Taxpayers Footing The Bill For State Budget Extras

5:35 PM, Mar 30, 2013   |    comments
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New York State Assembly

State leaders may have passed a budget on time, but it's filled with things that you'll be paying for.

One example is the minimum wage, which is going up over the next three years. But employers aren't paying for the increase. Taxpayers are. How? The state is going to pay for it by giving the money, in the form of tax credits, to employers.

Assemblyman Michael Kearns, D-South Buffalo, voted for the budget in part because he strongly supports raising the minimum wage.

REPORTER: Is it the right thing to do to make taxpayers actually be the ones to foot the bill for the increase?
KEARNS: Well, whether it's the right thing or not, it's going to happen. And, the thing that we're having to look at is, yes, I wish it could have been done a different way. Do people need more money in their pocket? Yes. Are there people out there hurting? Yes.

Next, state leaders voted to keep a two percent surcharge on your utility bills that was supposed to end next year. It's called the 18-a assessment, and it means an extra $540 a year for a typical small business, and an extra $55 a year for the average household.

"The 18-a tax is a huge, huge killer on energy for businesses," Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-East Aurora, said. "That's another one that's just going to put a drain on our economy."

Finally, the budget has more than $400 million in tax breaks for the film and television industry. That includes a tax break to bring NBC's Tonight Show back to New York when Jimmy Fallon reportedly takes it over next year.

Political analyst Bruce Fisher said that, while taxpayers are footing the bill for all of these things, it's mostly the state's wealthiest taxpayers on Wall Street.

"If you're an upstate New York taxpayer, you are getting a huge deal," said Fisher, who teaches at Buffalo State College. "If you're a downstate taxpayer, you're still footing the bill for the rest of the state. That's the bottom line."

To the dismay of many lawmakers, the budget cut $120 million in funding for groups that help people with disabilities. At the same time, it included 54 million of your tax dollars for upgrades for the Buffalo Bills' stadium. It also includes a $350 tax rebate check for middle-class families with a child ages 2-17. The checks, coincidentally, will likely be mailed out just weeks before the 2014 election.

Kearns said he strongly opposed many provisions in the budget.

REPORTER: If there were so many things in this that you disagreed with, why did you vote "yes"?
KEARNS: I voted "yes" because, overall, I think there were some positive things for Western New York, and that's what you have to do as a legislator. You have to weigh the good with the bad. What we need is -- people need jobs. And when you're talking about 20 percent additional funding to improve our roads and our bridges, to me that's important. I know those are people that are going to go out and going to work those jobs.

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