The new state budget delivers positive results for the people of this state, and particularly Buffalo and Erie County, but only because Senate Republicans fought to fix a painful and seriously flawed executive budget proposal.
The Buffalo News' post-budget editorial wrongly criticized the Legislature's "misplaced priorities" and the way it negotiated with Gov. Eliot Spitzer. In truth, it was the Senate Republicans who were fighting for the priorities of the hard-working, overburdened taxpayers of Western New York by restoring painful health care cuts proposed by the governor, providing property tax relief directly to homeowners and ensuring a fair distribution of increased education aid.
The editorial missed a number of important facts. It criticized the Legislature for increasing spending, when the governor's proposed budget was nearly three times the rate of inflation.
It attacked the new education spending formula, while disregarding the fact that Western New York received an additional $22.5 million in aid thanks to Senate Republicans' efforts.
And it implied that no efforts were made to reform the Wicks Law, when the Senate Republicans fought to have it included in the budget package.
Of even greater importance, the editorial failed to acknowledge that schools in Erie County will get an additional $91.3 million in state school aid and schools in Niagara County will get an additional $22.3 million, both increases of nearly 10 percent over last year's record school aid increases, thanks to Senate Republicans.
While school aid targets high-needs districts throughout the state, the budget distributes aid equitably to ensure that Western New York receives its fair share.
The Senate Republicans fought for direct property tax relief that will double the size of rebate checks for the average homeowner, while keeping the goal of targeting tax relief to the middle class. Our plan improved property tax relief in the budget by ensuring that the property tax relief went directly to taxpayers, and expanding the number of people who will receive rebate checks.
We were also successful in restoring most of the health care cuts proposed by the governor. His cuts would have taken almost $25 million away from nursing homes in Western New York and nearly $16 million away from Western New York's hospitals. Our efforts to restore most of those funds will ensure people in Western New York have access to quality health care.
Simply put, the governor's proposed budget would have decimated Buffalo, Erie County and the entire Niagara Frontier, if not for the successful fight waged by Republicans in the State Senate. In the future, we can achieve even greater success with the support of the Buffalo News editorial board and an accurate reflection in the newspaper of the real needs of the people of Western New York.
Joseph Bruno is majority leader of the New York State Senate.