The Governor proposed his executive budget on Jan. 22. Overall, it was a status quo budget that did not contain a lot of surprises. I was pleased to see more state aid provided to schools. However, I want to ensure that aid goes to schools that need it most. As was proposed last week, all of our Upstate schools are set to receive state aid increases. Considering previous budgets, this is welcome news. However, it would be nice to have--once and for all--an equitable school aid formula that would ensure more aid is directed toward schools that need it most.
The Governor estimates total spending to be $136.5 billion, a $2.5 billion increase from 2012-13. This includes federal funding. The State Operating Funds spending is $90.8 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion. (State Operating Funds exclude federal funds and long-term capital spending.) No new taxes were proposed.
I am concerned about how some of these programs—such restructuring pension costs, all-day pre-k and longer school days —will be sustainable for localities. We must continue to eliminate government waste and have services that we can afford, that work for the people, as well as create policy that truly make it easier to do business in this state.
I wanted to share with you some of the details in the budget so you have the facts about what is on the table for the Legislature and the public. We have until April 1 to pass a budget. In recent years, we have passed a budget on time, and I hope we can do so again this year.
Education aid increased 4.4 percent, or $300 per student. This is a total increase of $889 million. Some of the ideas proposed include:
- Creating a full-day pre-K program targeted toward higher need students in low-wealth school districts with a competitive grant process. ($25 million)
- Extend learning time by 25%, also through competitive grant process ($20 million).
- The Governor proposes turning schools into "community hubs" that include social, health and other services as well as after-school programming.
- Reward high-performing teachers with stipends. ($11 million)
- Invest in early college high school programs (additional $4 million)
- Create a bar exam for teachers.
- Target school aid to high-needs districts.
For Higher Education, more of an emphasis is proposed to be placed on job placement rather than solely enrollment. Colleges would be incentivized to partner more with Regional Economic Development Councils and local employers to identify job training needs. Next Generation Job Linkage Program ($5 million in performance grants) is proposed to place students in high demand jobs. A third round of NYSUNY 2020 sets aside $55 million to support economic growth.
Other Economic Development proposals include:
- Innovation Hotspot and Tech Transfer. These locations would foster commercialization of inventions--bringing them from academia to the private sector. We've seen some of this take place already in Syracuse University, ESF and at Cornell, just to name a few. The budget proposes to set aside $50 million in Venture Capital Funding to provide seed funding to new businesses that take research to the marketplace.
- Regional Councils will be funded again. This third round of funding proposal sets aside $150 million for the grant process.
- NY Works: $165 million for capital grants, aimed to support job creation, retention and expansion.
- Market NY: Marketing plan for New York-produced goods and includes Taste NY.
For Local Governments, A Stable Rate Pension Contribution has been proposed. This refinancing option is being offered to counties and cities as a way to help afford the rising pension costs. Last year, we passed Tier VI, but those savings will not be fully realized for more than 20 years, as those in earlier tiers retire. I look forward to learning more about this option for local governments and determining if it will truly be a savings.
More consolidation is proposed such as merging Medicaid administration with the Department of Health and merging Governor's Office of Employee relations with the Department of Civil Service.
Sandy Relief and recovery is also proposed. About $30 billion in Federal aid will be received to help these areas recover, but also to assist in improving future emergency response.
This, by no means, is a comprehensive list but a few highlights. Anyone can view further details at www.openbudget.ny.gov. This is a start, but it still has to go through the Legislature; and I hope the budget process is conducted as it should be, by allowing rank-and-file members to have a voice in committees, and negotiations are not conducted behind closed doors--as was the case with the recently passed gun laws. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Governor's budget proposals moving forward.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.