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Readers grade new 2015-16 state budget

The plurality of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll gave a C grade to the 2015-16 budget agreement reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Legislature leaders.

State lawmakers approved the $142 billion state budget early Wednesday. It increases funding for schools, revises teacher evaluations and enacts new legislative disclosure rules.

Just 2 percent of readers gave the budget the highest grade of A, compared with 14 percent who gave it a failing grade. Roughly one-quarter gave it a B; 28 percent a D.

“For the fifth year in a row, the state budget holds spending growth below 2 percent and continues a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of budgets that increased spending faster than inflation or personal income growth,” Cuomo said.

The state budget also includes $1.5 billion for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, $1.3 billion to stabilize the Thruway Authority and keep tolls down, and $500 million to ensure that every New Yorker has broadband access by the end of 2018, officials said.

The budget calls for $23.5 billion in school aid, an overall school aid increase of roughly $1.4 billion—$300 million more than the governor had proposed, contingent upon passage of his school reform package.

“This year we are finally ensuring that New York’s education system will be about the students it is intended to serve, instead of just perpetuating a bureaucracy,” Cuomo said.

Several items Cuomo highlighted in his State of the State address this year did not end up in the final budget, including a higher cap on charter schools, Dream Act tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and an increase in the minimum wage. On Monday, lawmakers approved tax breaks on the sales of boats that cost more than $230,000.

Nearly 300 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted March 31.

Overall, how would you grade the 2015-16 budget agreement reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Legislature leaders?
A: 2%
B: 24%
C: 31%
D: 28%
F: 14%

The budget calls for increasing state school aid by $1.4 billion or 6.1 percent. Is that increase too much, too little or about right?
Too much: 50%
About right: 36%
Too little: 14%

For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.

COMMENTS:

Tax break for luxury yachts? Seriously?
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT

Hopefully some real changes are taking place instead of throwing money at problems and hoping that fixes everything. The education spending seems endless to me. I am interested to see how many schools reach $20,000 per student cost and have less than 60 percent graduation rates. Beside education, I will look for how the state is helping businesses grow and helping businesses start up in cities outside of New York City. Overall, hope the state is cutting costs in the right places and spending where they need to.
—Keith Newcomer

The teachers union wins again! Will our kids’ education be $1.6 billion dollars better? When are we—as taxpayers—going to wake up?
—Dave Sliney, Macedon

Tying education policy to conditions for funding in a budget is setting a very dangerous precedent.
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport

This is a freakin’ joke.
—Jerry McCabe

Unfortunately, I bought my yacht last year and the sales tax exemption is not retroactive (dripping sarcasm). While I do not disagree with the concept of eliminating taxes, to support this program by saying it helps the state boat industry is ridiculous. No boat builder would dare build a boat in New York, home of insanely high workers’ compensation rates, utility surcharges and high property taxes! Those are some of the real issues that need to be addressed to stimulate the New York economy.
—Peter Short, Pittsford

I gotta get me a yacht.
—David Schiffhauer

As usual, more spending on programs that never accomplish anything, and more spending on education that never improves the schools. A 2 percent increase in spending means 2 percent more bureaucrats to create more regulations to control our lives. I wish I could get a 2 percent raise every year for accomplishing negative results. It’s good to be a politician in New York.
—Dennis Ditch

The $150 billion divided by 20 million people in New York State is $7,500 per person. I pay to use the Thruway, and pay for my driver’s license and registration, so I have truly no idea where my $7,500 goes; but I do know the Legislature is asking for a raise. Perhaps I can request my share be spent on government ethics enforcement and the consequent increased prison budget? Also EZ Pass for life so I can get out New York and spend 181 days per year in another state.
—Ian Cunningham

Seldom do we get all that we seek. At least at this level, there is a degree of “give and take,” unlike Washington!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

I will grade any budget as F whether it is federal, state or local until the various executives show me that there is even the slightest effort of program accountability or proof of results, or any of the most basic demands of programming efficiency for which the private sector strives. It isn’t just this legislature, and it isn’t just this governor. The culture of every government on every level is wasteful spending without seeking accountability, results or efficiency.
—Jay Birnbaum

4/3/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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