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Assemblyman
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
Assembly District 71
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Chair, Ways and Means Committee
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…and this month in Albany
April 6, 2016

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Assembly Passes $154.9 Billion Budget for 2016
Record Funding for Education, $15 Wage, Paid Family Leave

On March 31 and April 1, in my capacity as Chair of the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee I debated and helped pass a budget for State Fiscal year 2016-2017, answering Members' questions and challenges about a spending and policy plan that does more to help working New York families than any other budget in recent memory.

The final budget negotiated by Speaker Carl E. Heastie, Governor Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on behalf of their Legislative Conferences includes a significantly higher minimum wage, education aid in the amount of $24.7 billion including an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment cut to school aid that was forced by the economic crash of 2008, the strongest paid family leave program in the country, a tuition freeze for the State University of New York and City University of New York, a tax cut for middle-class workers, and much more.

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Assemblyman Farrell debates a budget bill for State Fiscal Year 2016-2017 on the floor.

Significant investments have been made in affordable, high-quality housing and other quality-of-life improvements, not only in the City and State as a whole, but here in the District - I was able to fit several important projects into the budget, which I will talk about in detail at a later date.

A $15 Minimum Wage in New York City by 2018

For years, the Assembly's Majority Conference has fought for a living wage that puts hardworking families on the path to success and independence, no longer the slow road to poverty. This year's budget agreement marks an important victory in that struggle. In New York City, the minimum wage will increase to $11 by the end of 2016 and then by $2 each year thereafter, reaching $15 by 2018. Those who work for companies with less than 10 employees will see their wages rise slower to avoid harming small businesses, reaching a $15 wage by 2019.

Critics of a higher minimum wage claim, as they always do, that ensuring workers better pay will lead to job losses and will harm the economy. My reply is that if this were the truth, our society would have made no progress beyond living in caves and wearing animal skins to protect us from the cold. The automaker Henry Ford, who was not a person known for his generosity, paid his workers a fair wage so they were able to afford the cars they made. That speaks volumes.

As one of my Assembly colleagues pointed out during our floor debate on the bill that raised the wage, we are not hurting New York State small businesses. We are giving them new customers.

Paid Family Leave Opens the Door to Economic Stability During Trying Times

Since 1997, members of the Assembly Majority have supported legislation designed to create a paid family leave program to offer economic security to workers who must take time off from their jobs to care for a newborn, an ailing family member, or when a breadwinner is called away to active military service. One of the most important components of our budget for 2016-2017 is the beginning stage of a program that, when fully phased in, will offer 12 weeks of paid leave to those who find themselves in such a situation. Our program creates a self-sustaining fund that will be paid into by workers, just pennies per paycheck, which will not harm employers or force workers to make an impossible choice between working and caring for a loved one in need.

Increased Aid for Education

I have always believed that education is the key to unlocking the many opportunities life presents, and have always fought to give all our young people access to high-quality education, and similarly high-quality education for everyone who seeks to further their career. The final version of our budget increases education aid by $1.47 billion, or 6.3 percent, while increasing Foundation Aid by $627 million to help ensure that all schools are fairly funded and have the resources they need to meet their Constitutionally-required responsibility to educate our children.

Recognizing the importance and lifelong benefits of early education, our budget allocates $807 million for the continuing implementation and development of the statewide universal pre-Kindergarten program and sets aside $2 billion to improve the use of technology in the classroom. The budget also includes $433 million to fully eliminate the Gap Elimination once and for all, ending the hardship borne by schools and taxpayers since the recession devastated State revenues. Doing away with this cut will help prevent teacher layoffs and program cuts.

The budget also allocates $175 million to transform struggling schools to what are called "community schools," which offer a range of services including mentoring, health care and family support programs which are designed to remove obstacles' from students' paths and allow them to focus on their studies. By converting struggling schools into community schools, we hope to turn these schools into hubs of support that provide much-needed support to at-risk families and address the issues associated with poverty.

The Assembly also insisted the budget include a $20 million investment in President Obama's My Brother's Keeper program to help close the opportunity gap for young men of color.

Investing in Our Higher Education System

It is no secret that today, higher education is as important to getting a good job as a high school diploma was generations ago. Recognizing this fact, the Assembly's Majority Conference fought for an won critical support for students seeking to continue their education and the public institutions where they study. We added $5.9 million to the Higher Education Opportunity Program, for a total of $35.5 million; $5.4 million to the Educational Opportunity Program, for a total of $32.2 million; $4.7 million for the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge program for a total of $28.1 million; $3.1 million to Liberty Partnerships, for a total of $18.4 million; $2.6 million for the Science and Technology Entry Program, for a total of $15.8 million.

We also insisted on ending the experimental "rational tuition" program that was put in place several years ago to end a problem with large, irregular tuition increases at SUNY and CUNY. This program, which had good intentions, created a new problem and ended up hitting students and their families with tuition bills that increased by hundreds of dollars year after year. We offset SUNY's needs by allocating $18 million in operating funds, $13.3 million for SUNY community colleges and other important sources of funding. SUNY students are not the only ones who will benefit from a tuition increase this year, as CUNY students got the same deal.

State Budget Funds MTA, Important Road and Bridge Repairs

The budget provides the Metropolitan Transportation Agency with $7.3 billion during the period of time covered by the Authority's 2015-2019 capital plan, allowing for improved infrastructure such as the purchase of new buses, subway and train cars, transit station improvements and modern signal systems. We also fought for and won $950 million to extend the Second Avenue Subway uptown to 125th Street, a crucial project that almost didn't come to pass because of proposed cuts to MTA's budget.

New York State's Department of Transportation will be able to perform more needed upgrades after more than $1 billion was added to their five-year capital plan, most of which is earmarked for road and bridge maintenance programs.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.


…and this month in Albany
March 17, 2016

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 9

Assembly Passes "One-House" Budget Resolution
Priorities Include an Additional $2.2 Billion for Public Education

On Monday, March 14, in my capacity as Ways and Means Chair I debated and helped pass the Assembly Majority Conference's "one-house" budget resolution, which lays out the spending priorities of the Assembly for the State Fiscal Year beginning March 1. Ongoing negotiations with the Senate and Governor Cuomo are expected lead to a consensus spending plan in the coming days, allowing us to again pass an on-time budget that meets the needs of New Yorkers.

Assembly Increases Education Funding

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Highlights of the Assembly's budget plan include a $2.1 billion increase to school aid above the figure proposed by Governor Cuomo in January for a total of $25.4 billion. We seek to end a cut to school aid that became necessary after the economic crash of 2008 devastated State revenues but left school districts burdened, and continue $807 million in support for universal Pre-Kindergarten programs. We also propose restoring aid to the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) after years of tuition increases that burdened students.

For the fourth consecutive year the Assembly's budget plan also includes the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of immigrants to apply for student loans, and proposes $27 million be made available for that purpose.

Assembly Opposes CUNY Cost Shift to NYC

Our plan rejects the Governor's proposal to shift $485 million in CUNY costs that have always been borne by the State to the City's balance sheet.

Our plan calls for the minimum wage to be raised to $15 statewide over the next few years. Raising the wage was a major part of our debate on the Assembly floor. The Assembly has also proposed to reform the tax code to help middle-class taxpayers and require New Yorkers who are millionaires to pay a bit more so that the less fortunate may enjoy a higher quality of life.

We also seek to make affordable child care available to more working families, including investing $75 million in additional support for 10,000 child care slots and $334,000 in SUNY and CUNY child care centers so parents who are students can focus on their studies and improve their lives, and to implement new anti-poverty programs in 19 high-need areas of the State.

Our plan also calls for the State to invest over $1 billion in affordable housing over the next five years including $500 million for much-needed NYCHA capital repairs and $250 million to revitalize Mitchell-Lama properties; fully funds the MTA's five-year capital plan; funds substance abuse treatment in New York City and invests in a cleaner, better environment.

Legislative Committees Finalizing Budget Details

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Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Speaker Carl E. Heastie and Assemblyman Farrell discuss budget priorities during a "Mothership Committee" meeting Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

As of now, members of the Assembly and Senate are meeting in Conference Committees to which they have been assigned by leadership to resolve differences between the respective houses' budget resolutions. Yesterday, for example, legislators met to discuss the topics of higher education, mental hygiene and the needs of local governments. Other components of the budget will be discussed and resolved as we continue to move forward.

Beginning on Tuesday, March 15, Speaker Heastie and I met with our counterparts in the Senate in what is called the "Mothership Committee" which oversees the work of the various Conference Committees as they go about their work. Mothership Committee meetings have been held as needed throughout the week, and another is scheduled for tonight as you sit down for your own meeting. Negotiations are continuing at the leadership level as well.

By law, the Legislature must pass a budget before the new Fiscal year begins on April 1. Please refer to my Web site at assembly.state.ny.us for the latest news from Albany.

Farrell Budget Priorities Seek to Improve the Quality of Life

In addition to the priorities of the Assembly as a whole, members are permitted to submit projects in their Districts which they feel are worthy of receiving public support to improve the quality of life, and our District is no different. As we all know, there are problems in our communities that must be addressed and I have always fought so ensure that residents of Northern Manhattan receive our fair share.

Even before the beginning of my career as an Assembly member, I have fought for tenants and after I was first elected got landmark laws passed to ensure that people had access to high-quality housing. That has not changed, and given how rents have skyrocketed in recent years, providing access to high-quality housing that is also affordable is the priority of the day and I have been working hard to obtain the resources our community needs to help make this happen.

Budget Items to Improve Housing, Access to Child Care for Working Parents

My leadership position with the Assembly brings with it the ability to get big things done for our community. This year, I am working to get several major projects into the budget including preserving and improving the stock of affordable housing in Northern Manhattan while making these apartments more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, improving school libraries so our young people are more likely to use these facilities and do better in school, improving the health services that are available to the indigent, and other important projects.

Safety Programs Funded by State Coming to Help City Housing

On February 29, I was informed by Speaker Heastie that funding to improve security and make quality-of-life improvements at New York City Housing Authority properties throughout the City are on the way. Last year, I nominated several NYCHA properties in the District including Fort Washington Houses to receive this funding.

Last May, my staff and I met with tenant leaders at NYCHA properties to hear their needs and pass their requests along to Speaker Heastie and Governor Cuomo. As we are unfortunately aware, there have been problems with crime in NYCHA developments. State elected officials must take every reasonable step to improve public safety, and I am proud to be able to help allocate these funds in order to improve public safety in our communities. When these programs are complete, we anticipate making about $3.3 million in improvements to these properties.

Wall Street Settlement Funds to be Used for the Public Good

Taxpayers are not on the hook for the cost of these important improvements. Last year Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, our former Senator, and other prosecutors secured a landmark settlement with Wall Street banks accused of bad behavior that led to the 2008 economic crash.

While no criminal charges have been filed against these banks or their officers, authorities were able to extract a $100 million settlement payment from these banks. While this penalty cannot reverse the suffering caused by the crash, I am happy to report that the penalty that will be paid can be used for the public good and to help improve the quality of life in our communities.

City Working to Fund Needed NYCHA Improvements

The State is doing many things to improve NYCHCA but it will be up to the City to fix the major problems including the roofs. Members of the City government are working on a parallel plan to address leaky roofs and other important capital improvements at NYCHA buildings throughout New York City. I look forward to following their progress in correcting this longstanding problem in NYCHA buildings.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.


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…and this month in Albany
March 2, 2016

Assemblyman Farrell Reports to Community Board 10

Safety Programs Funded by State
Coming to Help City Housing

On February 29, I was informed by Speaker Heastie that funding to improve security and make quality-of-life improvements at New York City Housing Authority properties throughout the City is on its' way. Last year, I nominated several NYCHA properties in the District including Harlem River Houses and Ralph J. Rangel Houses to receive this funding.

$3.3 Million is Coming to Improve NYCHA Housing

Last May, my staff and I met with tenant leaders at NYCHA properties to hear their needs and pass their requests along to Speaker Heastie and Governor Cuomo. As we are unfortunately aware, there have been problems with crime in NYCHA developments. State elected officials must take every reasonable step to improve public safety, and I am proud to be able to help allocate these funds in order to improve public safety in our communities.

Over 50 New Security Cameras at Harlem River Houses

At Harlem River Houses between 151st and 153rd Streets, Macomb Place and Harlem River Drive, upgrades include replacement of the sidewalks along Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. between 151st and 153rd Streets, which are in poor condition and present a danger to pedestrians, plus new security cameras. The sum being considered for these improvements is $832,000.

Security Cameras and Lobby Upgrades at Rangel Houses

At Rangel Houses on Harlem River Drive, tenants asked for secure mailboxes and lobby improvements at a cost of $1.5 million. Harlem River Houses tenants have also asked for 55 new security cameras at a cost of $500,000 to help ensure their safety. Similar upgrades have been requested by tenants who live in Bethune Gardens on Amsterdam Avenue and Fort Washington Houses on Fort Washington Avenue, at a cost of $1 million split evenly between both properties.

Rangel Houses tenant leaders informed us that, currently, it is not uncommon for fliers posted in the lobby to be removed which means that tenants are not aware of community information they should be aware of. The new wall mounted display cases should help fix this problem. We expect that between 75 and 100 new security cameras will be installed at Rangel Houses.

Taxpayers are not on the hook for the cost of these important improvements. Last year Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, our former Senator, and other prosecutors secured a landmark settlement with Wall Street banks accused of bad behavior that led to the 2008 economic crash.

While no criminal charges have been filed against these banks or their officers, authorities were able to extract a $100 million settlement payment from these banks. While this penalty cannot reverse the suffering caused by the crash, I am happy to report that the penalty that will be paid can be used for the public good and to help improve the quality of life in our communities. Members of the City Council are working on a parallel plan to address leaky roofs and other important capital improvements at NYCHA buildings throughout New York City. I look forward to following their progress in correcting this longstanding problem in NYCHA buildings.

Speaker Heastie and Ways and Means Chair Farrell Release Assembly Revenue Forecast

In Albany, we are continuing to make progress toward an on-time budget for State Fiscal Year 2016-2017, which begins April 1. On February 24, Speaker Heastie and myself released the Assembly's revenue forecast for the coming year, which represents an important milestone along the path to crafting and passing an on-time budget.

Ways and Means Committee Staff Forecast Continued Economic Growth

My Ways and Means Committee staff forecasts state and national employment, as well as personal income, will continue to grow during calendar years 2016 and 2017. However, the pace of growth is expected to remain modest due to economic and financial uncertainties in the United States and beyond. In particular, income growth in New York State will remain modest compared to earlier years due, in part, to smaller bonuses on Wall Street compared to the years leading up to the recession of 2008. Wall Street economic activity, and wage bonuses in particular, are an important part of New York State's economy and State income tax revenue.

Revenue Forecast $153.9 Billion in 2015-2016, $153.5 Billion in 2016-2017

My Ways and Means Committee staff projects that All Funds receipts will reach $153.9 billion in State Fiscal Year 2015-2016, an increase of $4.8 billion (3.2 percent) over State Fiscal Year 2014-2015. My staff estimates State Fiscal Year 2015-2016 revenues will be $171 million above the estimate calculated by Governor Cuomo's Division of Budget. Looking forward to State Fiscal Year 2016-2017, my staff projects that All Funds revenues will total $153.5 billion, a decline of $445 million (0.3 percent) compared to the current fiscal year. My Ways and Means Committee staff has forecast tax receipts will be $445 million higher than the Executive Branch's forecast for 2017-2017. This difference can be attributed to different ways of calculating economic conditions and how these conditions will affect tax revenue receipts.

Negotiating a Consensus Forecast on State Revenues

Our assessments and projections have been reviewed by a panel of expert economists called the Board of Economic Advisors, who are an invaluable part of the budget process. As we continue to move forward toward an on-time budget that will meet the needs of all New Yorkers, the Assembly, Senate and Governor Cuomo will continue to negotiate in order to reach three-way agreement on a revenue forecast which will be the next key budgetary milestone.

Please look forward to more updates during the coming months.

Yours truly,
Herman "Denny" Farrell, Jr.


Video Clips:

March 12, 2015
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Farrell addresses questions relating to changes in the Gap Elimination in the Assembly Budget Proposal. E.203
 
 




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