Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a budget agreement last night. Courtesy photo: Governor's office

The State Legislature worked into the early hours Saturday morning to pass a 2018-2019 state budget ahead of the April 1, holiday weekend deadline.

The $168.3 billion budget meets a 2-percent spending cap and closes a $4.5 billion deficit, according to statements issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of both chambers of the legislature. 

The budget provides for an optional employer payroll tax that would replace the state income tax paid by employees. It also provides for the creation of two state charitable funds for health and education, which would allow New York taxpayers who contribute to the funds federal and state income tax deductions for charitable donations.

Both of these programs are intended as a workaround for New York taxpayers who will see their state and local tax deductions capped at $10,000 under the federal tax code changes passed by Congress this year.

The governor in a statement last night called the new approach the state’s “best attempt to avoid the federal assault.” He called once again for a repeal of the so-called SALT measure by federal lawnakers.

“I think that should be the priority for any congressional member who says they represent the State of New York because this provision hurts every New Yorker, period,” Cuomo said. “This hurts the state, it hurts the state economy. The ultimate solution is repeal, and I’ll be talking about that through the November elections. But in the meantime, get out of the way of the missile is always good advice in life as well as in tax policy,” he said.

The FY 18-19 budget deal protects the continued roll-out of the $4.2 billion middle class income tax cut that began taking effect in January and will reduce tax rates on middle class families and thousands of small businesses by 20 percent over the next several years.

“We said we were going to focus on the middle class. We cut taxes for the middle class again for $40,000 to $150,000, from 6.4 down to 5.5 percent. For $150,000 to $300,000 the tax rate drops to six percent,” Cuomo said last night.

The budget package does not include new tax and fee increases in the governor’s budget proposal, which the Republican-led State Senate fought against.

It also does not include a cap on STAR property tax relief and it extends the property tax rebate check program, the Senate said in a budget summary posted online. Many homeowners will see their rebate checks double to an average of $380 this year and $532 next year, according to the statement.

“This budget invests in the shared priorities of hardworking New Yorkers – affordability, opportunity, and security. It is a solid and fiscally responsible budget that protects taxpayers, creates jobs, and supports many other quality-of-life issues important to middle-class families across the state,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said in a statement.

The budget includes more than $26 billion in spending for schools, an increase of $1 billion over last year. The total figure includes increases in foundation aid, base aid, charter school funding, STEM programs in non-public schools and security grants.

It also creates the “No Student Goes Hungry” program to provide students of all ages, backgrounds, and financial situations access to healthy, locally-sourced meals to address child hunger — and the expansion of the Farm-to-School Program to utilize locally-grown, quality meals, which will support local agriculture and an improved learning experience for children.

It also provides $7.6 billion to support higher education in New York, including: increased base aid for community colleges, SUNY and CUNY schools; and increased funding for tuition assistance and financial aid programs.

The 2018-2019 budget includes a $247 million investment “to combat the opioid epidemic,” including:

  • $10.6 million to support services including more residential treatment beds, a new Recovery and Community Outreach Center, and an Adolescent Clubhouse program to provide peer support activities and events that help maintain a sober and substance-free lifestyle;
  • $3.8 million for the development and implementation of substance use disorder treatment in local jails; and
  • $1.5 million for the creation of an Independent Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Ombudsman to assist individuals in receiving appropriate health insurance coverage.

It also prohibits prior authorization for outpatient substance abuse treatment to ensure people are able to get the help they need immediately.

The budget adds two new derivatives of fentanyl and several new hallucinogenic drugs, synthetic cannabinoids, and cannabimimetic agents to the state’s controlled substances schedule.

The budget also includes a total of $54.4 million for agricultural programs and $$300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund.

It also provides $500,000 to local law enforcement to support youth outreach programs that help prevent MS-13 or other gang violence in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The budget includes $525 million for the Health Care Facility Transformation Program as well as support for a variety public health initiatives, including:

  • $27 million for Nutritional Information for Women, Infants and Children;
  • $27 million for Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related programs;
  • $21 million for cancer services;
  • $16 million for maternal and child health programs;
  • $5 million for women’s health initiatives; and
  • $13 million for chronic disease prevention (including diabetes, asthma, and hypertension).

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.