State Budget Passes On-Time

Spending plan fully funds education and health care while providing critical tax relief
March 31, 2006

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster, Dutchess) announced today that for the second year in a row the State Legislature has enacted an on-time budget. The $112 billion spending plan will go into effect on April 1st. “The very deliberate and transparent process allowed the Assembly and the Senate to come together to produce a fiscally responsible and balanced budget that will go a long way to meet the needs of New Yorkers,” said Mr. Cahill. “This budget provides significant enhancements to key areas such as education, health care and economic development while providing much-needed tax relief across the board.”

Education

The Legislature’s budget provides a record $17 billion in K-12 education funding, a $1.27 billion increase over last year and $631 million more than the Governor proposed. On top of the operating aid, the budget also includes a new capital program that dedicates $2.6 billion to modernize school facilities. The Legislature restored the Governor’s cuts to various expense-based aids, funds that local schools already spent that are entitled to state reimbursement. This includes cuts associated with building aid, BOCES services, transportation costs and educating students with disabilities. The increased aid will serve to help keep school districts from raising property taxes to pay for education. “Unlike the Governor, we recognize that school property taxes are driving people out of their homes,” said Mr. Cahill. “The increase in state aid will ensure our children will continue to receive a high quality education without taxing residents out of our communities.”

Schools in the 101st Assembly District will receive more than $8.4 million over last year:

  • Kingston will receive an increase of $3,570,596
  • Rondout Valley will receive an increase of $931,163
  • New Paltz will receive an increase of $1,081,870
  • Onteora will receive an increase of $280,761
  • Wallkill will receive an increase of $977,658
  • Ellenville will receive an increase of $817,270
  • Rhinebeck will receive an increase of $754,625

To further meet the needs of our students, the Legislature’s capital program, includes over $13.5 million for schools in the 101st Assembly District:

  • Kingston will receive an additional $6,002,410
  • Rondout Valley will receive an additional $871,330
  • New Paltz will receive an additional $733,532
  • Onteora will receive an additional $662,711
  • Wallkill will receive an additional $1,168,076
  • Ellenville will receive an additional $1,356,437
  • Rhinebeck will receive an additional $395,447

“This budget proposal makes the grade when it comes to funding our children’s education. The aid our schools receive today is an investment in our children’s futures,” Mr. Cahill said. “Our budget delivers the resources the schools here in the Hudson Valley need to achieve higher educational standards. I urge the Governor to join the Legislature so we can ensure that our children will be prepared for the challenges of the 21st century economy.”

Higher Education

The budget agreement not only rejects Governor Pataki’s misguided tuition hikes and cuts to financial aid and other higher education programs; it substantially enhances TAP and opportunity program funding and increases state dollars for colleges and universities. “It has become painfully clear that New York’s funding model for public higher education has outlasted its ability to breathe life into the rapidly evolving world of higher education. Over the past twelve years, under Governor Pataki, the state’s funding mechanism has failed students, faculty and the citizens of New York,” said Mr. Cahill. “By rejecting the Executive Budget proposal, we have begun taking the necessary measures towards reversing this disturbing trend. If the state is going to be competitive in the emerging global economy, we need to focus on advancing a comprehensive vision aimed at overhauling our approach to public higher education. This budget is a good start,” explained Mr. Cahill.

The Senate and Assembly budget for higher education for 2006-2007 does the following:

  • Holds the line on tuition at SUNY and CUNY
  • Restores the governor's TAP cuts
  • Enhances TAP to include funding for eligible part-time students at SUNY, CUNY and independent colleges.
  • Allows students whose family income changes to adjust their TAP grants in the middle of the year.
  • Provides an additional $167 million for operating aid and $700 million for capital projects at SUNY and CUNY.
  • Increases funding for the state's community colleges by $175 per FTE (full time equivalent).
  • Increases opportunity program funding by 10%.
  • Increases funding for full-time faculty at SUNY and CUNY.

Assemblymember Cahill secured $10 million to restore and modernize the historic Old Main Building located on the SUNY New Paltz campus. "Once again, our alumnus Assemblymember Kevin Cahill has been a champion for his alma mater, SUNY New Paltz," said New Paltz President Steven G. Poskanzer. "This $10 million appropriation will allow us to begin to create a modern facility to support teacher training and to house newly-hired faculty. We plan to restore the historic Old Main Building, which sits at the heart of our campus, to its rightful stature as an architectural gem." Last year Assemblymember Cahill secured $10 million for the first ever renovation of the Student Union Building. “This appropriation is only part of my ongoing commitment to public higher education and SUNY New Paltz,” Assemblymember Cahill added.

Health Care

Assemblymember Cahill, as a member of the Health Budget Conference Committee, played a key leadership role in developing a health care spending plan that provides critical funding for nursing home, hospital and emergency care. The Legislature has restored over $1 billion of the Governor’s $1.3 billion in health care cuts. The budget includes total new health care spending of $901.3 million for restorations and additions to Medicaid and other public health programs. Specific measures advocated for by Assemblymember Cahill include the enhancement of reimbursements for nursing home, emergency room and home care. Mr. Cahill also fought to protect Medicaid wraparound prescription drug coverage for the 600,000 dual Medicaid/Medicare eligible patients for any drug not covered under Medicare Part D. The wraparound coverage will now be extended through January of 2007.

“Our approach to the budget significantly enhances the ability of our health care providers and facilities to deliver high quality care,” said Mr. Cahill. “By providing the funds necessary to keep costs down while protecting access to care for our most vulnerable populations we can help make sure New Yorkers lead healthy and productive lives going forward.”

In addition to supplementing the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, the Legislature’s budget makes home care for seniors a priority. The budget provides a funding increase from $15 to $25 million and reduces the local match requirement for the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program, which provides in-home, non-medical care for the frail elderly who are not eligible for Medicaid. The agreement also approves $5 million more for Access to Home, which helps low- and moderate-income seniors with critical home repairs so they can stay in their homes.

In addition, the Legislature’s bipartisan budget adds over $4 million for programs serving seniors, including:

  • $1 million for transportation operating expenses;
  • $1 million for traditional Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS);
  • $1 million for “neighborhood” NORCS;
  • $462,000 for respite services;
  • $250,000 for an emergency respite program;
  • $250,000 for an economically sustainable transportation demonstration program; and
  • $64,000 for a statewide senior advocacy hotline.

Tax Relief

The budget cuts taxes $1.6 billion this year and $2.5 billion next year. The comprehensive tax relief package proposed by the Legislature includes the following:

  • $960 million in property tax rebates to homeowners across the state.
  • A cost of living adjustment to Enhanced STAR, which will save eligible seniors an additional $72 million.
  • Effective at midnight tonight, the plan permanently eliminates the regressive 4-percent state sales tax on clothing, which will save shoppers approximately $600 million a year.
  • A new child tax credit has been created that will provide a maximum benefit of $330 for each child between the ages of 4 and 17.
  • The Legislature has rejected the Governor’s “education tax credit”, which was limited to educational expenses in only a small number of school districts.
  • A reduction in the marriage penalty tax.
  • An income tax credit for volunteer firefighters
  • A tax deduction for New York State National Guard members called to service.

“In January, Governor Pataki put forth an unfocussed budget proposal that included billions of dollars in tax giveaways, the bulk of which would not have to be paid for until years after he has left office,” said Mr. Cahill. “Our budget lays out a tax relief plan that addresses the real economic challenges that New Yorkers face on a daily basis while rejecting the Governor’s plan to pander to the wealthiest New Yorkers in order to enhance his conservative political image on the national stage.”

Local Aid

The budget appropriates $309.5 million to the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Projects (CHIPS) for local bridge, road and highway improvement projects and $39.7 million for Marchiselli aid, which is a federal matching grant program that funds municipal street and highway programs. The spending plan also provides an increase in direct and unrestricted funds for every town, village and city in the state. Under the plan, every municipality in the state would benefit from an increase. The budget includes a $127 million across-the-board increase in local assistance for all cities, towns and villages outside New York City. Towns and villages would receive 20 percent more, and small cities will receive from 16 to 24 percent more. The City of Kingston can expect to receive nearly $2.8 million, almost $500,000 more than last year. The budget also appropriates $412 million in economic development funds to promote job-producing plans tailored to meet regional needs.

Conclusion

“This budget is by no means a perfect document. Strict constitutional limits prevented us from getting to the heart of some of the major issues New Yorkers would like to see addressed. Unfortunately, we could only start with what the Governor proposed,” said Mr. Cahill. The Assemblymember was referring to the recent Court of Appeals decision that severely restricts the Legislature’s ability to alter the Governor’s Executive Budget.

“After twelve long years of the misguided fiscal policies inflicted by Governor Pataki, it will be imperative for the next Executive to come into office prepared to address the major issues that have been ignored for so long, namely the way we fund education and social services,” Mr. Cahill observed. “Governor Pataki’s propensity to shift the tax burden from state wealth-based levies to locally raised, regressive property and sales taxes has seriously threatened the social fabric of our communities by pricing families out of their homes and driving our seniors and young people out of New York State. I look forward to working with an Executive that has the courage and the acumen to implement a rational and progressive tax plan,” Assemblymember Cahill concluded.