Assembly Passes $153.8B "One House" Budget Resolution
Plan Proposes More Than $26B in School Aid
On Wednesday, March 15 I debated the Assembly Majority Conference's "One House" budget proposal, which is a public statement of our priorities and legislative goals but is not law, but which we hope will become law when the budget passes later this month. Our resolution is a $153.8 billion spending plan that includes more than $26 billion in school aid. This resolution allows us to begin formal negotiations on the budget. As we were in the process of passing our resolution, the Senate introduced its' own "One House" resolution. Our budget resolution is an important milestone on the road to passing a finalized budget, and this process is laid out in detail in the State Constitution.
Assemblyman Farrell debates the Assembly Majority Conference's "One House" budget resolution on the Assembly floor Wednesday, March 15 2017. In the coming weeks, meetings will be held to finalize details of the budget and finished budget bills are expected to be voted into law on or before March 31, the last day of the State Fiscal Year.
Budget Process Enters Final Weeks Ahead of Coming Fiscal Year
Moving forward, leaders of each house will meet in what we call the "Mothership Committee." Members will be assigned to 10 conference committees whose job it will be to reconcile differences between the two houses' budget plans, along with staff from Governor Cuomo's Division of Budget. Each committee includes five Assembly Members and five Senators, representing the majority and minority conferences of each house. These committees will hold meetings until the Assembly, Senate and Governor reach consensus on each of these components of the overall budget. From there, we will debate and vote to pass the budget for State Fiscal Year 2017-2018 by March 31 as the law requires.
Assembly Plan Increases School Aid by $887M Over Executive Proposal
Our plan increases school aid overall by $1.8 billion over the current year, and about $1 billion more than the Executive Budget proposal Governor Cuomo released in January. This includes a rejection of the Governor's changes to the Foundation Aid formula and makes a significant down payment on a four-year phase-in of more aid to our neediest districts. We also propose $847 million in funding for pre-Kindergarten programs, $19.2 million to continue the My Brother's Keeper program which assists young men of color, $25 million for career and technical education programs, extending mayoral control of New York City schools for seven years until 2024 and requiring the Division of Budget to immediately release $75 million in aid promised to persistently struggling schools which are in the process of reforming their programs.
Higher Education Plan Expands TAP, Helps Dreamers
The Assembly's plan also seeks to expand access to higher education by increasing funding for opportunity programs including the Tuition Assistance Program and provides for the enactment of the DREAM Act, which makes State financial aid available to people who came to the United States as children without paperwork. We also added $1.4 billion for capital improvements at public colleges and universities and a tax credit for student loan interest. Overall, our higher education plan provides $48 million to increase these programs over the Executive Budget plan.
Support for Affordable Housing Programs
The Assembly's proposal provides a plan for investment of $2.5 billion in funding that was dedicated for supportive and affordable housing in last year's budget, including $1 billion for supportive housing, $500 million for NYCHA capital repairs, $125 million for senior housing, $100 million for Mitchell-Lama preservation programs and $50 million for housing for developmentally disabled people. Our plan also includes a new rental assistance program for low-income seniors, which will be funded by Mayor de Blasio's plan to apply a special tax to multimillion dollar real estate deals in New York City.
Plan Includes Raise the Age and a Progressive Tax Structure
New York State is now one of only two states that treats juvenile offenders like adults. The Assembly seeks to change that at last by raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 and prohibit the placement of anyone under the age of 18 in an adult jail or prison. This reform is, most likely, our Conference's most significant legislative priority this year.
The Assembly's plan also seeks to rework the "millionaires' tax" that was put into place after the 2007 recession caused Wall Street revenues to fall. At the present time, single filers who earn over $1 million and married filers who together earn over $2 million pay State taxes at a rate of 8.82 percent. Without Legislative action, that special assessment will end, meaning that millionaires will be taxed at a rate of 6.85 percent as are people who earn at least $300,000.
Assembly Budget Plan Extends and Expands "Millionaires' Tax"
Our expansion of this important program could lead to the highest-earning New Yorkers paying more of their fair share. Those earning between $1 million and $5 million will pay 8.82 percent, while those earning between $5 million and $10 million will pay State taxes at a rate of 9.32 percent. Those earning between $10 million and $100 million will pay a rate of 9.82 percent, and those making over $100 million will be taxed at a rate of 10.32 percent. Revenues raised through this program will be used to fund education, health care and other priorities.
Overall, the Assembly's budget resolution forecasts that the Executive Budget proposal low-balled actual revenues by $450 million in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and $1.485 billion the following year. Interestingly, shortly before our debate began, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report showing that Wall Street revenues were up by 21 percent and cash bonuses rose as well, which is a positive sign that revenues will come in following recent questionable data.
Assembly Plan Modifies and Rejects Governor's Proposals
As happens every year, the Governor's budget included many policy changes, some of which the Assembly accepts while others are changed or rejected. Among the changes our Conference agreed to accept are limits on tax deductions for charitable donations, expansion of tax credits for child care expenses, extending tax credits for film productions in the State, closing loopholes to allow the collection of sales tax for on-line sales and other changes.
However, our plan adds changes including an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit which helps families with children, creates a new tax credit for homeowners who add mobility enhancements such as wheelchair ramps and grab-bars and create a food donation tax credit for farmers. Our plan rejects proposals that new State employees not owe outstanding taxes, a requirement that doctors be current on their practice before buying malpractice insurance, allow the vehicles of accused cigarette smugglers to be seized, or allow the sale of alcohol in theaters.
Please look to my Web site at nyassembly.gov for the latest news on the budget and other Albany happenings, as well as goings-on here at home in the District.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Education Held in Albany
On Tuesday, February 14 members of the Assembly and Senate held a Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Elementary and Secondary Education components of Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget proposal for State Fiscal Year 2017-2018, the tenth in a series of thirteen Constitutionally-required hearings on the Budget, which we must pass by April 1. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and City Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Farina were first to testify, followed by representatives of teachers, students and other groups.
Assemblyman Farrell greets State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.
Commissioner Elia's testimony included an overview of the Board of Regents' funding request for an increase of $2.1 billion, exceeding the Governor's plan to increase school aid by $961 million. The Regents' request includes a $1.8 billion foundation aid increase, $100 million to expand and consolidate pre-Kindergarten programs, $100 million in support for students who are English-language learners and $60 million to increase support for college and career pathways.
City Schools Chancellor Details Record Graduation Rates
Chancellor Farina testified that she will not be satisfied "until every single public school student in New York City is getting a high-quality education." She went on to explain that last year's graduation is a record 72.6 percent, as is the postsecondary education rate of 55 percent of the Class of 2015, with 77 percent of those students enrolling in college. More students are also taking and passing Advanced Placement exams and more are prepared for college work, she said.
New Programs in Place to Boost Student Achievement, Chancellor Says
Chancellor Farina testified that this year marks the first full year of implementation for a new college readiness program called Equity and Excellence for All. Also new is a universal literacy program binging over 100 reading coaches into elementary schools, improved math instruction in over 200 schools, and counseling programs in certain high-needs schools, Farina testified.
A Tuesday, January 24 hearing was held on State higher education programs and funding. You may recall from my last report to you that Governor Cuomo earlier announced his budget includes a $163 million plan that would allow students whose household income is less than $125,000 per year to attend SUNY or CUNY without having to pay tuition. Legislative leaders have been discussing this plan with advocates, some of whom have told us that it may be better to help students manage the costs of textbooks, student housing and other costs rather than offer free tuition which may good for the middle class but may not be very helpful to the poor.
This issue was discussed at our hearing on Higher Education components of the budget. Invited speakers included representatives of SUNY and CUNY, student government and administrators. Legislators will use their testimony in our deliberations on the Governor's budget plans as we move toward crafting a finalized budget for State Fiscal Year 2017-2018, which begins April 1.
Assemblyman Farrell welcomes SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall prior to a January 24 Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Higher Education issues.
Mayor de Blasio and Staff Testify at Legislative Budget Hearing
Mayor Bill de Blasio testified for three hours January 30 on Local Government components of Governor Cuomo's proposed Executive Budget for State Fiscal Year 2017-2018. Also testifying that day were Comptroller Scott Stringer, numerous mayors and local government officials.
Mayor: Fates of City and State are Linked
With Office of Management and Budget's Dean Fuleihan and Director of State Legislative Affairs by his side and occasionally answering questions, the Mayor testified that the State and City are linked and when one prospers, so does the other, pointing to strong recent job growth. According to the Mayor's testimony, though the City accounts for 43 percent of the City's population, 46 percent of jobs and 60 percent of revenue is generated within the City.
Though the City is economically strong, many need help, the Mayor said, explaining that 58 percent of New Yorkers who receive Medicaid live in the City, as do 53 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. City officials are tackling those challenges head on, he said.
Pre-Kindergarten Enrollment Exceeds 70,000
Mayor de Blasio testified that 70,000 four-year-olds are enrolled in full-day pre-Kindergarten thanks to the Legislature's decision to invest in this program, and the City is ahead of schedule preparing to meet its' goal of building or preserving 200,000 affordable apartments, having finished over 62,000 so far, he said.
The Mayor said that in his budget for the coming year, which was released the previous week, he called for a $10.4 million investment to pay for bullet-resistant windows in police vehicles, $1 billion over a decade to repair roofs at 729 New York City Housing Authority buildings, $496 million toward the $4.6 billion it will cost to build 38,000 new school seats and other plans.
De Blasio: State Must Take Steps to Shield City from Washington
The Mayor also touched upon news from Washington including changes to immigration rules, plans to revoke the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), how that could affect health care in the City, and other potential disruptions. He asked that State officials craft the budget in a way that will shield local governments and the people they serve from harmful Federal actions.
Turning to the Executive Budget, Mayor de Blasio said he was glad to see support for the DREAM Act and efforts to control Medicaid costs which may save the City $130 million.
He also praised a proposed three-year extension of mayoral control of City schools, efforts to reform elections, Raise the Age, trial reform and criminal justice reform in the Executive Budget plan. Mayor de Blasio joined the Assembly Majority's push to extend and deepen the "millionaires' tax," which he called "critical to all we are trying to do and in line with our values," and also proposed a new tax in the City on homes that sell for $2 million or more.
Comptroller Stringer Supports Assembly Plan to Tax Multi-Millionaires
Comptroller Stringer also offered support to the Assembly's plan to create a new tax surcharge on the highest-earning New Yorkers, which calls for people who earn $100 million or more per year to pay about 10 percent of their income to the State. The Comptroller looked back at recent legislative actions including the $15 minimum wage, growing the number of procurement contracts with businesses owned by women and members of ethnic minorities and Assembly legislation safeguarding access to contraception, which he called efforts to foster an economy in which every New Yorker has a fair chance to get ahead.
Stringer: Washington Threatening Vital City Programs
Comptroller Stringer testified that if the Federal government follows through on recent threats made by the White House, the City could lose 60 percent of funding for anti-terrorism efforts, half the budget for childrens' services and Section 8 vouchers which support 124,000 New York families. NYCHA, which provides housing for 400,000 New Yorkers, depends on the Federal government for 60 percent of its' revenue, the Comptroller said, and the City's public hospital relies on millions of dollars from Washington to remain open to serve the public.
The Comptroller urged Albany to pass the DREAM Act, enact the Excelsior Scholarship program which would award free SUNY or CUNY tuition to students whose household income is under $125,000, fully fund CUNY, expand the child tax credit, and continue investing in education from Pre-K onwards.
Effect of Possible Obamacare Repeal on State Budget Questioned
I recently held a series of Town Hall meetings throughout the District to discuss the question of what will happen if the new leadership in Washington carries through on their plans to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which provides health care coverage to millions of New Yorkers who otherwise do not have access to care. The big answer is that no one knows what they are going to do or how it will affect the country, health care providers or anything else. Governor Cuomo's economists have forecast that if Obamacare goes away entirely, the Federal government will give the State $3.7 billion less in health care funding each year.
If that should happen, it may be the case that the State itself will pick up this cost. Like others in the Legislature I was happy to hear the Governor call for an extension of the "millionaires' tax" a 2 percent surcharge paid by individuals who make more than $1 million and households who earn $2 million per year, using this extra revenue to make up for an expected loss of revenue. However, some in the Assembly believe this will not be nearly enough to cover the cost of continuing Obamacare services if the Federal government refuses to do so. That is why you will hear some members of the Assembly call for a new assessment on the very wealthiest New Yorkers, so that vulnerable New Yorkers may have continued access to quality care.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
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Albany - Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr. today secured an agreement from the Acting Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency to meet with the community to discuss Manhattan's 168th Street IRT station, where riders have been plagued by broken elevators and other problems that have at times taken the station out of service.
Raising the issue during a budget hearing today, Assemblyman Farrell began by praising MTA's recent work on the new Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot before challenging Acting Executive Director Veronique Hakim to explain the problems at the 168th Street station and to detail how the MTA will fix them.
Farrell said that in the past the elevators at this station were rarely out of order, and he "never saw all four out" as has happened at least twice in the last three weeks. In one instance, riders were not allowed off at this stop in the interest of rider safety.
Hakim acknowledged that the elevators must be replaced, and MTA is working to replace them as quickly as possible, including by seeking the "best possible contractors" to do the job quickly.
Further, MTA is "putting a SWAT team" of elevator mechanics at this location in order to quickly respond to elevator breakdowns, Hakim said, calling the problem an "untenable situation for our customers."
Hakim later said she would "absolutely" commit to meeting with the community to discuss problems at the 168th Street IRT station and how MTA will solve them.
Please refer to Assemblyman Farrell's Web page at nyassembly.gov for updates on this important issue.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203