The 2011 legislative session brought major victories to Western New York, including SUNY 2020, property tax cap, and ethics reform. Significant strides were made toward making New York more business-friendly Ė bringing a new promise of jobs and growth Ė with initiatives like Innovate NY. With these measures, the Assembly made great advances toward building a stronger, more-promising Western New York.
The passage of SUNY 2020 was one of this sessionís biggest successes. This plan would create a system of re-investment in our stateís higher education, allowing for schools like the State University at Buffalo (UB) the ability to become a driving force in our local economy while giving students more opportunities and resources needed to succeed. It promises re-investment back into each university and its students and provides a more rational tuition plan so families and students can plan their future, without the worry of large tuition hikes (A.8519). This measure will also provide UB with the seed money it needs to move forward with plans to relocate the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in to downtown Buffaloi. New capital generated under this plan, which is currently awaiting the governorís approval, will bring much need jobs and growth to downtown Buffalo and help give the universityís students a leg up on the competition.
Another significant measure that was signed into law was the property tax cap, which limits out-of-control-property tax increases by school district, and all levels of government. Property taxes are capped at 2 percent or at the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Local communities and local voters have the ability to override the cap, but it would require 60 percent of the vote to do so. This measure will help keep property taxes affordable for Erie County residents and will make Western New York more business friendly to companies looking to expand.
The elimination of over a dozen unfunded state mandates that stifle and burden local governments is also included in the law. It creates a Mandate Relief Council to address the issue of unfunded mandates and make recommendations to modify or repeal them. This essential mandate relief will save local governments and school districts more then $126 million. Schools and local governments will be provided with greater flexibility, improved services and taxpayer money savings.
To ensure New York isnít riddled with scandal and corruption, an extensive ethics reform passed that builds a more transparent and accountable state government. The measure, which is currently awaiting the governorís approval, will deliver greater disclosure, hold public officials to high ethics standards and empower a new Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JSCOPE), to clean-up and put an end to corruption and scandals in New York (A.8301). Also, state and local government officials who are convicted of a work-related felony can be stripped of their pension. We must regain our national status as the Empire State and the best way to do that is transform the way we conduct public business.
Finally, I sponsored a measure that works toward creating more jobs and businesses in Western New York. This measure would allocate $55.4 million in federal State Small Business Credit Initiative funds to New York Stateís Capital Access Program (CAP), the Innovate NY fund and the Bonding Guarantee Assistance Program (A.8452). It passed the Assembly and Senate, and now awaits the signature of the governor. Supporting growth and development of small businesses in the way these programs do, ensures a more inviting and welcoming climate for businesses, which in turn brings new opportunities to our area.
This legislative session was marked with substantial progress. While significant advances were made, the work is not done and I look forward to continuing this work to move Western New York forward.