Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) announced that the Assemblys one-house budget proposal eliminates the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), includes funding for the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership, invests in agriculture, strengthens infrastructure, and funds economic development initiatives across the state (E.1047).
While there are many provisions in this budget that build on our progress and help keep moving our state forward particularly the complete restoration of the GEA we need to continue working to improve the economic and business climate for our farmers and small business owners, Assemblywoman Woerner said. I look forward to working with my colleagues over the next several weeks to craft a final state budget that benefits our entire region.
Supporting education and eliminating GEA this year
Specifically, the Assemblys budget proposal commits $25.4 billion to education, an increase of $2.13 billion over last year. Included in the funding is $1.1 billion toward Foundation Aid and a measure that Assemblywoman Woerner championed to stop the devastating underfunding of schools by repealing the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) this year.
The GEA has robbed children of extracurricular activities, led to more students per classroom, and created a further burden for property taxpayers, Woerner said. Last year, I introduced legislation to repeal the GEA and hundreds of residents across Saratoga and Washington counties joined in the effort by signing my petition to fully fund our schools. Our voices have been heard.
Based on the governors proposed budget, local schools would be short more than $4.3 million in promised state aid due to the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The Assemblys proposal includes a final installment of $434 million statewide to complete the GEA restoration.
Investing in higher education and freezing SUNY tuition
In an effort to keep a college education affordable and within reach, the proposed budget invests $1.7 billion in higher education, raises the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award by $100 to $5,265 per student, and rejects SUNY tuition increases. Instead, the spending plan provides a two-year tuition freeze for SUNY students.
Student loan debt has become a crushing reality for too many New Yorkers. Graduates leaving college and entering the workforce carry the heavy burden of $35,000 in debt, on average, Woerner said. A college degree should not be a luxury. In the coming weeks, I will continue working to ensure the final budget rejects tuition hikes and keeps SUNY an affordable option for our working- and middle-class families.
Additionally, the budget provides the states 50 percent match for community college projects across the state, including at Adirondack Community College, which would receive $2.65 million in funding.
Bolstering the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership
The Assemblys spending plan provides $250,000 to support the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership, an organization that works to preserve the natural and historic resources of the region and is comprised of various municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in Saratoga, Washington, and Rensselaer Counties.
In order to effectively promote and preserve our regions storied heritage, my legislation allowing the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership to build a new visitor center in Schuylerville was signed into law last year, Woerner said. I have been a staunch advocate to secure the money they need to help support the new visitor center and ensure tourists and residents can learn more about our fascinating historical landmarks and proud traditions.
The Assemblys budget plan reduces taxes for farmers, extends the beer production credit to include all alcoholic beverages, extends the sales tax exemption for items used at alcoholic beverage tastings, and allows a Thruway toll credit for farmers.
The 1,446 farms that I represent are an important part of the fabric of our community, putting nourishing food on our tables while strengthening the local economy, said Woerner, who serves as chair of the Assemblys Subcommittee on Agricultural Production and Technology and is a member of the Committee on Agriculture. Investing in agriculture benefits the entire region and helps ensure our farmers can continue the long-standing tradition of producing quality, homegrown foods and beverages for years to come.
The Assemblys budget plan provides $3.44 million to support programs that are vital to New Yorks farmers, including:
- Farm Viability Institute: $1,100,000;
- Core Diagnostic Lab: $500,000;
- Farm Net: $416,000;
- Farm-to-School: $300,000;
- New York State Apple Growers Association: $272,000;
- Cornell Pro-Dairy: $224,000;
- Cornell University Rabies Program: $200,000;
- Tractor Rollover Protection Program: $125,000;
- Cornell University Future Farmers of America: $100,000;
- Local Fairs: $80,000;
- Maple Producers Association: $75,000; and
- Cornell University Maple Research: $50,000.
Additionally, the proposal provides $5 million in funding for county fair capital improvements. Fairgrounds across the state are facing the challenge of an aging infrastructure and many are in desperate need of upgrades to outdated facilities.
Not only do the Saratoga and Washington county fairs provide entertainment, offering everything from horse shows to concerts for the whole family, the fairgrounds serve as a hub for teaching young people and adults about agriculture, rural life, and the locally-sourced products that come from their own backyard, Woerner said. This funding will enable county fairs to modernize their facilities, expand accessibility, and help ensure the fairgrounds are up to code and safe for patrons to enjoy each summer.
The Assemblys budget proposal includes $250 million over four years for upstate transit systems and increases Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) funding by $50 million for the next four years, bringing the annual CHIPs total to $488 million. The plan also provides an additional $50 million for local water and sewer infrastructure grants, bringing the total amount up to $300 million over two years.
We have seen the devastating effects that an aging infrastructure can have on local communities and our neighbors, Woerner said. This additional funding will put more boots on the ground, make much-needed repairs to roadways and bridges, and protect our water and the long-term health of our families without burdening taxpayers to cover the costs.
Investing in small businesses
New Yorks small businesses generate more than $950 billion in annual revenues and support nearly 3.9 million jobs.1 In an effort to reduce the cost of doing business in New York, the Assemblys budget reduces the corporate tax rate for small businesses and increase the small business deduction for personal income taxpayers. Locally, 54,518 small businesses in the Capital Region would benefit from the proposal.2
From coffee shops to high-tech startups, small businesses are the backbone of our economy, said Woerner. We need to continue investing in and supporting our small businesses to spur job creation and keep our economic engine running.
Combatting the heroin epidemic
Upstate New York has been no stranger to heroin addiction, which has spread and wreaked havoc not only in cities, but in suburban and rural communities as well, Woerner noted. Just last year, state and local law enforcement busted a drug ring for trafficking heroin throughout the Capital Region, including in Saratoga and Washington counties.3 The Assemblys budget plan includes $30 million in funding to expand heroin and opiate abuse treatment and support programs.
The heroin epidemic has ravaged local communities, leaving in its wake devastated families and loved ones who have been gripped by addiction, Woerner said. Addiction does not discriminate and could at any time strike those in our neighborhoods or even our own homes. We must do more to help those who are struggling and support those on the road to recovery.
Since 2010, the number of heroin-related fatalities has nearly tripled nationally, underlining the importance of effective and readily available treatment options. From 2004 to 2013, the number of people seeking treatment upstate increased by 222 percent, with those aged 18 to 25 being the most at-risk demographic for heroin addiction.4
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