We have just completed the most difficult budget of my 18 years in Albany. The international and national financial crisis have had a severe negative impact on the New York State budget.
Since January, when the Governor first presented his budget proposal, the deficit has grown deeper forcing us to cut almost $17 billion from state spending. The President’s stimulus assistance was helpful but the Legislature still had to make major spending cuts and find new sources of revenue. Unfortunately, no one will be happy with everything in the budget, but the Assembly, Senate, and Governor attempted to craft proposals that spread the pain as fairly as possible.
You will see that in the areas of education and health care, which account for a huge percentage of the budget, we worked hard to retain the historic commitments made in last year’s budget. In human services, we increased the basic grant to assist those least able to assist themselves. The last increase was over 18 years ago.
This year’s budget will spend $132 billion and closes a $17.65 billion budget gap by implementing $5.1 billion in spending cuts and raising $5.2 billion in revenue.
Several other changes in the law were also enacted as a part of this budget. They include:
Significant reforms of the Rockefeller Drug Laws;
Investment in rehabilitation and reentry of persons returning from jail and prison;
Temporary income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers making over $300,000 per year;
Expansion of the nickel deposit to bottled waters; and
The closure of three prison facilities in upstate New York.
Finally, the state’s fiscal commitments to education, both primary and higher education, were preserved in this budget because we believe that the long term benefits to society are promoted by fairly funding education.
The newsletter will give you an overview of the many areas which impact us in the 35th Assembly District.
The 2009-2010 state budget fully restores New York City’s 2009-2010 Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding, for a total of $328 million. The funding will help support local projects and programs essential to the well-being of New York City residents and will help offset cutbacks in city services, such as police and fire protection, garbage pickup and sanitation.
The budget also restores $15.7 million in Consolidated Highway Improvement Programs (CHIPs) funding for maintenance of the city’s streets, as well as $1.7 million out of $3.4 million cut to the New York City Department of Transportation; their final amount for transit aid is $74.5 million.
The crisis on Wall Street has battered the city’s economy and left the state with a massive budget gap, so it’s clear that we needed to make some changes. Still, the Assembly remained steadfastly dedicated to providing meaningful aid to New York City and successfully fought to restore funding in the final budget.
Education and Higher Education Aid
The budget provides nearly $8.5 billion in state funding for New York City schools, restoring the Governor’s proposed cut of $362 million and rejecting the proposal to shift the cost of special education to the New York City Department of Education – saving taxpayers $97 million. The final budget also delivers nearly $1 billion in additional funding to New York City schools.
In addition, the budget creates new reporting requirements for New York City regarding its Five Year Class Size Reduction Plan to include: detailed information for each school on the number of classrooms and teachers that existed prior to receiving CFE funds and the number of new classrooms and teachers created with the funds; actual average class size for each year funding was received; and the actions to be taken to reduce class sizes in schools that did not reach the class size reduction goals.
The Assembly recognizes that CUNY is a huge economic development tool for New York City and therefore, the budget invests $144.4 million more in CUNY than last year, providing it with $1.9 billion. We realize that CUNY institutions have a significant economic impact on the city and this budget makes the necessary investments so CUNY schools can continue to play an important role in our future.
The budget also makes a needed funding adjustment to Medgar Evers College. Founded in 1969, the college is named after Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader from Mississippi who was assassinated in 1963 after years of work registering black voters and organizing boycotts of segregated businesses. In 1994, Medgar Evers College was officially designated as a four-year academic institution, but continued to be funded as a community college. Consequently, due to the college’s designation, the city argued that it should not be required to provide 50 percent of capital costs. The state budget finally requires the state to completely fund capital projects at Medgar Evers College, after nearly 15 years in which the state has only partially funded critical improvements at the school.
For too long, the state failed to do its share for Medgar Evers College and now we have corrected this injustice at New York’s only predominantly black college so it can move ahead with vital capital projects.
Education is the key to our state’s success, and the Assembly will continue to fight for the funding needed for all New Yorkers to receive the high-quality education they deserve.
Contract for Excellence
The budget will continue the Contract for Excellence program for the 2009-10 school year. School districts that are required to prepare a Contract for Excellence will maintain the same level of funding as last year, ensuring that schools will not have to reduce spending on allowable programs, including class-size reductions, academic after-school programs and full-day kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.
In addition, the budget restores:
$10.58 million in library aid and $79,000 to the Talking Book and Braille Library;
$6.9 million for adult literacy education programs to help adults who have difficulties reading and writing improve their communication skills – an increase of $2 million over the executive proposal;
$15 million in operating aid for public television and radio stations for educational programming – an increase of $5.6 million over the executive proposal;
$2.5 million set aside within employment preparation education for students with high school diplomas still needing basic skills;
$2 million for teacher salary enhancements for those who teach preschool and school-age students with special needs;
$1.5 million for workforce education for a total of $13 million within employment-preparation education;
$1.38 million to Math and Science High Schools; and
$1 million for workplace literacy to improve literacy and worker skill levels.
The budget makes critical investments in housing, providing $3 million to the New York City Housing Authority for operating costs and $74 million for the Homeless Prevention Program to help provide eviction-prevention services to families in the city. In addition, the federal stimulus provides $504 million to the state for the Public Housing Capital Fund to help address housing needs, neighborhood stabilization and homeless prevention.
At a time when we are seeing mounting job losses and rising homelessness, programs that help keep people in their homes are essential.
Extending a helping hand
The budget will also raise – beginning in July – the non-shelter portion of the public assistance grant 10 percent each year for the next three years, providing much-needed help to New York’s most vulnerable families. The grant will result in a $96-per-month increase in the basic allowance when fully implemented in January 2012. The basic grant of $291 per month for a family of three has not been raised since 1990. The final budget will pick up the local share for this initiative for the next three years, which will save the city $3.5 million.
Struggling families are depending on a helping hand in this economy and it’s important to make sure the neediest families have the resources they need to get by.
New York has been hit especially hard by the economic downturn, a fact reflected in the growing number of unemployment claims. The budget directs federal stimulus funds to aid unemployed workers by:
increasing benefits by $25 per week;
continuing through Dec. 31, 2009, the extended unemployment benefits program, which grants
eligible applicants a total of 59 weeks of benefits; and
paying 65 percent of COBRA premiums for nine months for eligible workers.
The final budget preserves $24 million in funding for the Youth Services Block Grant (YSBG), which will support programs such as Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention (YDDP), Special Delinquency Prevention Program (SDPP), the Runaway Homeless and Youth Act (RHYA), as well as alternatives to detention and alternatives to residential placement programs.
Continuing Medicaid and Family Health Plus relief
The final budget continues the Assembly’s effort to reduce the Medicaid burden on New York City taxpayers who will see a savings of $137.6 million. The budget also continues the Assembly’s longstanding commitment to cover the total cost of the state’s Family Health Plus program. As a result, New York City will realize an additional $315 million in savings.
Rejecting pesky fee increases
The final budget for 2009-10 rejects the executive proposal to remove sales tax exemptions for cable television, satellite television and radio, store coupons, digital products, motor fuel costing more than $2 per gallon, and entertainment-related consumer spending, saving New York City residents an estimated $190.5 million. Other rejections include proposed taxes on:
flavored malt beverages;
non-diet soft drinks;
haircuts, nail salon visits and other personal services items; and
a 4 percent sales tax increase on clothing and footwear under $110.
The final budget also:
rejects new fees, ranging from $5 to $40, for processing or obtaining birth, death and marriage certificates from the city Clerk’s Office or the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and
rejects a fee increase from $10 to $50 that the city could have imposed on owners participating in the rent-stabilization program.
We can’t start tacking on pesky new taxes and fees that will nickel-and-dime people who are already struggling.
Helping New York City meet its financial challenges
The final budget accepts the executive’s appropriation of $170 million to help retire New York City’s debt by paying for the prior refinancing of the Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC) bonds. These funds are paid through the Local Governments Assistance Corporation.
Protecting jobs in a key industry
The budget also expands the Film Tax Credit for television programs and movies produced in New York City by $350 million.
Film and television production have become big business in New York, employing thousands of New Yorkers directly and indirectly in the companies that provide support services. This tax credit will help ensure that New York stays competitive, maintaining our preeminent place in the industry and keeping those jobs here.
Now more than ever, New York City needs help balancing its budget. Bolstering aid for local programs creates a stronger, healthier New York, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure agencies and organizations in the city are able to continue operating the many programs and services that are invaluable to preserving our safety and quality of life.
Tuition Assistance and Opportunity Programs
The budget rejects the $49.9 million cut to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a program that provides eligible New York residents annual grants of up to $5,000 based on income that students do not have to pay back. The cut would have based TAP awards on the number of credits a student takes, reducing TAP grants for full-time students who take less than 15 credit hours. The spending plan also adds the following restorations to TAP:
$31 million to reject the reduction of TAP awards relative to the amount of credits taken;
$6.5 million to reject stringent academic eligibility standards;
$5.7 million to provide award enhancements for families with multiple children in college;
a $3.7 million restoration for awards to students in default of federal student loans not guaranteed by the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC); and
$3 million to provide awards to graduate students.
In addition, the budget restores $3.6 million for the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), and maintains funding for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program. Through counseling, tutoring, financial assistance and drop-out prevention, these programs are dedicated to not only encouraging enrollment in college, but also for helping ensure success. Also included in the spending plan is $50 million for the New York Higher Education Loan Program (NYHELP), which gives resident students and their families access to higher education loans with lower interest rates than those currently from private lenders.
Despite a difficult recession, the 2009-2010 state budget includes a significant investment to help New York’s neediest families.
Now, more than ever, our struggling families are depending on a helping hand and in this economy we can’t pull the rug out from under them. We need to ensure the neediest families have the resources they need to get by.
The budget restores $84.1 million for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), rejecting the executive’s proposal to reduce state payouts by between $16 and $28 per month. This is a vital monthly cash payment to people in need. SSI is for low-income people who are 65 or older, as well as for blind or disabled people of any age, including children.
The budget also restores $4.4 million for the Personal Needs Allowance for those residing in Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse chemical dependence treatment facilities, rejecting the executive’s proposal to cut aid from $150 to $45 per month. The budget also restores $1.3 million for the HIV Welfare to Work Program and $4.3 million for Single Room Occupancy to avoid homelessness.
In addition, the budget restores $2.2 million in funding for the Displaced Homemaker Program. Combined with a $5.6 million Temporary Aid to Needy Families appropriation, the Displaced Homemakers Program is funded at $7.8 million – $2.5 million above the current year.
Vital funding to benefit children
The budget also restores $403.9 million over the executive budget to the Child Care Block Grant. There is also $97 million in federal stimulus dollars for child care over two years, which will provide another $48.4 million for child care in the 2009-2010 budget. To keep children safe, the spending plan continues to allow child care providers to check the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment at no cost by rejecting the executive’s proposal to increase the fee to $25. And the final budget rejects the executive’s proposal to eliminate state funding for Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS), restoring $29 million to an initiative that preserves family stability and prevents troubled youths from sliding into the foster care or juvenile justice system.
The budget restores a $1 million cut – and adds an additional $2 million – to the Kinship/Caretaker program, which provides access to supportive services for relative caregivers of children. It also restores $6.39 million – and adds an additional $5 million – for Advantage After School, an after-school child care program for low-income children that reduces violence, crime, and substance abuse among school-age children. The programs provide parents with the knowledge their kids are in a safe after-school environment.
The budget authorizes the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to obtain information from the Department of Taxation and Finance’s wage reporting system in order to determine the eligibility of foster children for federal IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funding. The budget also extends Child Welfare Financing for three years.
Keeping kids off the streets and putting them in a loving home and safe environment will give them the best possible head start for a productive life.
Aid for important programs
Under the final budget, $30.5 million of federal TANF funds is appropriated to restore or expand important programs including, but not limited to:
Technology Training (ATTAIN)
Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) and Local Interagency VESID Employment Services (LIVES)
ACCESS – Welfare to Careers
Help for needy families
To help New York’s neediest, the non-shelter portion of the public assistance grant will increase by 10 percent per year over the next three years, beginning July 1, 2009. This marks the grant’s first increase in nearly two decades. From July 1, 2009, through March 31, 2012, the state will reimburse social services districts for additional expenditures associated with the public assistance grant increase.
The budget restores $921,000 to the Nutrition Education and Outreach Program, which enrolls people in Food Stamps, Summer Food and School Breakfast programs. In addition, New York received an added $407 million in TANF contingency funds this year because of increased Food Stamps enrollments.
The budget accepts a savings of $10.9 million to be realized through the closure or downsizing of 11 youth facilities and fully restores $64.7 million in funding for local detention services. The budget also continues to cover local detention costs at 49 percent. The budget restores 90 percent of youth programs funding, while providing additional funds for alternatives to detention and community reinvestment.
The final budget will also extend the Portable Information Technology Demonstration project for one year, giving child protective workers the portable devices they need to increase efficiency in the field and reduce caseload burdens.
These programs are the key to helping those in need get ahead, and we need to ensure that in this devastating economic downturn, low-income New Yorkers have adequate assistance.
Federal stimulus funding
The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide New York State with $25 billion over two years. Part of that funding includes:
$97 million over two years for the Child Care Block Grant;
$107 million over two years for Title IV-E programs, including $52 million for foster care and $55 million for adoption;
$8 million over two years for the Commission on the Blind and Visually Handicapped, including $4.1 million for Vocational Rehabilitation, $137,101 for Independent Living, and $2.3 million for Older Blind; and
$6 million for National Community Service. Funds will be distributed through a national competitive bid process.
It’s even more important now, in this crippling recession, that we make sure hardworking families don’t slip through the cracks. Many of these programs are a safety net for families and were among the Assembly’s priorities to restore. The Assembly is pleased the federal stimulus and TANF contingency funds were used to save these vital programs that will help ensure needy families have basic necessities.
EPIC and Medicare Part D coverage
The budget restores $49.9 million to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program – which is designed to lower prescription drug costs for seniors with fixed incomes – and $2.8 million to the Medicaid program to restore “wrap around” coverage for drugs denied by Medicare Part D.
We need to ensure all seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs because without access to their prescriptions, many seniors will needlessly end up in the hospital or emergency room.
In addition to these EPIC and Medicaid restorations, the budget rejects $30.5 million in additional reductions to pharmacy benefits and programs, and accepts the following proposals:
Changes to the Supplemental Rebate Program and the Drug Utilization Review Program to ensure patient protections by providing the same “physician prevails” protections that currently apply to the Preferred Drug Program;
Coverage for brand name drugs when they are less costly than generics; and
Requirement that EPIC enrollees join a Medicare savings plan if they are eligible and provide EPIC reimbursement for mail order pharmacies.
District Office: 98-09 Northern Blvd., Corona, NY 11368 • 718-457-3615, FAX: 718-457-3640
Albany Office: Room 526, LOB , Albany, NY 12248 • 518-455-4561, FAX: 518-455-4565