Getting NY Back On Its Feet
COVID-19 has negatively impacted us in many ways. First and foremost the many lives lost is a tragedy. Second, the economic impact and fiscal crisis that we are facing as a result is unprecedented. We still have not received the essential aid we need from the Federal Government. All efforts must be made to explore and develop new revenue streams that can fund schools, municipalities, health services, etc. A mid-year fiscal report from Comptroller DiNapoli in mid-October followed by a fiscal report from Governor Cuomo will provide essential information on alternative revenue streams in the event that NYS has to act without any Emergency Federal Assistance. I will continue to work diligently on unemployment issues, advocate for tax and rent relief as well as helping to fund health insurance initiatives to assist those that lost their health insurance benefits due to job loss as a result of COVID-19.
Businesses throughout AD21 have been hit extremely hard. I will continue to strongly advocate and address the needs of our small businesses. I successfully lobbied the Governor to open bowling alleys, health clubs, and malls. Now I am lobbying for the opening of movie theatres, comedy clubs, smaller live concert venues and we increase seating in restaurants now that our COVID-19 numbers have flattened.
I will continue exploring ways that increased financial help can be provided to support small businesses. I would like to see more grants awarded to local small businesses. I am reviewing the viability for the New York Forward Loan Program to reduce red tape so that grants to small businesses are expedited. I will continue looking for ways we can help small businesses with rent payments beyond the moratorium due to end October 20, 2020.
Holding The Line On Taxes
Middle-class and low-income families on Long Island are overburdened with taxes. Our seniors are also affected and it makes it harder for them to stay in their homes. This is why I voted to make New York’s 2% tax cap permanent, never voted to raise taxes and voted against new tax increases 55 times. The tax cap has shown progress, but that progress only impacts future increases. We need to alleviate the burden that existed before the cap. I am sponsoring and supporting several bills that increase STAR exemptions, expand income eligibility and establish an age where property taxes would freeze.
Second, Industrial Development Agency (IDA) reform is a key component in efforts to control property taxes. There is some merit in assisting large business start-ups and providing tax exemption incentives for projects that help our economic development growth. But, wherever exemptions are granted, those unpaid taxes are passed along to all other taxpayers in order to keep municipal budgets balanced. Cutting spending on community services is one way. Ensuring that everyone pays their fair share is another.
Supporting Our Schools
Supporting our schools is one of my main priorities. In the 2019 Budget I was able to secure a record $198 million in funding to schools in the 21st Assembly District. I also secured an additional $1.3 million for schools and municipalities throughout the district. Providing our schools with the support they need is crucial to keeping New York vibrant, dynamic, and thriving.
As a result of schools closing, I acted to ensure payments of state aid when schools fell below the required 180 Day threshold. This legislation was signed into law in June and allowed schools to get the funding they needed. I am also co-sponsoring a bill to make sure that religious and private schools can receive state funding despite not meeting the 180 Day threshold.
We can also help schools by providing them with the opportunity to take an active role in large reassessments. School districts have no say in the assessment process, are prohibited from saving large amounts in reserve accounts to plan for overreaching tax increases that will be reversed, and are then responsible for returning the overage amount. This process creates an erratic budgeting condition for school districts that directly impacts other taxpayers who are often left to fill in unplanned budget gaps. This can be avoided by allowing school districts to plan or assist in the assessment process.