The 2008-09 Budget: Major Highlights

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In this year’s budget, the state faced significant fiscal challenges. An unexpected decline in the national economy related to the subprime mortgage crisis had led to a projected budget gap of $4.4 billion for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Through responsible budgeting and a series of tough but necessary choices, Governor Spitzer has produced an Executive Budget that makes targeted reductions in nearly every spending area and closes this gap. But at the same time, it also reflects the Governor’s belief that even in challenging fiscal times, we must make investments that are essential for New York’s future.  As he noted in his State of the State message, we cannot “let ourselves be paralyzed by challenging fiscal times. Some of our nation’s and State’s greatest triumphs have come out of bold decisions made during difficult circumstances.”

Some of these key initiatives include:

Health Care for Every Child: Fully funds the federal share of the expansion of Child Health Plus, which was initially blocked by the Bush Administration. This will ensure access to coverage for nearly all of the 400,000 children in New York State who currently lack insurance. Additionally, the Executive Budget also seeks to improve the quality of our state’s health care system through focusing on primary care, rather than expensive inpatient services. (More Information on Health Care Initiatives)

Revitalizing Upstate New York: Creates a $1 billion Upstate Revitalization Fund that will drive substantial and immediate investments into that region’s economy. These investments will help fund the Governor’s City-by-City Plans; restore our parks; support the development of affordable and supportive housing; invest in our aging infrastructure; and increase access to capital for businesses, municipalities, arts and cultural institutions, and agribusinesses. (More Information on Economic Development Initiatives)

Expanding Educational Opportunity: Provides a record $1.46 billion increase in funding for education, which is targeted to high- needs districts and tied to accountability measures. This brings the cumulative, two-year school aid increase under Governor Spitzer to $3.2 billion. (More Information on Education Initiatives)

A New Approach to Property Taxes: Establishes a Property Tax Commission that will recommend a fair and effective property tax cap, identify a set of proposals to address the root causes of New York’s high property taxes, 3) develop reforms to make current property tax relief programs more equitable for the middle class. (More Information on Property Tax Initiatives)

A Vision for the Future of Higher Education: Recommends creating an endowment to provide a permanent source of funding for New York’s colleges and universities; initiates a new, five-year, $9.3 billion capital plan that will help build a world-class infrastructure for SUNY and CUNY; and provides tuition support for veterans. (More Information on Higher Education Initiatives)