Capitol Watch: Governor To Unveil State Budget Plan
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In this week's New York state government news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is poised to unveil his state budget proposal, a spending plan that is likely to call for big changes to state taxes in response to the federal tax overhaul.
Meanwhile, relatives of people who died following long and in many cases painful terminal illnesses are back at the state Capitol to again lobby lawmakers to pass a law authorizing physician-assisted death.
A look at stories making news:
The Democratic governor will release the roughly $150 million spending plan Tuesday. He and lawmakers hope to pass a budget by April 1, and they'll have no shortage of tough decisions.
The state faces a projected $4 billion budget deficit thanks in part to weaker than expected tax returns. Recent decisions by Washington Republicans to reduce spending on some health care programs will cost the state another $2 billion in lost revenue.
Then there are taxes, a politically charged topic in any year, let alone in an election year for Cuomo and every lawmaker. Cuomo has floated the idea of big changes to the state's tax code, including a new tax on certain investment income and a payroll tax, which could be used to replace some or all of the state's income tax. Payroll taxes are similar to income taxes except that employers pay a portion of the tax.
"It's not going to be easy, it is going to be complicated, but I believe working together, we will get it done," Cuomo said during his state of the state address earlier this month.
Some type of tax shift is needed, Cuomo argues, to soften the blow of the federal tax overhaul, which caps at $10,000 a deduction for state and local taxes. That deduction has been especially popular in high-tax states like New York, meaning many homeowners will see significant tax increases under the new federal tax code.
Republicans are wary of Cuomo's talk of big tax changes, with Senate Leader John Flanagan announcing his opposition days before Cuomo delivers the plan.
Lawmakers are also skeptical of Cuomo's promise to balance the budget — without big spending increases — while still funding many of the pricey proposals he laid out in his state of the state, which include upgrades to airports, big investments in economic development and increases in spending on education and workforce development.
"Boy was it ambitious," Flanagan told reporters.
It's become an annual tradition: the loved ones of New Yorkers who died from painful, terminal illnesses come to the state Capitol to push for a law authorizing people with fatal diseases to seek life-ending medication from a doctor.
The bill has been around for years without getting a vote, but supporters say they're making quiet, gradual progress.
The proposal now before lawmakers would allow someone with a terminal illness to request life-ending medication from a physician. Two physicians would have to certify the patient has a terminal condition and is mentally competent to make the decision.
Saratoga Springs resident Barbara Thomas lost her husband of 55 years to brain cancer in 2012. It was an agonizing illness, she said, and before he died, Bob was ready to go.
"Bob was not suicidal," Thomas said. "He wanted to live. But his cancer chose to end his life. He asked me to get his pistol so he could shoot himself. I couldn't do it."
Opponents, including the Catholic Church, plan to push back against the bill again this year. They've expressed concerns that it could be exploited by greedy relatives eager to speed up an inheritance, or misused by depressed people looking to end their lives.
Supporters recently submitted a petition supporting the measure to Cuomo that was signed by 7,500 New Yorkers.
Colorado, Washington, Vermont, California, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have laws allowing people to seek medical help in ending their lives.