Update on the New York State Budget: The New York State Assembly finished voting on the Fiscal Year 2008-2009 budget earlier this month. The budget was nine days late and the process this year lacked transparency and put off addressing certain critical issues until a later date. Some of these deficiencies may be attributable to the unexpected change of leadership in the executive branch shortly before the budget was due. Nonetheless Assemblymember Kavanagh is committed to fight for a more transparent and accountable budget process going forward. Notwithstanding these concerns, there is some good news to report.
The Assembly secured $300 million in capital funding for affordable housing in the final budget. This funding, which is not contingent on the sale of the property near the Javits Center as the executive budget had proposed, will be used to provide more affordable, supportive, and workforce housing. Kavanagh has made it a top priority to expand the State’s financial support for affordable housing and voted against the housing portion of last year’s budget because it failed to meet this goal. He is pleased that this year’s housing budget represents a significant step forward in addressing the affordable housing crisis.
The budget also restores many of the health cuts proposed in the initial executive budget, reaffirming our commitment to providing quality healthcare to all New Yorkers. Specifically, cuts to Medicaid ($403 million), hospital reform initiatives ($129 million), and home care ($62 million) have all been restored in the final budget. The Assembly was successful in advocating against the Governor's proposed Child Health Plus premium increase, saving families $24 million.
The budget also keeps the commitment we made to New York City public schools last year, increasing funding by $533 million dollars. The Assembly rejected many of the cuts proposed in the executive budget and successfully pushed for the State to fully fund its commitment to the 4-year Campaign for Fiscal Equality plan.
In addition to record increased aid to public schools, the allocation for Universal Pre-Kindergarten totals $450 million, an increase of $96 million over 2007-08. This expands the number of 4-year-old children attending pre-K from 93,000 up to 121,000, bringing New York closer to achieving Universal Pre-K.
The budget restores $164 million for a total of $328 in local aid to New York City. Kavanagh and his Assembly colleagues fought for the restoration after then-Governor Spitzer omitted the funding from his executive budget—reneging on a promise made during the 2007-2008 budget process.
Congestion Pricing: Each house of the the state legislature declined to take up a bill authorizing the Mayor’s proposed congestion pricing plan. While recognizing that there were many legitimate concerns with the Mayor’s proposal, Assemblymember Kavanagh believes that congestion pricing is an important tool to address the environmental and traffic issues our community faces, and to generate much needed funding for our public transportation system. He is disappointed that the legislature did not craft a congestion pricing plan that would help meet these needs in an equitable way but looks forward to working with advocates from both sides to find solutions to these pressing issues. Of particular concern is the substantial deficit that threatens the MTA’s capital plan. As reported previously, the MTA’s latest proposed plan includes $29.6 billion in capital needs over the next five years but only identifies $16.1 billion in funding to meet those needs.
Kavanagh Introduces Legislation to Allow Youth on Community Boards: On April 13th, Assemblymember Kavanagh joined Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilmember Gale Brewer, and members of the organization Future Voters of America to announce the introduction of State legislation and a City Council resolution to expand youth participation on community boards. The State bill introduced by Assemblymember Kavanagh (A10439) and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Andrew Lanza or Staten Island (S7354) would allow 16- and 17-year olds to have full voting rights on community boards; the current minimum age is 18. The bill also specifies that no more than two of the fifty members of any community board would be less than 18 years of age. At Assemblymember Kavanagh’s request, the proposal has been referred to CB 3’s Youth Committee.
Kavanagh Helps Get Tompkins Square Park Ready for the Spring: On April 12th, as part of NY Cares’ “Hands on New York Day”, Assemblymember Kavanagh joined dozens of other volunteers working to maintain Tompkins Square Park. Volunteers replaced topsoil in flowerbeds and lawns throughout the park and repainted benches. Kavanagh addressed the volunteers and joined in the work.
,b>Kavanagh Introduces Legislation to Address Non-Primary Residence Challenges: Assemblymember Kavanagh introduced legislation (A10158) in the Assembly that would allow tenants to recover attorneys’ fees and damages in cases where landlords act in bad faith to bring eviction proceedings against tenants on the basis of non-primary residence. In many cases throughout the 74th Assembly District, landlords have brought court actions as a way of forcing tenants to vacate their apartments—even ignoring proof submitted by tenants establishing primary residence. This bill seeks to discourage this practice by giving landlords a strong disincentive to bring frivolous non-primary residence challenges. The bill is sponsored in the State Senate by Liz Krueger.
Household Scalding Safety Act: Recently, Assemblymember Kavangh introduced The Household Scalding Safety Act, A10292, which seeks to prevent burn injuries that occur when individuals are scalded by excessively hot tap water coming from their faucets. The bill designates 120 degrees Fahrenheit as the maximum permissible temperature for tap water in multiple dwellings in New York State. Water at 160 degrees Fahrenheit causes a third-degree burn in only one second, yet temperatures in excess of that have been measured in New York homes. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a majority of scalding burns involve children under five and the elderly. The bill will impose fines on non-compliant building owners, establish standards for anti-scald devices, and ensure that the cost of compliance is not a basis for rent increases in rent regulated housing. The bill will be the subject of a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Government Operations and the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection and the Subcommittee on Child Product Safety on April 30th.
Animals Confined in Vehicles in Extreme Temperatures: Assemblymember Kavanagh recently introduced bill A10343 in the Assembly. This bill, which has 48 cosponsors so far, would prohibit animal owners from leaving their companion animals in a vehicle for long periods without the proper ventilation to prevent animal injury on very hot or cold days. The bill would also authorize police officers to take action to remove the animal from such a dangerous and life threatening situation.
Kavanagh Calls For Humane Education in Schools: Throughout the United States, there has been a growing movement to incorporate humane education into school curricula as a way of teaching tolerance and responsibility, and helping students develop critical thinking and decision-making skills. Assemblymember Kavanagh introduced legislation to address this issue by requiring the Education Department to formally notify school districts of the State’s existing mandate to provide humane education for elementary school students, and by providing for teacher training on methods of teaching humane treatment in various curricular areas.