The Governor’s proposed 2013 Executive Budget proposal is a good start to the State Budget process and seeks to build on a record of two previous fiscally responsible, on-time budgets and our mutual goals of no new taxes or fees and limited state spending in 2013.
While the total spending plan for the State would exceed $142.5 billion for 2013, more than $6 billion represents Hurricane Sandy federal disaster aid expected to come from Washington. When this one-time expenditure is excluded, total spending will increase less than 2 percent.
As always, education aid is a high priority for Long Island. The Governor proposes an increase in school aid of 3 percent, or $611 million for a total of $20.8 billion. An increase in education aid above the rate of inflation marks a good beginning for discussions about state aid. However, equally important is the distribution of aid by geographic region. Under the Governor’s proposal many East End districts are shortchanged in the distribution. This must be corrected before a final State Budget is approved.
In addition, the State Budget provides $21 billion in disaster related recovery from Hurricane Sandy, including grants for community reconstruction and mitigation plans, a home buyout program, and the restoration of damaged beaches and dunes as well as the building of new natural infrastructure like wetlands, reefs, dunes, and berms.
The proposed Executive Budget also includes mandate relief for local governments by creating a stable rate pension contribution option to allow local governments and school districts to lock into long-term, stable rate pension contributions. The option will be voluntary.
The State Budget proposal also includes an increase in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) from $134 million to $153 million and an increase in the State minimum wage to $8.75 per hour.
The Governor has set the right tone for budget discussions. I look forward to the public’s input as the Legislature holds its hearings on the budget before another on-time adoption before April 1, 2013.