After quite a delay, we finally finished the budget on Tuesday, May 2nd and brought in some great wins for the 135th District!
In Public Education, for the first time ever, we are fully funding Foundation Aid to our schools! Foundation Aid is the formula the state uses to determine how much state aid each district should receive and it has never been fully funded since its inception in 2008, so this is a very big deal.Every school district in the 135th will see a substantial increase in funding for Foundation Aid and Total Aid. They will also see more than double the funding previously provided for Universal Pre-K programs and an opportunity to access grants to receive higher reimbursement rates. This is an amazing opportunity for districts without UPK programs to create the foundation to start one.
In Higher Education and Adult Education, we fought off a tuition increase for in-district SUNY students by increasing both operating and construction aid to the system. We increased funding for Adult Literacy Programs and our libraries will receive increased operating aid and more support for summer reading programs!
While we did increase Medicaid rates to our hospitals and nursing homes for the first time in over a decade to 7.5% each (pending federal approval), that is not enough to close the gap, especially for our nursing homes. An additional $100 million line of funding will be made available for nursing homes in financial crisis and I am working to ensure we can get that money out quickly.While this should be a celebration of a huge and much needed increase, the reality of the need in this sector overshadows that victory.
Similarly, while we did get 4% cost of living adjustments (COLA) for every direct service provider in the state, in every agency from Aging to Mental Health to Disability Services, that too is not enough to cover the gap nor does it help deal with the workforce shortage. Coupled with the total lack of increase in early intervention funding, I feel this was a missed opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our most vulnerable residents. We will not give up and will bring this fight even harder next year.
Hopefully, the COLA coupled with the $1 increase in minimum wage next year will provide a much-deserved raise to those doing the hardest work, even if it falls a bit short. Minimum wage will be increased incrementally to $17 for NYC and $16 for the rest of state by 2027, and at that point it will be indexed to inflation moving forward.
We passed versions of the Build Public Renewables and All Electric bills in the budget. We will allow NYPA to build new green energy projects to help us reach our climate goals and support the increased load on our electrical grid as we move towards more electric cars and buildings. We also rolled out a prohibition on new gas lines in new buildings starting in 2025. There has been a lot of misinformation about this so I'm going to take a moment to clear a few things up:
The All Electric provision in the budget does not ban gas appliances-- not now, not ever.It limits the installation of new gas lines in brand new buildings, with exceptions for hospitals, commercial kitchens and critical infrastructure. It also carves out an exception for areas that can't yet handle the load on their electrical grid. With this provision, even after it goes into effect in 2025, you can still buy new gas appliances in New York State. You can still use your existing gas line in your existing home, forever. You can replace that gas line and any gas appliances. You can renovate your home from roof to basement, install new gas lines and new gas appliances. The only thing you can't do is put a brand new gas line in a brand new building.
We got a few great things in this budget, including a new tax credit for families with children aged 0-4! And we fought off a few changes that don't make sense for our district, like an override of local zoning control. But, we also left a fair amount on the table. There is still a lot of work to do and only five more weeks to get it done.
So, let's get back to work!