Gov. Cuomo released his 2016-17 Executive Budget proposal, a $145 billion spending plan that he said would increase spending by 1.7% over last year. The theme of the Governor’s 2016 agenda is “Built to Lead.”

The $145.3 billion spending plan would increase school aid by just under $1 billion, spend $22 billion on upstate roads and bridges, reduce taxes for small businesses, create a tax rebate for Thruway toll payers and legalize ‘mixed martial arts’ (MMA) in the state. It would also increase the state’s minimum wage, in phases, to $15 per hour and put in place a paid family leave plan.

The Governor also proposed a number of ethics and campaign finance reforms, including closing the LLC loophole; limiting state legislators’ outside income to 15% of their $79,900 base salary; create a voluntary system of public campaign financing; reducing campaign contribution limits; and requiring political consultants and those seeking state contracts to register as lobbyists.

Read the 2016 State of the State Policy Book and speech.

Legislative budget hearings began January 20. State legislators face an April 1 deadline to act for a budget to be in place for the start of the 2016-17 state fiscal year.

Unshackle Upstate is pleased that the Governor has once again proposed a spending plan that adheres to his 2-percent spending cap. We’re also encouraged by the Governor’s commitment to make significant investments in our crumbling infrastructure. It’s no secret that Upstate communities have struggled to maintain the roads, bridges and water infrastructure – this investment will provide much-needed funds to address this problem.

The budget proposal includes a number of proposals that we strongly oppose. A $15 per hour minimum wage will do more harm than good – especially for Upstate small businesses, farms, taxpayers and consumers. Increasing the minimum wage by an unprecedented 67 percent will lead to job losses throughout the state, as well as local government tax increases and a higher cost of living. That’s simply unaffordable and unacceptable. We also have serious concerns about the impact of a paid leave mandate on Upstate employers, and we continue to oppose taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Any such system would create more opportunity for corruption and wastes public funds that would be better spent on tax relief and infrastructure investment.

As budget discussions begin, we will advocate on behalf of Upstate businesses and taxpayers.