The budget’s in, but is it fair?
The New York State $175 billion 2019-2020 budget was approved earlier this week after a long debate in the state Legislature. It’s been reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo felt it was the best budget of his tenure. That might be true, and there are certainly many positive aspects of it, but not everyone is completely pleased with the final results, especially here on Long Island.
One of the major concerns is the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. Although this funding usually makes up a small portion of the budget for most municipalities, Islip Town is one of the largest recipients of the funding to the tune of $1.8 million. Though the threat of losing it had loomed early on in negotiations, it appears that funding will be restored in a way, but how much is uncertain.
AIM funding had been used at the discretion of each recipient. However, in most cases, that money was used to help defray the cost of providing programs to constituents, paving streets, fixing potholes, etc. Some of the money that’s being restored is not coming from the state per se as it was in the past. It will be funded through the online marketplace sales tax that was included in the budget. Sales tax is funding that would have gone to the county for county use. Instead, the county will disperse it as AIM. If Islip takes a hit on anything less than the usual amount, they’ll have to try to fill a gaping hole in their budgets midyear or else cut services and/or repairs. Maybe not, but it could be a fiscal strain nevertheless.
One of the positive aspects of the budget, though, was the permanent 2-percent tax cap. The cap was imposed back in 2011 to keep a lid on taxes, thus forcing government and school districts to control spending. Although it has caused some fiscal difficulty in the process, taxpayers on Long Island – one of the highest-taxed areas in the country – seem happy about it.
There are going to be a lot of unhappy internet shoppers, though, because of the aforementioned marketplace tax. For years, online purchases were not subject to sales tax. Now third party retail sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy will have to tack on a 4.5 percent sales tax on all purchases. That’s a good thing, though. It will help level the market for actual brick-and-mortar retailers.
However, if you’re a commuter to NYC who cannot rely on the Long Island Rail Road’s frequently flawed schedules, the cost of driving into Manhattan is going up. Anyone driving south of 60th Street will be charged more than $10 in addition to whatever cost is incurred on bridges and tunnels. Trucks will pay around $25. The congestion pricing seemed fair when it was thought that a good sum of the garnered money would be used for LIRR improvements. But apparently, that amount is now only 10 percent.
That doesn’t seem very fair for the largest commuter system in the country, which continues to raise fares on commuters to improve service. That’s not fair at all.
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