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State Budget

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Smithtown, speak with reporters after meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to negotiate the state budget at the state Capitol on Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Hans Pennink

On the eve of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan outlined his conference's priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

Flanagan, R-East Northport, unveiled the Senate Republicans' "Blueprint for a Stronger New York" Tuesday. The plan contains several budgetary, economic and security proposals supported by the Senate GOP. 

Some of the ideas aren't new. While the state has operated under a voluntary 2 percent spending cap during the Cuomo years, Senate Republicans want to make it mandatory. They also support making the property tax cap permanent.

Flanagan said the tax cap, which was adopted in 2011, has saved New York taxpayers $23 billion. 

"Let's make it permanent and cement those gains for current and future taxpayers," he said. 

The Republican plan also calls for lower energy taxes. They argue that reducing these taxes would help lower energy costs. 

A major challenge facing state leaders this year is a budget deficit of more than $4 billion. Cuomo has released several of his State of the State proposals in advance of Wednesday's speech, but he hasn't hinted how he would address the budget gap. 

Flanagan believes the best approach is to balance the budget without any new taxes. 

"New Yorkers pay too much in taxes already and raising taxes cannot — and should not — be the answer," he said.

The blueprint also focuses on the state's economic development initiatives. Flanagan expressed a desire to address the loss of population that has occurred over the last several years. 

To achieve this, Senate Republicans will advance a regulatory reform plan and push for small business tax cuts. Flanagan called for a review of the state's existing economic development strategy, including the controversial Start-Up NY initiative, the Cuomo administration's advertising campaigns and "the lack of accountability for major deals and projects that fail miserably when it comes to creating jobs."

There have been projects in central New York supported by millions of state dollars, but have failed to come to fruition. 

"Investing in job creation is and will continue to be a priority, but we can't throw good money after bad," Flanagan said. 

Security-related proposals are also part of the GOP agenda. The plan will target terrorism, gangs and gang violence, heroin and opioid abuse and crimes against women and children. 

Without revealing specifics, Flanagan said the Republicans will support "an aggressive effort to combat gang recruitment." Cuomo has proposed supporting programs for at-risk youth to crack down on recruitment by MS-13 and other notorious street gangs. 

To combat heroin and opioid abuse, Flanagan revealed that the Senate will request a record appropriation to expand treatment and support addiction prevention initiatives. 

Flanagan added that the Senate GOP will support efforts to crack down on sexual harassment and crimes against women and children, but didn't divulge specific legislative proposals to address the problem. 

While Cuomo's State of the State is a major event, the more important address will be his budget presentation later this month. That will serve as the kickoff for what is expected to be a difficult budget process. 

The Assembly and Senate will each develop their own one-house budgets over the next few months. The goal will be to finalize a new state budget ahead of April 1, which is the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year. 

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