful other states will begin to do the same.”
State Republicans and Conservatives on Tuesday blasted the program as a $22 billion taxpayer-funded giveaway. Borrello said he disagreed with the program in part because it is tied to the state’s unemployment insurance system that is already struggling through the pandemic.
“Much of this tax revenue will support the creation of a $2.1 billion fund that will allow individuals who were ineligible for unemployment insurance during the pandemic to receive payouts of up to $15,000 per person. This is a politically-driven item with an unacceptably high price tag, particularly with our state’s unemployment insurance fund depleted by the unprecedented demand of the pandemic. Struggling small businesses are now being hit with insurance rate increases that threaten their survival,” Borrello said. “This reckless combination of tax and spending increases will have severe and long-term consequences on our state and its future, from lost jobs and shrinking opportunities, to the continuing exodus of residents to more affordable states. New York was already number one in outmigration and that trend is now poised to accelerate.”
Cuomo and lawmakers said the budget would include a “record” $29.5 billion in school aid, a $3 billion increase from last year. That includes $1.4 billion in additional aid for school funding, and a $105 million expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten for 210 districts who don’t currently receive such state funding. New York is set to prevent tuition increases at state colleges and universities for the next three years and boost funding for tuition assistance and operating aid.
The budget also provides funding for “green economy investments,” child care and small business recovery. That includes $11.2 billion for transit systems and highway improvements, $2.4 billion for child care assistance and providers, a $3 billion bond to fund environmental and climate change projects, $35 million in tax credits for restaurants, and $40 million in grants for arts and cultural organizations.
“There are many positive investments and restorations in this budget that my Republican colleagues and I fought for and New Yorkers deserve,” Borrello said. “The next phase of the promised middle class tax cut has been restored, which will offer some much-needed relief to stretched family budgets. There are modest grants and tax credits for small businesses to help them recover from pandemic-driven losses. Our schools and students will benefit from increases in aid, including a $1.4 billion increase in Foundation Aid. There are restorations of local transportation aid and AIM funding for local governments. An additional $25 million was allocated for the Nourish NY program and funding for statewide agricultural programs was restored. These restorations and allocations are needed and deserved and could have been achieved without the painful tax hikes and irresponsible spending. While this is a budget for the next fiscal year, the cost to New York will go far beyond next 12 months. That is why I had to vote ‘no.'”
It also includes a requirement for every internet provider in New York to offer low-income families a $15-per-month plan.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.