Long Island's state Senate delegation touts highlights of budget
The recently passed state budget was the first big test for Democrats who now have complete control of state government, and Long Island's new Senate delegation on Tuesday touted some of the highlights in that spending plan.
It was the election of six Democratic state senators from Nassau and Suffolk last November that helped put Democrats in charge in the state Senate for the first time in years. And in the new state budget passed this weekend in Albany, Democrats say there's plenty Long Islanders should be happy about, including the 2 percent property tax cap being made permanent.
The budget also includes a more than 2 percent increase in what's called foundation aid to Long Island schools. Republicans were quick to point out that under their rule, those increases were traditionally greater. Democrats say in a year when the state was facing a big deficit, any increase is a big accomplishment.
Republicans, however, disagree.
Sen. John Flanagan, of Northport, went from majority leader to minority leader in the state Senate when Democrats took over. He says the budget is filled with new taxes and fees, including congestion pricing into Manhattan, and that it's "horrible" for Long Island.
But Democrats say the plan to charge drivers a fee when they travel south of 60th Street in Manhattan will raise billions for mass transit, including the Long Island Rail Road. It's not yet known what the toll will cost.
Democrats say a detailed audit of the MTA included in the state budget should help improve service.