Albany, NY – Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern, Rockland County) today issued the following statement in response to the Assembly’s impending passage of a completed 2012-13 budget, for which she will vote in favor:
“Today the Assembly will meet its obligation to produce and pass an on-time, fiscally responsible budget that, while a document of compromise, still provides the needed attention and support to our state’s many financial priorities.
“On the critical issue of our economy, this budget makes a down payment on our recovery and future competitiveness by dedicating $1.2 billion for job-creating road and bridge repair projects. Is also creates the New York Works Task Force to coordinate the way these funds are distributed, helping to better focus resources and cut back on bottlenecks that hinder their effectiveness.
“Going further still, this budget provides $220 million for an additional round of funding through the regional economic development councils. As it concerns the regional councils, I stand ready to further my cooperation with Rockland firms, and in particular our small businesses, to help them take advantage of this program and grow.
“Recognizing that a stronger economy also requires investing in our workers’ skills and competitiveness, this budget makes strides to strengthen higher education in New York State. I fought for and was heartened to see the first increase in aid for New York’s community colleges, including Rockland Community College, since the 2007-08 budget, in addition to stabilizing funding for the SUNY system on a whole. The budget measure increases aid to state community college students by $150 per full time equivalent (FTE).
“This focus on higher education and training programs is only part of a comprehensive approach to improving education in our state. This budget keeps our promise to New York’s students to increase public education funding by 4% - or $805 million dollars. This includes a $111.5 million increase in Foundation Aid, a $400 million increase in the Gap Elimination Adjustment restoration, and a full restoration of $239 million for expense-based aids. Additionally, I was pleased that, through my advocacy in the Assembly, this final budget provides nearly $2 million more for Rockland County school districts than what the Governor’s budget had proposed.
“I am further satisfied a compromise was reached on the proposed $250 million for competitive grants. The final budget restored $200 million of this allocation for school aid. As we move forward, we must continue to increase state funding for schools to ensure quality education for our youth and control over property taxes.
“Also of benefit to our students is this budget’s increase in funding for public libraries by $3.9 million, providing $82.9 million in total funding; as well as an additional $10.2 million dedicated to teacher resource and training centers that will improve the quality of instruction in our classrooms.
“In addition, the final budget authorizes school districts to use excess Employee Benefit Liability Reserve (EBALR) funds to maintain educational programming, and rejects a proposal to shift costs for the Preschool Special Education program onto local school districts.
“From my post as Chair of the Task Force on Women’s Issues, I was pleased with funding restoration in this budget that respects the needs of our women, children, families, and seniors, as well as the vital services many rely on. In it, we were able to restore funding for the safe harbor programs, Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention/Special Delinquency Prevention Programs, Runaway and Homeless Youth services, and $16 .7 million for TANF programs for needy families, which include programs such as Child Care subsidies, Nurse Family Partnerships, and Displaced Homemakers.
“While the economy is starting to rebound, many New Yorkers are still struggling, particularly the most vulnerable among us. Seniors especially need our help in these tough economic times. That is why I felt it was essential to pass restoration of co-payment assistance for EPIC enrollees. The budget provides $30.6 million to support the restoration of co-payment assistance for EPIC that was eliminated on January 1, 2012. This allows EPIC enrollees to pay no more than $20 as a co-pay when filling a prescription.
“Of the many changes the Governor suggested on social service program delivery, I am also satisfied that several of the more detrimental proposals regarding early intervention were rejected, which will help ensure the viability of these programs.
“While this budget can boast of many positive elements, there are areas where I would have liked to have seen more progress. On the urgent need for mandate relief, this budget takes a step in the right direction by having the state assume part of our counties’ increasing Medicaid costs. However, this falls short of our substantial goals, and we must go further to provide relief to our municipalities and school districts, especially with the tax cap in place.
“Furthermore, I was disappointed this budget did not include funding for a study of the potential health impacts of hydrofracking in our state. However, I remain committed to seeing this critical study conducted so as to protect the health of our citizens and our environment, and will fight for it to be implemented through independent legislation if necessary.
“Despite these drawbacks, I nevertheless believe this budget on a whole represents a framework that is fair, fiscally responsible, and dedicated to putting New Yorkers back to work. As such, I stand ready to work with Governor Cuomo, as well as my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate, to fully implement it.”