Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton Advances State Budget That Protects Working Families

March 31, 2009
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Tompkins/Cortland) announced the Assembly will begin passage of the 2009- 2010 state budget on March 31. Budget bills have been introduced and are currently aging on legislators’ desks.

Noting the extraordinary economic challenges facing the nation, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton said the $132 billion spending plan closes a projected $17.65 billion gap by raising $5.2 billion in revenue, implementing $5.1 billion in necessary spending cuts, utilizing $1.1 billion in non-recurring revenues and maximizing $6.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars.

“This budget balances the need to take radical action to rescue the state’s fiscal woes. It cuts over $5 billion, while preventing the deepest cuts to our schools and health care system and protecting our most vulnerable residents – our kids, seniors and the sick.”, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton said.

Restoring $1.1 billion to school districts

The 2009-2010 state budget continues the Assembly’s commitment to providing a quality education for New York State’s children despite tough economic times. The budget stabilizes aid to schools and reduces the burden on taxpayers by restoring $1.1 billion to school districts.

“While, of course, I wish we could have done more for education in the budget, it could have been a total disaster for schools, students and taxpayers,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said. “Even during the worst economic downturn in decades, we maintained our strong commitment to educating our children and providing them with the tools and skills they will need to compete successfully for the jobs of the 21st century.”

The budget lifts the freeze on reimbursable expense-based aids, including transportation, building aid and BOCES – while ensuring school districts have access to the funds they need. Overall, schools will benefit by an estimated increase of $403 million over the 2008-2009 school year. Foundation aid for the 2009-2010 school year will remain at current levels. The Assembly continues its historic commitment to foundation aid by phasing in full funding over three years, a year earlier than the executive’s proposal, starting in 2011-2012.

The budget also uses federal funds to help local school districts over the next two years, including:

  • $906 million in Title 1 funds, which is financial assistance for schools with high percentages of disadvantaged children, to help ensure all children meet the state’s academic standards; and
  • $794 million under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), ensuring that mandatory early intervention, special education and related services are provided to children with disabilities.

The budget also restores $30 million in funding for non-public schools and $10.6 million in funding for libraries.

The Assembly continues its commitment to universal pre-kindergarten by maintaining funding at $376 million. In addition, the budget accepts the executive’s proposal to allow for the mid-year expansion of programs that started in the 2008-2009 school year.

The budget will continue the Contract for Excellence program for the 2009-2010 school year. School districts that are required to prepare a Contract for Excellence will maintain the same level of funding as last year, ensuring schools will not have to reduce spending on allowable programs, including class size reduction, academic after-school programs and full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.

The budget rejects the Preschool Special Education cost shift onto school districts, which will save school districts $185 million in the 2009-2010 school year. The budget also provides $40 million for Teacher Centers, restores the Adult Literacy Education program, and continues Bilingual Education at $12.5 million.

“Our commitment to education will not only help the state weather this economic storm, but will relieve the burden on local taxpayers by providing the extra resources we need to educate children throughout the state,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said.

Investing in higher education

Recognizing the significant economic development impact of the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY), the budget invests $2.5 billion for SUNY, nearly $118 million more than last year, and $144.4 million more to CUNY, providing it with $1.9 billion.

“Times are tough and hard decisions need to be made, but New York must keep the dream of a college education at arms length for working families,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said. “More than ever, we believe that every New Yorker should have an opportunity to receive a higher education. Again, I wish we could have done more for our public university system.”

The budget rejects the $49.9 million cut to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) – a program that provides eligible New York residents annual grants of up to $5,000, based on income – which students do not have to pay back. The cut would have based TAP awards on the number of credits a student takes, reducing TAP grants for full-time students who take less than 15 credit hours.

In addition, the budget restores $3.6 million for Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and maintains funding for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), and the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program.

Ensuring working families don’t shoulder the tax burden

Faced with the largest budget gap in New York’s history, the budget creates a three-year temporary income tax increase on high earners that will raise $4 billion and prevent deep cuts to education, health care and services for seniors, children and the disabled.

“Currently in New York it doesn’t matter if you make $40,000 or $40 million – you pay the same tax rate. That puts a greater burden on the middle class,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said. “These modest tax increases for high-income earners will help provide the funds necessary for education, health care and other vital services during a critical fiscal crisis.”

The budget also provides $3.5 billion in property tax relief by preserving the STAR exemption. The Assembly rejected proposals in the executive budget worth $1.3 billion to raise the sales tax on clothing, increase the gas tax, and impose dozens of small taxes and fees on services that middle-class families depend on.

Protecting health care

New York’s budget provides vital funding to protect the most vulnerable patients and ensure working families have access to quality health care by restoring $1.3 billion to health care. In addition, the 2009-2010 budget begins permanent health care reimbursement reforms and investments that will lead to $1.6 billion in savings this year and billions more in future years.

“Times are tough and tough choices need to be made – but we cannot balance a budget by compromising the health of working families,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said. “The budget ensures New Yorkers have access to quality, affordable health care and makes no recipient cuts.”

Strengthening our criminal justice system

In addition to Rockefeller Drug Law reforms, the 2009-2010 budget provides essential funding for initiatives that reduce crime in cities, provide addiction services, protect witnesses in criminal cases and victims of domestic violence, while also closing underutilized state prisons.

Public protection items included in the budget include:

  • $17.3 million for Operation IMPACT, which coordinates state, federal and local law enforcement in cities across New York;
  • $21 million in federal assistance to support law enforcement, drug courts, drug treatment programs and alternatives to incarceration initiatives (ATI) in conjunction with enactment of Rockefeller Drug Law reform.

Fighting foreclosures and preserving affordable housing

The final budget rejects the executive’s proposed cuts to the Neighborhood Preservation and Rural Preservation programs, which provide support to citizen-led, not-for-profit housing and community-based organizations that create and preserve affordable housing opportunities in urban, suburban and rural areas throughout the state.

“This economic downturn started when the housing bubble burst, so it’s vital that we keep people in their homes with affordable housing options,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said. “By shoring up our housing market and restoring critical public aid, we not only help low-income families throughout New York, but we invest in our economic future as well.”

Coming through for struggling families

The 2009-2010 state budget includes a significant investment to help New York’s neediest families. The non-shelter portion of the public assistance grant will increase by 10 percent over the next three years, beginning July 1, 2009. This marks the grant’s first increase in more than 18 years.

The budget also directs $914.2 million to the Child Care Block Grant. To keep children safe, the spending plan makes it less costly for child care providers to check the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by rejecting the executive’s proposed $25 fee. And the final budget rejects the executive’s proposal to eliminate state funding for Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS), restoring $29 million to an initiative that preserves family stability and prevents troubled youths from sliding into foster care or juvenile justice.

“Now more than ever, our struggling families are depending on a helping hand,” Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton said. “In this economy we can’t pull the rug out from under them. We need to ensure the neediest families have the resources they need to get by.”