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At the same time, Pataki proposed $250 million in new tax cuts - particularly to the wealthy - to spur private investment. He also proposed expanding property tax rebate programs by offering an additional STAR benefit to homeowners in counties where officials hold spending increases to less than 3.5 percent.The budget plan drew poor reviews from some Queens legislators who believe Pataki's plan shortchanged New York city residents who they said were still struggling after the recession sparked by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks."We all know that the cost of Medicaid is crushing taxpayers," said Pataki, who indicated that New York's financial commitment to the program is the largest in the nation. "If left unchecked, within the next six years Medicaid costs could actually consume more than half of our entire state budget."Pataki said he planned to reduce Medicaid spending in part by cutting podiatry and mental health benefits to recipients and by shuttering underperforming facilities. Pataki's budget plan also calls for a gradual reduction in county Medicaid contributions, with the state picking up the tab entirely by 2008.Pataki's proposed 2005-2006 budget increases state spending on education by more than half a billion - some of which would be paid for with gambling proceeds - and calls for new accountability standards in educational programs. The increase is the largest in state history, he said, but falls far short of the more than $6 billion in new aid to city schools mandated by the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling, which determined that New York City schools had been habitually shortchanged. Of the $526 million in new aid to schools, only about $200 million was specifically earmarked for New York City schools.Pataki said his budget contained $19 billion for the Metropolitan Transit Authority over the next five years. But the budget did not make provision for the long-awaited Second Avenue subway line or the much touted Long Island Rail Road route into Grand Central station."The budget I propose today provides a concrete plan to solidify the fiscal integrity of our state and to set the stage for future growth and prosperity in New York," said Pataki, who contended his plan would put New York on track for a balanced budget by 2007. "It is not a new prescription but a proven one."But City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) disagreed."We haven't fully recovered from the devastating attack of Sept. 11 and the national recession in which our city lost over 200,000 jobs since December 2000," Liu said. "This is not the right time to reduce investment in health care, public schools and mass transit services for working New Yorkers."Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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