Wednesday, April 04, 2007

OPEN LETTER FROM ELIOT SPITZER

Amherst Times


Open letter to NY State residents:

This weekend, the New York legislature passed a budget that achieves the goals we have all strived toward: health care funding to give all children in New York State health insurance; aid for the schools that most desperately need it; relief from the high property taxes that are burdening working families; and resources to help our communities continue to grow and prosper. While the battle was not won easily, it produced many great outcomes for the people of this state. Many newspapers across the state have been supportive, but most notable are today's editorial pages of The New York Times and New York Daily News. Both recognize that one of my top priorities as governor has been to expand health coverage for New Yorkers, while establishing smart financial practices that will ensure our health care system's stability in years to come. The enacted budget expands the current Child Health Plus program to cover 400,000 uninsured children, growth the Times explains "expands health insurance in ways that could make New York a leader in the nation." The budget also makes sure that Medicaid dollars follow Medicaid patients, while fulfilling my commitment to bring the growth in Medicaid costs under control. The budget also provides an historic level of investment in our schools--an increase of $7 billion in education aid, hailed as an "education bonanza" by the Daily News. The new funding will be targeted to districts most in need, with all districts receiving an increase of at least 3 percent. This aid will be tied closely to accountability: school districts will have to show that the funds they receive are producing measurable improvements in the learning environments of students. Special attention and funding will be given to preschool and prekindergarten, and the cap on charter schools will be raised. I know that our parents, teachers and students will rise to the challenges set before them, and make the most of this historic investment.
We have also made great strides in easing the tax burden on the families of New York State, while providing funding for growth in our state's hardest-hit communities. The budget provides $1.3 billion in property tax relief targeted toward middle-class homeowners, and is only the first phase of a three-year plan to provide over $5 billion in tax relief to New York's families. Also, a greater number of distressed cities, towns, and villages will receive increases in aid to drive economic development or investments in technology. Businesses of all sizes will also be helped by substantial targeted tax relief, benefiting thousands of companies across industries throughout New York State. These changes will spur development, help our small businesses, and once again make New York a great place to live and work.
What we have accomplished here in New York--and that we've accomplished on time--is no small feat. Nothing we have done would have been possible without the empowerment of the people of our great state. As always, I welcome your thoughts
on the changes to come. Thank you, again, for your continued support.

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