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Cuomo backs congestion pricing, legal marijuana in budget address

The $175.2 billion budget proposal also calls for a five-year extension of the "millionaires tax."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers the 2019 State

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers the 2019 State of the State and budget address in Albany on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

With state revenues dipping, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday endorsed legalizing marijuana, proposed extending the "millionaires tax" another five years and called for congestion pricing in the city. 

The Democrat, who is beginning his ninth year in office, delivered a $175.2 billion budget proposal to state legislators for the fiscal year 2019-20. Lawmakers are supposed to adopt a budget by April 1, the beginning of New York’s fiscal year.

The spending plan also calls for boosting school aid just 3.6 percent and using monetary settlements to keep overall budget growth at 2 percent. 

In many ways, Cuomo sought to make the spending plan more about social, criminal justice and campaign issues. He stuffed the financial proposal full of policy initiatives popular with Democrats, including marijuana legalization, making college aid programs available to children of people in the country illegally, a stronger abortion law and changing the state’s bail system. All of those are expected to sail through the Democrat-dominated Legislature.

The governor also proposed making the state’s 2 percent property-tax cap permanent.

But some of the governor’s high-profile initiatives will need time to phase-in, according to Cuomo’s budget documents.

While calling for legalization of marijuana, his budget doesn’t count on any revenue from it until 2021 — and then banks on $83 million, far short of the $300 million Cuomo has said it would annually generate for the state.

Cuomo also said “congestion pricing” — tolls to travel through certain parts of Manhattan — is a way to alleviate gridlock and funnel some money toward subway repairs. But the budget documents indicate the state can’t expect to begin collecting until 2021, even if the concept is approved this year.

Cuomo’s Budget Division said revenues from New Yorkers’ personal income taxes are down by $500 million from last year’s projections.

That said, the governor proposed to boost infrastructure spending this year, in part by deploying previously approved spending programs. For example, he proposed boosting spending on clean-water infrastructure by $2.5 billion, or about double what’s currently spent.

The millionaires’ tax, along with all of New York’s tax rates, is set to expire this year. It applies a surcharge on those earning $1 million or more annually.

The governor also proposed making the state’s 2 percent property-tax cap permanent.


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