In the late hours of March 31, the Legislature passed a $137.9 billion on-time budget for State Fiscal Year 2014-2015 following a twelve-hour debate on the Assembly floor, which I led as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. After nearly ten weeks of public hearings and intense debate following the release of Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget, the Legislature agreed to make significant changes that protect education, health and human services programs.
Assemblyman Farrell debates the budget for State Fiscal Year 2014-2015, on March 31 2014.
Budget Invests $1.1 Billion in New Education Funding
Members of the Assembly's Majority Conference, including myself, were greatly concerned by the effects of the State's self-imposed 2 percent property tax cap, which was designed to protect taxpayers but is starving schools of vital financial support. To that end, we were able to negotiate $1.1 billion in school aid above the Governor's proposal, the largest increase in more than five years, plus $1.5 billion for statewide universal Pre-Kindergarten over five years, plus the first increase to the Tuition Assistance Program in 14 years, plus Community College Base Aid and Opportunity Program funds which help working families afford to send their children to college. New York City schools will receive $8.6 billion, which is $435 million more than State Fiscal Year 2013-2014, and $200 million more than the Governor initially proposed. Our schools will also have access to $300 million for new Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs this September.
We were also able to find funding to begin to roll back the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) school aid cuts. When Wall Street crashed in late 2007 State revenues were devastated, because of Wall Street's importance to our economy. One of the difficult solutions we reached was to enact the GEA to help close the huge budget deficits we were forced to deal with. However, this meant that the pain was transferred to our public schools. Rolling back the GEA cuts will take several years, and I am very glad to announce this important step to restore our public schools. Statewide, the budget commits $22.3 billion in aid for local school districts, an increase of 5.4 percent over State Fiscal Year 2013-2014, and an increase of $552 million over the initial proposal Governor Cuomo made earlier this year. Also allocated is an increase of $251 million in Foundation Aid for schools over and above the Executive's proposal.
Taken together, these funding increases are the largest increase in education aid since 2008. Also slated for schools is a $2 billion Smart School Bond Act, which will fund improved technology in classrooms. As you may know, in recent years wealthier districts have begun to use Smart Boards and other teaching tools to help students learn, and my colleagues and I believed students from across the State also had the right to access new learning technologies. The Smart School Bond Act will also be used to fund improvements to school buildings. The use of "temporary" trailers as classrooms in New York City has been a problem for years, and this year a major push was made in Albany to end this practice once and for all. The Bond Act can also be used by schools to increase access to broadband Internet and other important upgrades.
Funding for CUNY and SUNY
In the budget, $10.4 billion is provided for SUNY and $4.3 billion for CUNY. As was mentioned above, families may be better able to afford higher education after the Legislature voted to increase the maximum TAP award by $165, to $5,165 per full-time student. The maximum award for CUNY students has been raised to $2,497. Our budget also provides $102 million for college opportunity programs, which is an increase of $4.2 million over the Governor's proposal.
Cost of Living Increases for Human Services Workers
As you may know, wages for human services workers have been frozen for a number of years while the cost of living continued to go up. We were able to fund a fair increase in their wages and help improve the quality of their lives as they work hard to improve the quality of life for seniors, New Yorkers with disabilities and other vulnerable members of the community. We also restored funding for Managed Care Consumer Assistance Programs including Community Services for the Elderly ($5 million), the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens Home Sharing and Respite Care ($86,000), New York Statewide Senior Action Council, Inc. ($31,500), Emerald Isle Meals on Wheels ($100,000) and many others.
Protecting Taxpayers and Renters in New York City
The Legislative Budget includes language that offers protections to taxpayers. These include a two-year extension to the non-custodial earned Income Tax Credit which has helped keep many families off of public assistance, a two-year property tax freeze, a personal income tax credit for homeowners and renters in New York City who earn less than $200,000, and a new 20 percent property tax credit for manufacturers. The budget contains a tax "circuit breaker" plan, providing $85 million in tax relief to New York City homeowners, condominium and co-op owners, and renters, and also begins to phase out an energy bill surcharge called 18-a., lowering surcharge rates by $200 million annually. Furthermore, the budget contains language that calls for working families to receive a $360 child tax credit rebate in the fall, in time for the next school year. Also included is a $1.2 million expansion of SCRIE, which boosts the $29,000 income limit to $50,000 for two years. The Assembly will soon release more specific information on these tax law changes. The budget also includes new funds for the NY Works program, which can help create jobs for New Yorkers while also dedicating $3.4 billion to repairs to the streets and other infrastructure damaged by the harsh winter weather we have just endured.
In closing, as you may have heard, the great statesman Basil Paterson died last night. He was a leader among leaders who blazed many trails, and I was saddened to hear of his passing from his son David, our former Governor. While funeral arrangements are still being made at this time, please watch my Assembly Web site, which I will use to keep you aware of the family's plans.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
(Back to Top)
April 16, 2014
On October 29, 2012 a record-high storm surge pushed by "Superstorm Sandy" swamped Manhattan and other low-lying parts of the City. In Northern Manhattan, seawater flowed over seawalls and into subway lines, flooding parts of the District including Esplanade Gardens and adding to the havoc wreaked upon New York City by the severe storm.
A proposed northward expansion of Harlem River Park to 147th Street, or even as far as 150th Street, could prevent future storm damage.
This project was discussed during a meeting in Assemblyman Farrell's District Office on Wednesday, April 16 2014. Participants included Malcolm Punter, of Esplanade Gardens' Board of Directors; Richard Toussaint, of Friends of Harlem River Park; Thomas Lunke, of Harlem Community Development Corporation; as well as Assemblyman Farrell and staff.
There are several proposals on the table. For many years, Esplanade Gardens residents have worked with HCDC and the Harlem River Park Task Force on a plan to extend the park north to 147th Street, but more recently HCDC has approached the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with an alternate plan, which would extend the Park further north to 150th Street.
Extending the Park to 150th Street would not only increase public access to the waterfront, but would also provide public access to underused facilities at the Frederick Johnson Playground which are not available in Harlem River Park as it exists today.
This expansion could also provide the opportunity to improve the seawall, which was overcome by a storm surge during Superstorm Sandy and damaged Esplanade Gardens' parking area as well as the MTA's Lenox Terminal rail yards. It is believed that a carefully designed and built waterfront park could provide greater protection against future storm surges.(Back to Top)
April 3, 2014
On Thursday, April 3, Assemblyman Farrell and staff visited the New York Police Department's 34th Precinct to meet and talk with the Precinct's new commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, who was recently appointed to the post by Police Commissioner Bratton.
Assemblyman Farrell and Deputy Inspector Morello talk outside the 34th Precinct stationhouse, discussing issues of concern in the community including noise and motorcycles.
The 34th Precinct was most recently led by Deputy Inspector Barry Buzzetti, who has been assigned by Commissioner Bratton to a new post downtown. Over the last few days, it became known that at least two of the four Precincts that fall within the District would soon be under new leadership. Citywide, 67 management changes were ordered.
Assemblyman Farrell offered strong praise for Deputy Inspector Buzzetti's leadership, under which crime in the community fell, and wished him the best in his new assignment in Manhattan South. During the two years he ran the 34th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Buzzetti was credited with a dramatic reduction in violent crime and theft and improving relations with the community.
Assemblyman Farrell and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa recently met with Deputy Inspector Buzzetti to discuss how to control and solve traffic problems related to the ongoing redevelopment of the George Washington Bridge bus terminal.
Deputy Inspector Morello was most recently assigned to an office charged with monitoring crimes in another precinct, and developed a reputation for concern and responsiveness to the community.
His introductory conversation with Assemblyman Farrell touched on subjects including persistent problems with noise in Northern Manhattan parks during the warm weather months and issues related to the redevelopment of the George Washington Bridge bus depot and how traffic problems related to this ongoing project are being addressed and kept under control.
On March 12 I led the debate which passed the Assembly's "one-house" budget resolution, a non-binding statement of priorities for State Fiscal Year 2014-2015. Members of the Assembly and Senate have since engaged in conference committee meetings to resolve our budget plans.
Senator Dean Skelos, Speaker Silver and Assemblyman Farrell discuss the budget for State Fiscal Year 2014-2015 during a meeting of the General Budget Conference Committee, also known as the "Mothership Committee," in Albany March 17, 2014.
Farrell Bill Would Insure Mixed Martial Arts Fighters
You may know that I have opposed Mixed Martial Arts since this sport was banned in New York State in 1997. There is a discussion in Albany about legalizing it and providing health care to fighters. As you may have read, I have sponsored a bill that would require MMA promoters to set aside a portion of the proceeds from bouts to put into a fund that would pay for insurance that would assist fighters who are injured during a bout or suffer brain injuries later in life. I have proposed my bill, A08312, as a standalone bill. The Senate has included MMA legislation in their budget resolution, which I do not believe is how this issue should be addressed.
You may have heard that ongoing research has found strong links between participation in contact sports and traumatic brain injury, also known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Last summer, the National Football League agreed to pay more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in compensation to former players including Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame player Joe DeLamielleure. They have been diagnosed with CTE and blame the NFL for hiding the risk of playing football. These brain injuries can remain hidden for years after a player retires. No such protection has been extended to MMA fighters, and I believe that if we must make this sport legal in New York State, fighters should have better worker's comp protection than others.
As you may know, drivers of livery cabs and horseracing jockeys have similar protections under the law, though their jobs may not be as dangerous as fighting. It is my opinion that the best possible remedy for protecting MMA fighters is to treat them as other workers are treated. My bill would also require a doctor be on hand during a bout in case the fight should be stopped, creates an oversight commission including a neurologist and eliminates the maximum payout in case a fighter dies in the ring or after a bout. The Senate bill lacks these protections.
$143.4 Billion All-Funds Budget Proposed
The Assembly's budget would increase overall expenditures by $448 million over the Executive Budget proposal, providing funding increases to education and human services programs among others. Our plan would protect taxpayers by keeping the budget's year-to-year growth below the Governor's 2% spending cap while also protecting vital human services and health programs.
Assembly Plan Blocks Bank Tax Breaks, Protects Renters
Governor Cuomo proposed to reduce the tax burden on businesses by reforming the corporate and bank tax structures and also reducing their tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent, which would be the lowest level in decades. The Assembly agreed to the necessity of tax reform but rejected the Governor's proposal to cut business taxes. Our members agreed that cutting business taxes would be inappropriate at a time when many average New Yorkers are struggling. To that end, we modified and expanded the Governor's proposal to offer a new income tax credit to renters, similar to a tax credit that has long been available to New Yorkers who own their homes.
The net effect of these changes would increase State revenues by $84 million this year, but would decrease revenues by $65 million in 2015, $1 billion during 2016 and $2.2 billion in 2017.
Budget Plan Restores $200 Million to New York City
The Assembly's plan makes a significant investment in local governments by increasing Aid to Municipalities (AIM) funding above what was proposed in the Executive Budget. The City would see $200 million more in AIM funding, out of nearly $1 billion in increased AIM funding statewide. This is our starting point, and we hope to offer more aid to municipalities and schools.
Assembly Budget Allocates Additional Funds for Education Programs
Our budget allocates $16.3 billion for SUNY and CUNY, an increase of $1.5 billion over the Executive's proposal, and includes language intended to help students and their families by keeping tuition affordable, allocating $47 million for the Tuition Assistance Program and other financial aid. Our budget also includes $25 million as seed money for the DREAM Act program. The Senate voted on a standalone DREAM Act bill on the evening of March 17, which failed by a vote of 30 for, 29 against. A vote of 32 in favor is required for a bill to pass the Senate. It is unclear at this point how the Senate will resolve this critically important issue.
Speaker Silver Chairs First "Mothership Committee" Meeting
On Monday, March 17, Speaker Silver and I joined leaders of the Senate for the opening meeting of the General Budget Conference Committee, also known as the "Mothership Committee," whose members include Speaker Silver, myself, Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle, Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper and Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb. After remarks from Speaker Silver, Senator Dean Skelos and other leaders, Speaker Silver announced that the Assembly and Senate have passed their respective one-house budget resolutions beginning the conference committee process in an effort to reconcile differences between the two houses' budget bills.
Members were then assigned to Joint Budget Subcommittees that will break down the budget and discuss budget components related to Economic Development, Education, Environment/Agriculture/Housing, General Government/Local Assistance, Health, Higher Education, Human Services/Labor, Mental Hygiene, Public Protection/Criminal Justice/Judiciary and Transportation. Members assigned to these committees will continue to meet until accord is reached, paving the way to negotiations with Governor Cuomo and an on-time budget March 31.
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.
Assemblyman Farrell rises to speak out against legislation which would allow New York to award its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. A.4422-A
Powell Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10039
District Office Directions
New York, NY 10033
District Office Directions
Albany, NY 12248
Albany Office Directions