There is no one in this world, nation, state or locally who is not aware of the severe, mind-boggling economic, environmental challenges that confront us.
The scenario in New York State, as a part of the whole, has not been spared the pain inflicted upon us as we witness the devastation never experienced by this generation.
We have a surviving spirit and this, too, we shall overcome.
The 2010 legislative session has been wrought with crisis after crisis. Nevertheless, we in the assembly continue to advocate for our constituents, keeping in mind you send us to the state capital to be your eyes, ears and voice. Thus, in light of all we have endured, an enormous amount of good things have been accomplished. Some of our achievements are as follows:
The office of legal services for the indigent persons who cannot afford quality representation now have access (without a fiscal impact on the locality) to legal services.
The Office of Indigent Legal Services will:
examine and monitor services provided to the indigent;
study and recommend measures to improve the quality of representation;
create criteria for the provision of conflict defender services;
seek grants to counties in order to support solutions to improve indigent legal services.
Debt Collection Reform:
third-party debt collection/buyers are required to obtain a license from the Department of State; (debt collection abuse has increased and must be controlled);
licenses cost five hundred dollars ($500.00) and are renewable bi-annually;
no license will be issued to applicants with a history of complaints;
the Attorney General is authorized to enforce legal action against a violator.
This measure should bring some solace to victims of unscrupulous, abusive tactics practiced by some collection agencies,
Support for Crime Victims
Victims of crime too frequently are victimized “again” and/or forgotten by the criminal justice system, so:
initiatives and support services are streamlined for assistance to crime victims;
claims processed faster to expedite services;
a director with simplified input to recommend and institute policy to preside over appeals and determine fair compensation.
These measures are steps in the right direction to ease the burden borne by the hard-working tax-payers who are often relegated to the forgotten as they are harassed by debt collectors, struggle to recover from the trauma of crime and simultaneously maintain themselves as upright citizens.
Rent-to-own Protections (A-3083-E)
In this time of economic decline, it is a common, necessary practice to “rent-to-own,” especially when traditional credit is elusive for the purchase of household appliances, furniture or electronic goods.
A-3083-E implements a new price control structure and requires merchants of “rent-to-own” to:
include a disclosure box – affixed to all merchandise – containing the total amount of payments, cost of rental, cash price, amount of each payment, number of payments and the rental period, along with a layman’s explanation of the first three terms on every rental-purchase agreement;
include a notice containing a layman’s explanation of the rental-purchase transaction in each rental agreement;
provide notice to consumers of the early purchase option, including the total amount necessary to acquire ownership or exercise the early purchase option on each payment receipt; and
provide customers with a copy of the signed rental-purchase agreement.
In addition, the bill would:
authorize the attorney general to develop regulations necessary for the administration of the rent-to-own law;
require rent-to-own merchants to offer customers extended rights to reenter a contract when they have the financial means to do so;
require merchants to provide notice of the consumer’s right to reinstate the agreement upon repossession of merchandise;
require rent-to-own merchants to maintain rental merchandise in good working order and provide for repair and replacement of merchandise that is not operating properly; and
require merchants to offer consumers that suffer an interruption or reduction of income the option of paying temporarily reduced rental payments in certain situations.
By providing consumers with information about the actual cost of an item, they can make an informed decision about how much they are willing to pay. While rent-to-own merchants provide a unique service utilized by many New Yorkers, this legislation ensures that consumers are aware or their rights and obligations prior to entering into a rent-to-own agreement and that they pay reasonable prices for merchandise.
Despite the long hours and diligence I have devoted to the passage of a fair, balanced budget, I cannot lose sight of other issues important to you.
We restored STAR which is three billion two hundred eighty million dollars ($3,280,000,000). This is to address the overwhelming tax burden under which we all suffer.
Total school aid amounts to twenty-two billion four hundred sixty million dollars ($22,460,000,000) of which the assembly restored four hundred eighteen million ($418,000,000).
These specific areas are directly related to local tax increases. If the state does not increase/or seek to minimize cuts to school districts, those cuts could be passed on to tax-payers via school district increases. We can not afford more tax hikes or desert our children when their education is more than ever gravely important. This generation must compete in a global society and we must prepare them.
Unfortunately, the governor, as we go to print, is in the process of affixing his veto to our “restorations.”
We shall address, that, too. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we will have a final, three-way, agreed-upon budget.
Our resolve in the assembly is to protect the people of this great state.
Receiving no pay check until a budget is completed does not deter us. No pay check for three to five months is little sacrifice we can make as we continue to work hard and fight for you.
We, do hope though, that in the interest of you, the people, we come to a sensible conclusion very soon.
Payment In Lieu Of Taxes
A10033C, PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) passed the assembly June 1, 2010. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper, Deputy Speaker, 18th AD.
The senate companion bill S7157b is sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon, 4th SD. (Passage of the senate bill is pending.)
The bill addresses the saturation of reduced taxes provided to developers, landlords, organizations, etc. that proliferate in the villages of Hempstead and Freeport. The PILOTs allow a tax reduction to the afore-mentioned concerns and pass the increase (due to their decrease) onto the taxpayers.
The Town and County Industrial Development agencies (IDA) are comprised of persons appointed by the town, none of whom reside in our villages or county have the power to grant certain tax breaks to companies for the people who live, pay taxes and carry the onerous burden of over-taxation without representation.
The disproportionate impact of these tax breaks, which are “disguised” to encourage economic development in the villages, has devastated our quality of life.
Over twenty-five per cent (25%) of Hempstead’s property is not PILOT friendly; dozens more are pending.
We can not afford this anymore. Look around your village. Do you like what you see? I, a taxpayer, too, am incensed. This must stop now.
Our seniors can no longer afford their homes (the taxes are higher than the mortgage if indeed, there is a mortgage); our children can not afford to live here; no one can afford to move here; foreclosures are on the rise. This is no longer tolerable.
The bill requires local participation before the IDA’s can approve another PILOT in our area.
The PILOT recipient must present a fiscal impact statement prior to being granted the requested PILOT.
The membership of the IDA SHALL “include at least one member of THREE (3) members at large from a cross-section of the village, community.
After the third (3rd) year of the PILOT and every third year thereafter, the PILOT agreement must be adjusted based on changes in the assessed value and tax-rate of ALL real properties located in the village.
This very important “tax the people” process will now be under the control of you—the tax-paying public.
No longer will your voices be muted when you exercise your first amendment at an IDA meeting; no longer will one local official have the temerity or the power to enter into a tax increase for you without your knowledge and throw water on you when you seek answers.
It is pass time for these communities to stand up for their fiscal rights when tax-increase insanity prevails.
I am in the fight for the long-haul. Fight with me against PILOTs!!
Able-Ride is a very important means of transportation for the medically dependent, handi-challenged and the disabled population. For many, this is their sole source of “getting around.” The Able-Ride bus takes people to medical appointments, personal business and to their jobs.
Able-Ride was enacted under the Federal American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA requires that eligible passengers must be provided transportation within three-quarters mile (3/4 mile) of a “fixed bus route.” Any additional service is at the largesse of the county – in this case Nassau County.
Therefore, the cuts being implemented by the MTA result in Able-Ride continuing to be available as per the federal mandate – “3/4 mile within a fixed bus route.”
For several years, Nassau County has withheld millions of dollars from the MTA to provide transportation beyond the ¾ mile mandate. The MTA will continue Able-Ride within those parameters. The county, effective January 1, 2011, is responsible for additional Able-Ride service beyond the mandate.
I have scheduled a meeting at 155 Greenwich Street with Hilary D. Ring, Director of Government Affairs, MTA, to explain details of this issue with Able-Ride constituents.
Meeting with MTA Executive
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 5 pm – 6 pm
Community Meeting Room
155 Greenwich Street, Hempstead, NY 11550
Through Sensible Mergers
The State has begun its mission to save taxpayers over nine million dollars ($9,000,000) through the merging and consolidation of some state agencies. This is one of the many methods we seek to reduce spending while maintaining vital services.
The assembly passed a bill that would reduce the state work-force by three hundred (300) positions with no layoffs while consolidating thirty-seven (37) agencies or offices. This could save over thirty million dollars ($30,000,000.00) in the coming fiscal year.
Eliminating duplicative offices or merging services will allow for a smoother and more efficient government operation.
When two agencies can share administrative services it costs less for the tax-payer. For example, The Office of Welfare Inspector General and the Office of Medicaid Inspector General provide similar services and over-lapping responsibilities.
Other mergers include:
Merging the Office of Homeland Security, the state Emergency Management Office, the state 911 Board, the Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination, and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control into a new agency: the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, saving $1.5 million annually.
Consolidating the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) and the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). SERB will be abolished and PERB will absorb some of its responsibilities, saving $1.3 million.
Modernizing the Crime Victims Board by eliminating and streamlining the claims review process. This will allow the newly created Office of Victims Services to process claims more efficiently, thereby compensating victims for their losses more quickly, saving $300,000.
Merging the Office of Real Property Services into the Department of Taxation and Finance, saving taxpayers more than $2 million by consolidating facilities and services.
Merging the Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives into the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), saving $100,000 while maintaining the important mission of this agency.
Creating a single leadership for NYHOMES and the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The two organizations will remain separate but are consolidating under a single management structure expected to work together in areas such as administration, asset management and grant making, saving taxpayers $3.5 million.
This is a sensible approach that we would use in our personal lives when faced with economic down-turns.
or Utilized for Foreign Travel
It has been brought to my attention that some local officials allegedly used state funds for foreign travel.
This mis-information must be corrected and clarified:
Under No circumstances are state funds approved or allocated for foreign travel. To my knowledge, no local officials used state funds for out-of state or foreign travel.
The January 26, 2010, catastrophic earthquake that devastated Haiti might no longer be on the front pages or are “lead-in” reports in the media, but, it continues to be a serious life and death challenge, and the recession/economic decline for the people of Haiti.
The consequences of the earthquake extend to our community for the family and friends of the Haitian community.
The Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund was organized in cooperation with the Village of Freeport to assist Haitian and American professional volunteers with immediate and long-term goals to collaborate with our Haitian residents to achieve a maximum of services to those in need.
The consortium is comprised of Haitian physicians who traveled to Haiti (Port au Prince) to administer services; social workers who are located here to provide psychological services for the stress that ensued from the traumatic experience; legal services for those who need to access temporary resident status for displaced friends and family members, food/clothes drives.
The committee continues to be available to those who seek and need these services. Feel free to call (516) 377-2252 for information.
Questions abound as to the purpose and necessity of legislative grants (member items).
These funds are for the use of local, not-for-profit groups/organizations who provide an assortment of good services to the community. Without these “small” grants, many of these services would disappear since they cannot be funded via regular state aid.
The grants are small, non-recurring and are closely monitored to assure compliance by the groups who receive them.
Hispanic Counseling Center – Funds used to provide after-school gang prevention services for low-income families;
Tenant Council of the Village of Hempstead – funds used to assist and advocate on behalf of the tenants in court, landlord tenant disputes, eviction assistance, etc.;
Lakeview Youth Federation – funds used to encourage high-level competition in high school athletics through summer youth programs;
Francis J. Logan Foundation – funds used for summer camp for indigent youth;
Harbor Day Care – funds used for part-time social worker for the day care center;
United Veterans Organization – funds used to purchase flags for students, supplies, pens, envelopes, computer cartridges and lapel pins.
Hempstead Village Police Force – funds used to purchase bullet-proof vests for the entire force.
Hempstead Coordinating Council of Civic Associations – funds for civic activities
(Empire Zone benefits remain)
A new $1.2 billion Excelsior Jobs program has been created (A.9705/A9709) that continues the benefits of the Empire Zones. The Excelsior Jobs program is designed to attract businesses, create new jobs and give the economy a much-needed boost.
Tax credits from the Empire Zones will permit New York businesses to receive approximately $5.5 billion in relief over a period of ten (10) years.
This focus on developing growth in industries that create jobs will have long-term investment impact in our communities.
This bill is also designed to protect programs that produce results and eliminate those that do not.
The new program (Excelsior) totals over $1.1 billion over the life of the program with fifty million dollars per year – up $ 250 million in 2015.
Of the $250 million, seventy-five per cent (75%) is for new job creation and twenty-five per cent (25%) for companies that retain at least fifty (50) or more jobs or make new, significant investments.
Accountability is outlined in the law so that businesses MUST meet the specified goals as we ensure a seamless transition from Empire Zone to the Excelsior Program.
Program participants can receive four tax benefit categories:
Jobs Tax Credit - $2,500 to $5,000 per job based on salary and benefit levels;
Investment Tax Credit (ITC) – 2 percent of qualified investments;
Research and Development (R&D) Credit – 10 percent of the federal R&D credit that can be allocated to New York; and
Real Property Tax Credit – businesses located within existing investment zones and regionally significant projects would be eligible for credit equal to 50 percent of their real property taxes in year one, phasing down to 10 percent in year five.
Since tourism is a vital component of the Long Island economy, the Department of Economic Development has included more than $3.96 million to aid localities for investment. They include;
$4 million for I love NY;
$3.85 million for Local Tourism Matching Grants; and
$1.2 million for International Trade.
Small businesses are the backbone to our economic health. We must continue to support them.