Reports to the
The final 2008-09 budget agreement offers significant savings initiatives while also continuing our commitment to education, economic development and health care for children.
The final budget reflected an increase in total spending for schools statewide of $1.75 billion over 2007. This record increase brings the education budget to an unprecedented $21 billion for 2008-09. New York City public schools will receive $622 million more than they did in 2007, with a total of $8 billion in total funding for 2008-09.
We have kept the promise to education through a $622 million increase for NYC schools as required by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision. In the face of economic difficulties, this historic level of funding demonstrates our commitment to schools, our children and the future.
The final budget adds $85 million for additional programs and restorations, including adult literacy education, independent living centers and libraries. The aid will also support programs that provide needed services to disabled adults.
The final budget rejects an 18-month lag for New York City building aid, instead seeking to ensure that building aid estimates are more accurate and that aid is issued in a timely manner. A proposal to decrease New York City operating aid by increasing reimbursable aid was also rejected.
The final budget allocation for Universal Pre-K totals $450 million, an increase of $96 million over 2007-08. This expands the number of 4-year-old children attending pre-K from 93,000 up to 121,000, bringing New York even closer to achieving Universal Pre-K.
The final budget provides access to health care for all of New York’s 400,000 uninsured children by fully funding the federal share for the expansion of Child Health Plus eligibility from 250 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The budget also invests $15.6 million in the “Doctors Across New York” program to encourage physicians to practice in rural and poor urban areas of the state that are underserved by health care providers.
The final state budget will provide over $1 billion for economic development initiatives around the state. This includes $350 million for the New York State Capital Assistance Program (NYSCAP), an Assembly program to help develop a strong job creating climate.
We in the Assembly looked at all of our state’s economy to enhance business infrastructure in all sectors, from small businesses, to manufacturing, to high tech industries, both up and down state. This budget will ensure a continued investment in our state, communities and residents.
The final budget contains $15.5 billion in operating assistance and capital to public universities across the state. The funding will support additional tuition assistance, research facilities, revitalization and essential programs to our university systems. LaGuardia Community College received substantial state funds.
Stays Focused On The Issues
Local Groups Visit Albany
Each year it is always a pleasure to see people from Queens in our Albany office advocating on behalf of their fellow citizens. I rely on my constituents to inform me about how they are affected by state policies and I commend their efforts!
Listening to the Best Education Advocates – Parents
As Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Education, I recognize the impact of the state budget and policy on education. I met with parents, as well as Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, who were in Albany to attend the New York City Department of Education Lobby Day. The group shared important information with me about the needs of parents and students in the district.
|News from the District|
Congestion Pricing Update
After carefully considering all aspects of the congestion pricing bill, I decided I could not support the legislation. My vote reflects the consensus among legislators and constituents that while well-intentioned, the proposal had some serious flaws.
The plan did not require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which would collect baseline data on current traffic congestion and air pollution. While the borough of Queens has higher rates of asthma, there was nothing in the plan to address traffic displacement issues. I do not support residential parking, additional fees or permits, all of which could make our neighborhoods “parking garages” for Manhattan-bound drivers.
A massive, experimental project of this kind should only be done as a pilot project. The legislature suggested a three-year sunset so that the plan and its implementation could be reviewed but the idea was rejected by Mayor Bloomberg. It would have been unacceptable for Mayor Bloomberg to have complete control over the plan, with the power to change the pricing zone and increase fees at his discretion without oversight by either the State Legislature or the City Council.
The bill’s defeat means that for the time being we must return to the drawing board. The solution may be found in improving mass transit through an increase in federal, state and local funding, and providing positive incentives for people to use it. I fully support increases in funding for mass transit and my record reflects that I am open to the ideas put forth in the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030. Any future congestion pricing proposal must address these concerns if it is to meet success.
Protecting Our Senior Citizen Centers
I have joined colleagues from throughout the five boroughs in support of legislation (A.10470) which would call for an independent review of Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to consolidate senior services. The measure also requires the submission and approval of a comprehensive plan outlining the impact of the consolidation proposal.
It is our hope that the bill will compel Mayor Bloomberg to listen to the concerns of citizens and legislators. The consolidation process has moved forward at a rapid pace and we need to put safeguards in place so that mistakes are not made. The New York City Department for the Aging consolidation efforts to date have not considered the human element involved in the success of senior services such as case management, home delivered meals, and the day-to-day operations of our senior centers.
I will continue to protect our local senior centers, which bring so much to the lives of the people they serve. We cannot compare a warm meal and a friendly face to the weekly delivery of frozen dinners. Nor can we measure the true social benefit of our senior centers. We need the Department for the Aging to focus on improving the lives of seniors rather than the bottom line.
Hunters Point Infrastructure Challenges
Western Queens faces difficult challenges as a result of fast-paced development and lack of support to improve area infrastructure. I continue to work to help actualize Queens West as the dynamic, livable community we all envisioned. This means that PS 78 should be expanded to a k-8 school and a new middle school and high school should be built in Queens West. A police precinct house, improved fire protection and bus service, a library, a subway upgrade and the assurance that St. Mary’s Senior Center remains open are also necessary components of responsible planning. I continue to work toward making this goal a reality.
Improved Public Outreach for Toxic Sites in Queens
During the past year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued numerous fact sheets regarding the investigation and clean-up of toxic sites in Queens. What is being done to remove toxic waste, how long it will take to accomplish and what progress has been made are provided on DEC fact sheets. I have urged DEC to create a comprehensive list of all sites in Queens where a problem or potential problem exists, and to publicize this information.
Sub-Prime Lending Crisis
In an effort to help alleviate homeowners who are struggling to pay skyrocketing interest rates, I joined with my colleagues in the Assembly to pass legislation that will provide millions in direct financial relief and counseling services for homeowners. The legislation will also help prevent ruthless lending practices.
Sunshine Week Bills
Assemblywoman Nolan helped pass a series of bills to increase government transparency and ensure compliance with Freedom of Information Laws. The legislative package of bills was introduced to coincide with the third annual Sunshine Week, March 17-23, and included (A.3403) aimed at improving Freedom of Information access to the public; (A.4053) requiring notice of place and time of public meetings on the web sites of municipalities; (A.5809) preventing state agencies from claiming copyright protection for public information; (A.1033) awarding costs and reasonable attorney fees to those who successfully challenge an open meetings law violation; (A.1111) allowing any meeting of a public body to be recorded, broadcast and photographed; and (A.1975) requiring subject-matter lists of records maintained by state agencies also be posted online.
News from the New York State Assembly
Standing Committee on Education
In my role as Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Education, I have been at the forefront of an investigation into why some schools in New York State are not complying with state law requiring physical education instruction. We held a hearing in where expert witnesses from the New York City Department of Education, New York State Department of Education, principals, teachers, parents and education advocates gathered to share information and experiences.
The hearing allowed us to understand the challenges faced by those in the trenches of our public schools. The Education Committee passed a resolution urging the New York State Department of Education to begin review of the level of compliance for physical education instruction.
As we initiate positive change toward physical education compliance we will improve not only the physical health but mental outlook and academic performance for students.
Assemblywoman Nolan Helps Re-Elect
Dr. Geraldine Chapey to the Board of Regents
I was pleased to congratulate Regent Geraldine Chapey on her re-election to the Board of Regents. Regent Chapey has dedicated her life to education through her work as a full academic professor at a university, as a board of education member and president, educational researcher and published writer. She possesses an energy and enthusiasm that few could match and I am thrilled to see her return to this position to represent Queens.Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan with Regent Chapey and her daughter and son-in-law, as well as New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Higher Education Committee Chair Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, and other members of the New York State Assembly.
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