STATEMENT ON PROPOSED
While I like many aspects of the budget, I am most troubled by the $885 million cut in education funding. New York State has set goals to increase standards, improve teaching and meet the needs of children in the classroom. In this budget, the dollars don't match the rhetoric.
There is a proposed $282 million cut in LADDER, a critical initiative we have enacted into state law that would reduce class size and ensure pre-kindergarten is available to every four-year-old in our state. This is a cut against state law and against the best interests of our children who need the best education we can provide to be prepared for the 21st century.
How are we to attract and retain the best teachers when this budget proposes to cut the salaries of teachers in our largest cities and seeks to eliminate professional development programs? There are far too many of our fourth graders who right now are failing to meet the more challenging tests we are requiring them to take. This budget must fulfill our commitment to improving student performance by putting the best and brightest teachers in each classroom.
This proposed budget fails to meet the education rhetoric in other ways as well. It eliminates the minor maintenance program established under LADDER that assists schools in keeping their facilities up to date and in good repair. It also would cut $218 million in building aid used to reimburse districts for modernization and renovation expenses they already have incurred and it would slash $96 million from Special Education and $90 million from BOCES.
I am dismayed the budget's approach to charter schools fails to allow time to assess the performance of children who are now attending these schools. Investing in these schools requires the knowledge we are getting the expected return.
I am encouraged by the direction of the budget's higher education proposals that do not require a tuition increase in our New York State and New York City university systems. I am concerned, however, about proposed cuts to our teaching hospitals, to opportunity programs aimed at helping qualified students who are financially disadvantaged and to efforts to strengthen college faculties. We must ensure we meet our pledge to provide a highly trained and educated work force ready to meet the demands of a technology-dominated market place.
In health care, the proposed budget provides no additional resources for AIDS programs at a time when this devastating disease remains a persistent problem. And while the governor has set a goal of cutting cases of asthma in half, this budget fails to meet that claim, proposing only $200,000 to sustain that effort.
The budget's transportation proposals include $800 million as part of the MTA's 5-Year Capital Plan. This amount would provide the resources for a fully funded 2nd Avenue Subway line in New York City. This project has bipartisan support in the Assembly, with Minority Leader John Faso agreeing with me that a full and complete 2nd Avenue subway is essential to the city's economic future. The proposed budget is unclear in how this $800 million is to be used.
I am disappointed this budget fails to hold polluters responsible for their actions and shifts the costs of our Superfund program to state taxpayers. I also am troubled the budget seeks to boost our state's lottery performance through the reemergence of Powerball. And this year, there isn't even a proposal to tie Powerball revenue to an education scholarship. It also is appropriate to look at increased funding proposed for the state's DNA databank in light of the 18 months to two years is estimated it will take to complete the expansion we authorized last year.
The Assembly will consider the proposed $700 million in tax cuts to ensure they target job creation. The Assembly has advanced enhancements for CAPCO, a successful venture capital program, the Power For Jobs program, which allows companies expanding and increasing their work force to receive low-cost power, and other initiatives aimed at boosting job growth, especially in high-tech and small businesses. We must do all we can to help every region of our state expand its economy, particularly upstate communities that have yet to enjoy the benefits of the current national economic boom.
The Assembly has been a strong supporter of budget reform. The 11-point plan we proposed last year provides a basis for an agreement on bringing much-needed reform to our budget process. We also have advanced a 5-year debt reform proposal that includes a "pay-as-you-go" provision and more disclosure. It recognizes that capital construction projects funded during good times are still necessary when times are bad and provides the means to ensure that when times are bad, projects already committed go forward.