The state Assembly reconvened Tuesday, Aug. 19, in an emergency session to address what Gov. David Paterson says is an impending financial crisis in state government. The hope was to cut roughly $600 million in state spending during the session.
The Assembly will be cutting around $450 million immediately, with more to come over the next few years.
I think it went well, said Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Newtonville. "It was productive because we had the Senate, the Assembly and the governor working together."
But the Assembly was also discussing ways to ease the burden of property tax on New Yorkers, and they did not adopt Paterson's property tax cap plan (already passed in the Senate), which would keep school district budget growth below 4 percent per year.
Instead, the Assembly passed a circuit breaker plan by a wide margin. It is combined with a "millionaire tax," and supporters say it will draw enough money into the school system while providing relief for taxpayers. The issue isn't being ignored by candidates in the upcoming election however, and two local assemblymen are under attack for not supporting Paterson's proposal.
Assemblymen Reilly and Tim Gordon, I-Bethlehem, both supported the circuit breaker approach to managing property taxes. A breaker would essentially limit the amount of money a family could pay in property taxes based on their income. New York already has one in place but it is not very extensive, affecting mainly the elderly and others living on a fixed income.
"The breaker literally caps the amount families have to pay," said Gordon.
"The Senate's plan isn't really a cap; it still has a 4 percent increase."
Reilly expressed concerns that less funding overall for schools, combined with rising fuel costs, will impact the quality of education.
"I would ask anyone who says we must put this cap in place, what exactly in the schools would you cut?" said Reilly.