State budget includes congestion pricing, plastic bag ban

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WOODBURY -

Lawmakers in Albany have finalized the $175.5 billion spending plan that includes a plastic bag ban, more money for schools and congestion pricing.

With congestion pricing, drivers will be charged a fee to enter Manhattan south of 61st Street during peak hours.

Money raised from the toll would go toward fixing mass transit systems, with most of the funds going to the city's subways.

It's not clear yet how much drivers will have to pay. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky says 10 percent of the money will be spent on the Long Island Rail Road. One estimate says the LIRR could get up to $4 billion in the upcoming years.

Also in the $175 billion budget is a ban on plastic shopping bags and legislation to make the 2 percent property tax cap permanent.

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In addition, schools in Nassau County will see a 5.3 percent increase in state education spending. Schools in Suffolk County will see an average aid increase of 3.1 percent.

"I'm happy that we're getting on Long Island a 3.9 percent increase in aid, which is slightly higher than the statewide average of 3.6 percent," says Joe Dragone, the assistant superintendent for Roslyn Public Schools. 

The state is also expanding its list of online retailers that have to collect sales tax.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised what he calls a balanced budget, after warning earlier this year that the state was facing a potential deficit of several billion dollars.

One item that was not included in the budget is the legalization of marijuana. Cuomo could still address the possible legalization before lawmakers adjourn in June.

As for congestion pricing, the new fee is expected to take effect by the year 2021.

Because the budget was passed on time, pay raises for Gov. Cuomo and state legislators will kick in next year. Lawmakers will receive a $10,000 pay hike and Gov. Cuomo's annual salary will go from $179,000 to $250,000 by 2021.

The raises were recommended by a state panel established last year.

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