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CNY State Lawmakers Have Differing Initial Impressions of 2019 State Budget

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It seems that two Syracuse-area state lawmakers from different political parties aren’t entirely pleased with the new $175.5 billion state budget.  Democratic Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli says he would have liked to have seen more money set aside for education, home health care services, and direct support worker wages. 

The budget also makes permanent a two percent property tax cap.  Magnarelli understands that local government leaders might feel constrained, but says they also need to work toward more consolidation.

"None of these entities want to do that.  It's like dragging them kicking and screaming.  They don't want to do it.  But when you go to my constituents, they're ecstatic about the two percent."

Onondaga County, the City of Syracuse, towns, and villages will all be quick to say that they've been sharing services for years, and continue to find ways to operate more efficiently. 

Magnarelli says he isn’t happy with how the governor inserts policy matters into the spending plan, though he adds it’s a practice that goes back to at least the Pataki years.   He says it clearly makes budget negotiations more complicated and puts a deadline on debate.  But he acknowledges it is a tool the governor can use to push things through that might not otherwise ever get a vote by lawmakers.  This irritates freshman Republican Senator Bob Antonacci, who voted against the spending plan along with other senate republicans.

"Is this a fiscal spending plan, or is this way to jam policy down people's throats in the dark of night with little public input, no hearings...of course it is.  It's meant to make people take uncomfortable votes.  It shouldn't be done that way."

Lawmakers were voting on budget bills through Sunday night.  Antonacci says the property tax cap, plastic bag ban, and other so-called "poison pills" just made the budget impossible for him to approve.  Not to mention, he says, it failed to meet his two standards:  If the budget would tempt residents who fled New York to return; or, if it would lure new residents to the state.  Antonacci says it does neither because it taxes, spends, and borrows way too much money.   At the same time, he says it underfunds SUNY Upstate, public schools, and upstate infrastructure.  Overall, he says there was there's a lot not to like about the budget.


Conversely, Freshman Democratic Senator Rachel May says there's much to be proud of, though adds there's still work to be done.  In a release, she says, "We must continue in the future to fight to ensure that our schools are fully funded."  May is also pleased with progress on what she calls "badly needed election reforms."   Most notably, voters can start voting nine days prior to an election.  The budget set aside $20 million to cover those costs, and for electronic polling books, which Sen. Antoncacci says falls far short of what's needed.  The former county comptroller chalks it up to another unfunded mandate that will cost Onondaga County $1 million.  

Like Antonacci, May also wants the budget process to be more transparent and collaborative.

Assemblymember Al Stirpe says the new budget strengthens Central New York's economy with investments in the Center of Excellence to create jobs through research and innovation, and in CenterStaet CEO to foster efforts to boost local businesses.  He was also happy to see that $440 million was included for roads and highways.  Stirpe also supported the voting reforms.  

On the other side of the aisle, Assemblymember Gary Finch says in a release that he and his colleagues rejected a budget that "slashed funding for farms, infrastructure, and libraries."  He criticized Democrats in the chamber who he says, "railed against this budget agreement on Twitter, in committee meetings, in private conversations and right in the Assembly Chamber during floor debate. They still went along with it."  Finch says Assembly Republicans are standing up to the governor's corruption, bullying, and mismanagement.

Highlights of the budget, from Governor Cuomo's perspective, can be seen here.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at