WHAT DEMS ARE 'UP' TO -- $132B
10% BUDGET BOOST AMID TAX HIKES
March 30, 2009
ALBANY -- Open your wallets extra-wide, New Yorkers.
Democratic leaders yesterday released details of a state budget deal that would push spending to a staggering $132 billion next year -- an increase of 10 percent -- while they ask residents to fork over a record-breaking $7.8 billion in taxes and fees.
The huge spending plan is $10.7 billion higher than the bare-bones plan Gov. Paterson released less than four months ago in a call for fiscal austerity.
It comes in the wake of a $4 billion soak-the-rich income-tax hike, the elimination of a $1.5 billion property-tax rebate plan, and $2.3 billion in new and extended business taxes and nuisance fees.
Among other things, the budget would add nickel deposits to bottled water, ratchet up taxes on beer and cigars, and raise income taxes at least 14.5 percent on families making more than $300,000 a year.
But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) refused to give up even a dime of the notorious $170 million slush fund lawmakers use to dole out grants to favored nonprofits and community groups.
Meanwhile, lawmakers restored about a third of the spending cuts proposed by Paterson. They rolled back 70 percent of the governor's proposed health-care savings, but accepted some reforms in the way the money gets doled out.
They added $405 million in school aid, which Paterson had hoped to cut by $698 million. In all, they made a record $5.2 billion in program cuts.
Paterson said much of the overall spending increase is due to an influx of federal stimulus funds, and he insisted the budget's architects made "tough choices."
"We have produced a budget that provides a solid foundation to move forward and address the challenges ahead," the governor said.
The budget would restore $328 million in aid to New York City, as well as a popular tax credit to film and TV productions.
A Paterson-backed proposal to roll back limits on attorney awards in medical malpractice suits, reported by The Post last week, was struck from the final bill.
The budget was forged entirely behind closed doors, without a single official statement about its size or content from the Democratic governor -- a secretive process even by Albany's standards.
In a nod to the outcry over secrecy, Paterson has said he will not waive the required three-day waiting period before lawmakers can vote on the bills.
That gives Republicans, special-interest groups and the press 72 hours to pore over every painful cut or tax.
One Senate Democrat compared the situation to leaving a bucket of dead fish to rot on a sun-soaked dock http://www.nypost.com/seven/03302009/news/regionalnews/what_dems_are_up_to____132b_162030.htm