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One-house budgets will highlight Senate and Assembly priorities

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The New York State Senate and Assembly will release their one-house budgets early next week, as the March 31 deadline for a new spending plan draws near. They have already given some hints as to what the plans will include.

Senate Republicans are rejecting, for now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s extension of a tax on millionaires. They say they also are against pretty much all of the other taxes and fees in the governor’s budget, including a proposed new tax on internet purchases, a surcharge on prepaid cellphones and higher fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said that middle-class taxpayers are “struggling under the crushing weight” of various taxes, as well as the “skyrocketing” costs of higher education.

“In this environment, these new taxes and fees are the last thing hardworking families want or need,” Flanagan said.

Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to call for more taxes on the wealthy than the governor has proposed. They want new, higher tax brackets for those making over $5 million and $10 million, with an even higher rate for those making more than $100 million a year.

The Democrats say the money can be used, among other things, to double the increased aid that Cuomo has proposed for schools to just over $2 billion.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, speaking before the plan was released, said the Assembly’s budget will reflect the Democrats’ priorities.

“Education aid, college affordability is covered in there,” Heastie said. “We want to make sure there’s clean drinking water throughout the state.”

Heastie said there also will be funds for transportation and other infrastructure divided among upstate and downstate regions. He said there should not be any surprises.

“The things we always push for, I’d say it’s no different,” Heastie said. “The lyrics of the song may just be a little different.”

The one-house budgets are viewed more as political statements from the two parties than actual policy. Most years, the two houses, as well as the governor, make a number of compromises before a final budget is approved.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.