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State Budget-NY

Sen. James L. Seward, R-Oneonta, speaks as Senate members debate budget bills in the Senate Chamber at the state Capitol, Sunday, March, 31, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Cayuga County's state legislative delegation were united in their opposition to the 2019-20 state budget approved by lawmakers early Monday. 

The $175.5 billion budget is the first enacted by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature since the party won control of the Senate in November. For the county's state representatives, all Republicans, the spending plan offered very little to be happy about. 

In a Senate floor speech Sunday, state Sen. Jim Seward criticized the budget because he feels it didn't do anything to address the state's population decline. 

While Seward, R-Milford, supported the inclusion of a permanent property tax cap and a few other provisions, such as stricter regulations for limousines, he criticized the new taxes and fees in the budget. 

The budget establishes a new mansion tax on the sale of homes valued at more than $1 million. The tax rate would be higher for more expensive homes. The revenue would support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 

There's also a new congestion pricing scheme that would charge a toll on vehicles entering the central business district in Manhattan. 

"The bad in this budget far outweighs the good," he said. 

State Sen. Pam Helming blasted other aspects of the budget, including cuts to programs that support veterans and volunteer fire departments. She also spoke out against a budget bill giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo authority to close up to three state prisons this year

Helming, R-Canandaigua, is concerned the prison closures will lead to additional double bunking in some correctional facilities and will put staff at risk. She's worried about the economic impact, too. For upstate districts like hers, prisons are a major employer. 

She also criticized the extension of the $420 million film tax credit, which supports productions that film in New York, and the failure to significantly increase state school aid. 

The budget includes a school aid increase of more than $1 billion, with $618 million more for foundation aid. The increase is nearly identical to what was in the budget last year. 

"Local students, teachers and their families will continue to be shortchanged by New York's broken education aid formula while Hollywood producers rake it in," Helming said. "The budget process was a shameful charade that will do little to benefit the people I represent." 

For two lawmakers, this was their first state budget experience. State Sen. Bob Antonacci and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow were elected in November. Antonacci, R-Onondaga, shared his thoughts on Twitter throughout the budget votes Sunday. 

At one point, Antonacci introduced an amendment that would establish a fund to help counties implement early voting. The measure was blocked by Senate Democrats. 

In a statement, Antonacci explained his opposition to the budget. He believes it largely benefited New York City and does little to help upstate. 

"This budget also includes unfunded mandates such as early voting and e-poll books, with less than 20 percent of the estimated cost included in the budget," he said. "This funding deficit will be passed on to fiscally stressed local governments. The budget also cuts vital local (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) funding and reduces local funding for upstate roads while providing increased funding for the MTA." 

Manktelow, R-Lyons, is pleased with two provisions in the budget: The permanent property tax cap and the restoration of mental health funding for veterans. 

However, he was disappointed with the funding allocated for libraries and school districts, which he said "isn't at all where it should be." 

"This past day has been a complete whirlwind, with us passing some good, bad and just plain ugly pieces of legislation with the state's budget," he said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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