Assemblyman Thiele Helps Pass Assembly Budget Proposal That Increases Education Funding, Provides Mandate Relief And Creates Jobs

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced the Assembly passed a 2013-14 State budget proposal that would increase education funding, spur job growth, provide mandate relief for local governments and protect vital programs that help New York’s most vulnerable citizens, while closing a $1.35 billion budget gap (E.182). The Assembly budget proposal also establishes a significant reserve to help protect against future budget shortfalls.

“I helped craft a sound and fiscally responsible budget that is consistent with the Governor’s proposal and makes key investments in the types of programs and services hardworking East End families rely on,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Over the past three years, we’ve had unprecedented spending control and fair, on-time budgets. Now, we must focus on passing a final state budget that keeps New York moving forward.”

Investing in education

The Assembly budget proposal includes an increase of $834 million in school aid above last year and an increase of $334 million above the executive budget proposal.

“The Assembly provides schools the resources they need to ensure our students receive the best education possible, while reinforcing the Assembly Majority’s strong commitment to education,” Thiele said.

The proposal also maintains the current formula for expense based aids, which provides an additional $228 million in the 2013-14 school year – bringing the total amount of state aid to $21.1 billion.

Protecting New York’s higher education opportunities

To bolster New York’s higher education system, the Assembly budget proposal increases support to $2,422 per-Full Time Equivalent (FTE) student at SUNY community colleges. The Assembly’s base aid increase is $150 per-FTE student, which would be the second consecutive increase in community college base aid.

“The Assembly has once again made a strong commitment to increasing aid for community colleges, helping keep the dream of a college education in reach for more working families,” Thiele said.

Creating New York’s DREAM Act

The Assembly budget proposal provides $25 million for the creation of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This would, for the first time ever, allow immigrant students to apply for several state tuition-assistance programs to help them pay for their higher education.

Assemblyman Thiele said, “Immigration status is a barrier that has held highly motivated immigrant students back from growing, learning and achieving their dreams for too long. The DREAM Act takes monumental steps forward in making sure all students in New York State can obtain a higher education. “It gives every immigrant child in our state the opportunity to have a bright and successful future.”

Since 2002, undocumented immigrants have been allowed to pay in-state tuition at state and city universities. The DREAM Act goes a step further by increasing access for undocumented youth to a broad range of state educational assistance programs.

Continues support for NYSUNY 2020

The Assembly budget proposal also includes $55 million in capital funding for a third round of NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grants.

“New York has one of the finest higher education systems in the nation,” Thiele said. “It’s vital that we continue to grow and improve infrastructure on our SUNY campuses so our students have quality places to learn.”

Providing mandate relief to local governments

“The Assembly Majority understands how important mandate relief is for local governments, which is why our budget proposal makes such a bold commitment to dealing with it,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “There’s much more work to do on this issue, but it will continue to be a top priority.”

The Assembly budget includes an 11.2 percent increase in municipal assistance for cities, towns and villages– the first increase in 5 years. At the Assemblyman’s request, this year’s budget includes funding for the Villages of Sagaponack and Mastic Beach for the first time. The Assembly proposal maintains this new funding level for a total impact of $660 million to help our struggling local governments provide the essential services residents depend on.

“By increasing aid payments for local governments struggling to get by, we can help them balance their budgets and lessen the burden on local property taxpayers,” Thiele said. “Since our proposal is a multi-year plan, it will help municipalities plan accordingly in future years.”

Further assisting counties, the Assembly provides $120 million over two years to accelerate the state takeover of local Medicaid growth. Under the Assembly proposal, 2013-14 growth in the local share of Medicaid would decrease to 1 percent, instead of the 2 percent increase under current law. In 2014-15, growth in the local share of Medicaid would be eliminated.

“Our local governments are drowning in unfunded mandates,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Providing more funding to the SUNY system gives counties added relief from the costs of operating our community colleges.”

The Assembly budget proposal also includes a “pension smoothing” measure to provide further fiscal relief to local municipalities. Under the plan, municipalities would be allowed to make fixed pension payments for 25 years. The payments would be set lower than current rates.

“The economic crash we experienced in 2008 really hurt the ability of public pensions to invest, and as a result, costs for local governments skyrocketed,” Thiele said. “The Assembly’s plan would give municipalities cost certainty with their pension payments and allow them to better control their budgets.”

To help local governments repair local roads and bridges, the Assembly funds the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) at $378.1 million, an increase of $15 million.

New jobs initiatives

The Assembly budget proposal provides $100 million for a new jobs initiative. Funding would go toward reconstruction of communities, advanced manufacturing and certification assistance, and education and job training for science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“We must invest in a well-educated workforce to position New York as a leader in high-tech industries,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “The Assembly budget prepares more New Yorkers for quality jobs powered by industries pioneering new technology right in our own backyard.”

In addition, the Assembly budget proposal creates CAPCO 6, a program that authorizes the state to license certified capital companies to raise $150 million in private venture capital from insurance companies. That money would then be used to invest in qualified businesses in exchange for tax credits of equal amounts.

Helping businesses reduce costs, protecting workers

The Assembly budget proposal includes Unemployment Insurance (UI) reform to make the UI fund solvent. Once fully implemented, employers will save $360.1 million annually. There will be three additional benefits to businesses as well:

  • UI Interest Assessment – businesses will no longer pay interest on the federal UI loan once the fund is solvent;
  • Contribution Schedule – businesses will pay contribution rates that are up to 25 percent lower than they pay now; and
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) Reduction – businesses will see the federal unemployment tax rate cut in half.

The Assembly budget proposal gradually increases the weekly unemployment benefit from $405 per week to 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage by Oct. 1, 2026, and increases the minimum weekly benefit for workers’ compensation claims from $100 to $150. It also restores $350,000 for the New York State Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

Additionally, the Assembly proposal adopts the federal expansion of the Shared Work Program, which would help prevent employees from losing their jobs by providing employers with an alternative to laying off workers, Thiele noted.

“As New York continues to pull itself out of the economic downturn, it’s crucial that we protect workers as much as we can,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Our budget proposal comes through for hardworking families and those looking for work in this down economy.”

Small-business programs

In order to strengthen small-business growth, the Assembly budget proposal includes $12.5 million for the Small Businesses Revolving Loan Fund and $500,000 for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Outreach and Technical Assistance.

The proposal also restores $365,000 in additional support for the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Development and Lending Programs for a total of $1 million.

“Small businesses are the drivers of our economic recovery,” Thiele said. “By giving them the chance to grow, we are able to help them create good-paying jobs and inject life back into our economy.”

Funding for capital projects

In an effort to promote job growth and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, the Assembly budget proposal includes $200 million in new funding for the NY Works program for transportation projects. The Assembly also funds the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) at $378.1 million, an increase of $15 million, and authorizes $39.7 million annually for the Marchiselli Highway Improvement Program. In addition, the Assembly budget proposal provides $31.2 million for capital projects, including $1.25 million for a new Advanced Manufacturing Career Opportunity Revolving Loan Fund. This initiative would assist individuals interested in advanced manufacturing – the use of emerging technologies to improve manufacturing – with low-interest loans to obtain training and certification.

“Investing in infrastructure projects and our core industries like advanced manufacturing creates jobs for our families and helps boost economic growth on the East End,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Our roads and bridges are deteriorating, and we need to rebuild them to protect New Yorkers’ safety. This has to be a top priority.”

Superstorm Sandy relief

The Assembly budget proposal provides $20 billion for Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts, including capital projects to rebuild infrastructure and prepare for future disasters, as well as tax credits. The funding includes:

  • emergency preparedness grants to not-for-profit providers;
  • capital improvements for public housing;
  • grants to small businesses, multiple dwellings and not-for-profit providers for unreimbursed costs;
  • shoreline repair and flood mitigation;
  • restoration of local facilities and attractions; and
  • the promotion of economic redevelopment.

“Superstorm Sandy left parts of our State in complete disarray,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Many hardworking families lost everything and are still struggling to rebuild their lives. These funds are essential to relieve at least some of the financial burden many hardworking New Yorkers are shouldering right now.”

Protecting health care

The Assembly budget proposal rejects the executive’s recommendation to eliminate spousal refusal and restores $34.3 million to Medicaid in support of this program. Additionally, the Assembly rejects the executive budget proposal to modify the Early Intervention (EI) program and restores $420,000 for screening assessments, continuing a lifeline for many families who need these critical testing services for their children, Thiele noted. The Assembly budget proposal also rejects a plan to restructure 89 public-health programs into six competitive-grant pools. Instead, the Assembly fully restores $40 million for those programs and appropriates funding to each specific program.

“Seniors with ailing spouses who are in need of long-term care services should be protected against losing assets that are critical to their own well-being, which is exactly why our budget proposal restores this crucial funding,” Thiele said.

Housing and community renewal programs

“The lack of affordable housing continues to be a major issue for the East End’s hardworking families,” Thiele said. “That’s why the Assembly included crucial funding in its budget for housing and community renewal programs.”

The Assembly budget proposal includes an additional $10 million for various capital programs. Additionally, the Assembly creates a new Community Preservation Program to replace the existing Neighborhood and Rural Preservation programs, restoring $2.2 million to match the funding in the 2012-13 budget.

Expanding the Bottle Bill

In an effort to protect the environment and increase funding to the Environmental Protection Fund, the Assembly budget proposal would allow the beverage containers of sports drinks, energy drinks, some fruit drinks and teas to be included under the Bottle Bill, Thiele noted.

“Our State has had great success in cutting waste, reducing unsightly litter and increasing recycling efforts because of the Bottle Bill – but it’s time to expand it and make it even more successful,” Thiele said. “This measure helps protect our environment for generations to come, while also providing crucial money to the Environmental Protection Fund.”

The Assembly budget proposal would distribute the proceeds from the expanded Bottle Bill as follows:

  • non-agricultural, non-point source pollution abatement: $1.5 million;
  • zoos, botanical gardens and aquaria: $1 million;
  • land acquisition (downstate projects): $1 million;
  • municipal parks: $500,000;
  • recycling projects: $500,000; and
  • invasive species control: $500,000.

Strengthening the criminal justice system

The Assembly budget proposal rejects the consolidation of $16.6 million in various Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs, and maintains current funding for these programs, including restoring $1.2 million in supplemental ATI funding.

Additionally, the Assembly budget proposal restores $2.65 million in civil and criminal legal services grants; $800,000 to Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG); and $609,000 for domestic violence-related civil and criminal legal-services support. It also provides an additional $300,000 for the Office of Indigent Legal Services so that it can continue its critical mission in supporting statewide indigent defense services. Further, the Assembly restores $1 million to the New York State Defenders Association and $450,000 for immigrant legal services.

“The Assembly budget proposal ensures that our criminal justice system is among the strongest in the nation,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “It helps level the playing field for all New Yorkers.”

Restoring cuts for mental health and developmental disabilities services

The Assembly budget proposal restores $120 million to not-for-profit organizations that work with individuals with developmental disabilities. The Assembly also provides an additional $20 million to maintain state-operated mental health services.

“Many of these organizations provide around-the-clock care to individuals who reside in group homes or apartments, including home-cooked meals,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “The Assembly’s funding restoration will allow individuals with developmental disabilities to live productive and happy lives.”

Preserving vital family and disability services and programs

The Assembly budget proposal restores funding to protect vital family and disability programs in an effort to aid New York’s most vulnerable individuals. The proposal includes an additional $28.7 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) aid for programs that were eliminated in the executive budget proposal.

“With so many families continuing to struggle during these tough economic times, we must do everything we can to make sure New York State has programs in place to help people get back on their feet,” Thiele said.

Funding for agricultural programs

“Farming is the backbone of New York State’s economy,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “I fought to ensure the Assembly puts a high priority on helping our East End family farms survive and flourish.”

Specifically, the Assembly budget proposal restores over $1 million to the following programs:

  • Farm Viability Institute: $821,000 (for a total of $1.22 million);
  • Farm Net: $100,000 (for a total of $484,000);
  • Maple Producers Association: $100,000;
  • Tractor Rollover Protection Program: $100,000; and
  • Cornell University Rabies Diagnostic Lab: $100,000 (for a total of $150,000).

The Assembly also added $750,000 for Agricultural Industry Competitiveness Assistance. Additionally, in light of a poor growing season in 2012, the Assembly budget proposal increases funding for the Apple Association by $100,000, for a total of $306,000, allowing New York State apple growers to regain their position in the national market.