Assemblywoman Walker: Assembly Budget Proposal Builds a Better New York

Continues Assembly’s Families First agenda

Assemblywoman Walker (D-55) announced that she helped pass the Assembly’s 2018-19 state budget proposal, which invests in vital programs and services that help hardworking families and move New York forward (E.912). The $170.2 billion spending plan is $6.5 billion more than the 2017-18 budget and $1.3 billion more than the 2018-19 executive budget proposal.

“Opportunity, equality and justice. Those are our guiding principles, and the Assembly’s budget proposal ensures we stick to them,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “We’re undoubtedly facing some tough decisions for this year’s budget, but that doesn’t mean we can turn our backs on our responsibilities to the people of this state. We’re looking out for all New Yorkers and making this state stronger by pushing for better public schools, safer and more affordable housing, a fairer criminal justice system and a stronger democracy.”

More School Aid to Help Students Learn

The Assembly increases funding for public schools by $1.5 billion over last year and brings more higher education opportunities to more New Yorkers.

“From the first time our kids pass through the doors of their school, we’re sending them on a path of endless possibility,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “We tell them to study and work hard so that the world is at their feet. It’s our job to make sure that dream is in reach for every student in New York.”

The Assembly’s plan provides a total of $27.1 billion in education funding. That’s an increase of $1.5 billion – or 5.9 percent – over the previous year. Foundation Aid would be increased by $1.2 billion for the 2018-19 school year for a total of $18.4 billion, bringing all schools to at least 50 percent of their total Foundation Aid. The budget proposal also includes a multi-year phase-in of Foundation Aid, ensuring that all school districts would receive their full Foundation Aid by the 2021-22 school year.

Continuing support for My Brother’s Keeper

Two years ago, thanks to the Assembly’s leadership, New York became the first state in the nation to fund President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The program focuses on family and community engagement, professional development, the expansion and development of exemplary school practices and models and addresses issues related to restorative justice and racial disparities in education. This year, the Assembly has allocated $18 million in ongoing funding for My Brother’s Keeper programs, as well as $800,000 for the Office of Family and Community Engagement at the State Education Department.

Making higher education more affordable and accessible

In order to address issues of college affordability and accessibility, the Assembly budget proposal continues the Higher Education Road to Success Initiative by making a $16 billion investment to promote college affordability in New York State.

The Assembly also continues the Excelsior Scholarship, which makes SUNY and CUNY schools tuition-free for New Yorkers who earn less than $110,000 this year ($125,000 when fully phased in). Students who attend a private college in New York and earn less than $110,000 this year ($125,000 when fully phased in) would also be eligible for a scholarship award of $6,000. Additionally, the Assembly plan expands eligibility for Enhanced Tuition Awards to students attending proprietary colleges.

The plan restores $24.6 million in aid to private colleges, known as Bundy Aid, and builds on the successful Foster Youth College Success Initiative started in 2015 by providing $6 million to support foster students on their path to higher education. Other measures include a new $25 million Martin Luther King, Jr. non-tuition scholarship to help close the affordability gap for even more families across the state.

“For far too many working- and middle-class families, a college education is simply out of reach,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “The Assembly is committed to addressing this affordability crisis by increasing funding for a host of opportunity programs and our public colleges and universities. Every New Yorker who wants to earn a college degree should be able to do so.”

Expanding Opportunity Programs and Tuition Assistance

The Assembly budget restores all college opportunity programs and increases their funding by $23.8 million – or 20 percent. The proposal allocates:

  • $41.4 million for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), a $5.9 million increase;
  • $37.5 million for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a $5.4 million increase;
  • $32.8 million for Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK), a $4.7 million increase;
  • $21.4 million for Liberty Partnerships, a $3.1 million increase;
  • $18.4 million for the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), a $2.6 million increase;
  • $13.9 million for the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP), a $2 million increase; and
  • $1.6 million for College Discovery, a $225,000 increase.

“By increasing funding for opportunity programs, we’re helping academically and financially disadvantaged students earn a degree to help them improve their earning potential and secure better-paying jobs,” said Assemblywoman Walker.

The budget also allows the SUNY Board of Trustees to grant in-state tuition to victims of natural disasters. This will help those affected by a devastating hurricane season in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico access an affordable, high-quality education as they continue to rebuild their communities, noted Assemblywoman Walker.

Strengthening public and community colleges

The Assembly budget proposal also increases funding for SUNY and CUNY schools, as well as community colleges across the state. The budget would:

  • restore $200 million in critical maintenance funding for SUNY, as well as provide $100 million each to SUNY and CUNY for expansion projects;
  • allocate $12.1 million to SUNY, and $6.3 million to CUNY, for community college base aid, bringing the total rate to $2,847 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student;
  • restore $1.1 million to SUNY, and $902,000 for CUNY, to Child Care Centers;
  • restore $2.5 million in funding for the CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP);
  • restore $5 million in funding for Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs), for a total of $60.04 million, and provide $30 million in capital funding;
  • restore $2 million to Advanced Technology Training Information Networking (ATTAIN) labs for a total of $6.5 million; and
  • restore $78.6 million in operating support for SUNY hospitals.

“Supporting SUNY and CUNY schools is absolutely vital if we want to keep our commitment to affordable higher education,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “Our budget proposal ensures families have access to a top-notch higher education without saddling themselves with exorbitant debt. This is an investment in our future that will enable our state’s economy to grow and thrive.”

Keeping the DREAM alive

Included in the Assembly budget proposal is the New York State Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which expands access to higher education for the children of immigrants.

“Children should not be punished because their parents brought them here in search of a better life, making sacrifices and experiencing hardships many of us couldn’t even imagine,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “Let me be clear, these are children who know no other home and we are proud to have them here. We will not turn our backs on them. We will not push them into the shadows. To all ‘Dreamers’: You are New Yorkers, you are valued and you are worthy.”

Sweeping criminal justice reforms to increase fairness

The Assembly’s state budget proposal contains comprehensive reforms to New York’s criminal justice system to help ensure all who encounter it are treated fairly and equally. These measures build on last year’s Raise the Age law by reforming the cash bail system and solitary confinement policies and ensuring speedy trials, Assemblywoman Walker noted.

“Our criminal justice system disproportionately targets minorities, penalizes the poor and too often fails to ensure that justice is served,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “It’s outrageous that a New Yorker who is accused of a misdemeanor crime is forced to wait months or even years behind bars for a trial simply because they couldn’t afford bail, but those who can pay get to go home. This system perpetuates and exacerbates a cycle of poverty and crime.”

Protecting and supporting tenants

“Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing is a human rights issue,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “Each and every New Yorker is worthy of a safe, warm home. No one should be forced to sleep on the street. Children shouldn’t be growing up and doing their homework in shelters or wondering where their next meal is coming from. Investing in affordable housing is key to putting economic security within reach for more New Yorkers.”

The Assembly budget proposal provides $275 million for public housing capital repairs across the state, allocating $200 million of this funding to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), to be used for heating needs, weatherization and other critical maintenance projects.

Eighty percent of NYCHA residents were without heat at some point between Oct. 1 and Jan. 22, making the need for this funding more urgent than ever. A lack of heat and hot water is not only completely unacceptable, it’s extremely dangerous, especially for children and seniors, noted Assemblymember.

This funding builds on an Assembly proposal that would allow NYCHA to use the design-build contracting process, which would expedite the boiler replacement process and other construction and repair projects by consolidating both the design and construction of a project into a single contract.

“NYCHA developments are aging and in need of maintenance and modernization,” said Assemblymember. “By providing funding and expediting repairs we can ensure that the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers that reside in NYCHA apartments are living in safe and healthy homes.”

Helping homeowners and preserving neighborhoods

The Assembly budget provides $21 million for Neighborhood and Rural Preservation Programs, $9 million above the executive proposal, to help community-based, not-for-profit organizations revitalize decaying neighborhoods, improve housing options, particularly for low- and moderate-income tenants, and spur economic development projects.

To help ensure New Yorkers with disabilities have more suitable housing options and aren’t forced into institutional care, the Assembly proposal includes $4 million for the Access to Home Program, a $3 million increase from the executive proposal. The program provides financial assistance to property owners so they can adapt or retrofit units for low- and moderate-income persons with disabilities.

Ensuring seniors have a place to call home

The Assembly’s budget proposes $2 million for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) and $2 million for Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NNORCs), which help keep seniors in the homes and neighborhoods where they have lived most of their lives. NORCs and NNORCs provide seniors with critical support services that include health monitoring and case management, as well as social activities to foster engagement, decreasing the need for unnecessary hospital and nursing home care.

“The people who spent their lives making our communities so vibrant shouldn’t be forced out as they enter their golden years,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “We owe them a lot. They’ve seen our neighborhoods through the good and the bad and never turned their backs. Now it’s our turn to look out for them.”

The Assembly provides $20 million in capital funding to support the establishment of 1,000 new assisted living program beds in underserved areas. The proposal also allocates $29.4 million, restoring a $500,000 cut from the executive budget, in funding for the Community Services for the Elderly program. The spending plan provides more than $2 million in restorations to aging programs, which ensure that community-based services are available to help seniors remain in the community.

Confronting our homelessness crisis

Every night, thousands of New Yorkers find themselves without a place to call home, exposing them to the harsh and unpredictable New York weather. In January 2018, there were 63,101 homeless people, including 15,553 families and 23,309 children sleeping in the New York City municipal shelter system. Over the course of 2017, the shelter system saw more than 129,803 different homeless men, women and children. There are countless others who don’t seek out shelters and instead are sleeping on benches and on the streets.

As part of the Assembly’s commitment to ensure that individuals who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness always have a safe place they can go, the budget would create a $15 million pilot program in New York City and the city of Rochester to support 320 shelter supplements up to 100 percent of HUD Fair Market Rent. Fifty slots would go to the city of Rochester for families or individuals and New York City would receive 180 slots for families and 90 individuals – for three years. A study would be conducted at the program’s conclusion to determine its effectiveness.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the increasing number of homeless individuals in our state,” Assemblymember said. “No matter an individual’s situation, they should be afforded a bed and a warm meal – no one should have to sleep on the street.”

Additionally, to increase the affordable housing stock, the Assembly plan includes language allowing the separate sale of both state and federal low-income housing tax credits and the certification of state low-income housing tax credits. This will maximize the value of the credits and attract new investors to affordable housing projects.

Providing assistance for those in need

The Assembly’s budget restores $18.9 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding for programs that provide educational opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities, assist low-income residents with employment and help strengthen families, including:

  • $8.5 million for Facilitated Enrollment to expand eligibility for child care assistance, allowing parents to stay employed while their children are cared for;
  • $4 million for Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking (ATTAIN) labs, which provide technology and access to education and workforce development training;
  • $2.85 million for Career Pathways, which helps train low-income young adults for jobs in high-growth sectors;
  • $1.57 million for Preventative Services to keep families together and children safe;
  • $800,000 for ACCESS, which links educational opportunities to internships and job placements;
  • $475,000 for the wage subsidy program, which helps develop job opportunities for recipients of public assistance and low-income individuals;
  • $334,000 for the Fatherhood Initiative, which helps fathers reconnect with their children and develop essential parenting skills; and
  • $144,000 for Wheels for Work, which helps low-income individuals secure reliable transportation to and from work.

“Restoring funding to these programs can give people who are on the edge of self-sufficiency or looking to improve their job-readiness the added boost they need to make it,” Assemblywoman Walker said.

The budget also adds $1 million in funding for independent living centers, for a total of $14.4 million, and restores $1.5 million for the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP), which provides individuals with disabilities legal representation when their federal disability benefits have been denied or may be discontinued. The funding ensures vulnerable New Yorkers have their rights protected and aren’t preyed on, Assemblywoman Walker noted.

The budget also allocates $1.62 million in funding to the Displaced Homemakers Program to help people who have been displaced from their careers as unpaid homemakers and provide them services to get them back into the career field.

Aiding refugees

In an uncertain political climate where refugees are facing increased discrimination and stricter immigration laws from the federal government, the Assembly budget would allocate $2 million for refugee resettlement to offset gaps in federal funding. Refugee Services (RS) provides assistance to refugees and their families, whether it involves helping them acclimate to life in the United States or working with them to safely return home to their country of origin.

The Assembly plan also provides $2 million to nonprofits and social services districts for resettlement assistance for people from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, two U.S. territories hit hard by recent natural disasters.

Supporting at-risk children

“Our children should have every opportunity to get ahead in life and be provided the very best resources to do so,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “It begins with access to quality education, but also includes an investment in extracurricular activities and developing essential life skills so they can reach their full potential.”

To accomplish this, the Assembly restores $5 million for the Advantage After School program, which provides structured activities so students can succeed academically. The Assembly also restores $2.5 million to settlement houses for educational, recreational and social services programs in the community, and $1.5 million to the Youth Development Program, which offers training in important life skills and promotes community involvement.

Programs offering a support system for relative and non-relative kinship caregivers also received restoration funding, with the Assembly restoring $1.9 million to Kinship Care, along with $100,000 for the Kinship Navigator program.

While we wish we could shield our children from the potential dangers of life, it’s an unfortunate reality that some children experience unspeakable trauma in their lives, Assemblywoman Walker said. For those children, we’ve allocated $3 million for Safe Harbor, which provides support for sexually exploited children.

Strengthening the child care system and helping parents, workers

The Assembly’s budget proposal includes a new $128.7 million federal allocation in support of child care services, including $31 million to increase child care subsidies.

“For working parents trying to balance their duties at home and at their job, having affordable child care is an absolute must,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “The more child care slots we can fund, the more families we can help.”

The Assembly led the way on New York’s new paid family leave law, which took effect in January. Building on that success, the Assembly continues its commitment to families by proposing a work exemption for households receiving public assistance with an infant under the age of 1 if the social services district is unable to provide a child care subsidy to all working families under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Hardworking families raising a newborn have enough on their plate and shouldn’t have to fear that the assistance they rely on will be taken away,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “Providing a work exemption allows parents to bond with their newborn and create lasting memories without worrying about putting food on the table.”

Another major victory for New Yorkers is the continuing increases in the minimum wage, which the Assembly successfully fought to raise. The Assembly’s proposal adds $23 million to support the minimum wage increase for health and human services workers contracted with the state, making sure these hardworking employees earn a living wage.

Addressing the opioid crisis

Across the country, prescription drug addiction rates have skyrocketed. Often beginning as an essential part in the recovery process after a medical injury or procedure, a dependence on prescription drugs can lead to a substance use disorder. In response to this, the Assembly budget proposal creates a 2.5 cents-per-morphine milligram equivalent surcharge to help curb dependence. The funds collected from this surcharge – approximately $158 million – will help fund treatment, prevention, educational and recovery programs as well as workforce recruitment and alternatives-to-incarceration programs. Additionally, $4 million from the surcharge revenue will go toward opioid and substance use disorder interventions in local jails.

The Assembly budget proposal also restores $10 million in funding to support additional residential bed and opioid treatment program development.

Last year, the state budget increased funding by $43 million over the previous year – for a total of $213 million – to fight the heroin epidemic and increase access to treatment for New Yorkers struggling with a substance use disorder. This funding supports a variety of treatment and prevention programs, including family support navigators, peer supports, recovery clubhouses and community coalitions.

“For far too long, the opioid epidemic has ravaged our communities and left far too many families to grieve over the loss of a loved one,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “I am committed to combating this epidemic and making sure treatment options are available to help people get on and stay on the road to recovery.”

Strengthening public health programs

To continue New York’s commitment to affordable, quality health care for all, the Assembly budget proposal restores $135 million in Medicaid funding and $37 million in public health programs cut from the executive proposal.

Additionally, the Assembly budget proposal includes $29.13 million in funding for pharmacy reductions, including:

  • $17.4 million for prescriber prevails provisions in managed care and fee-for-service programs; and
  • $11.28 million to reject the executive’s proposal to limit over-the-counter (OTC) drug coverage and OTC co-payment increases.

The Assembly budget proposal also restores funding for several measures to reduce medical costs and protect access to care, including:

  • $23.75 million for hospital and nursing home support;
  • $23.2 million for long-term care support;
  • $20.42 million for medical transport assistance;
  • $5 million to support patient center medical homes; and
  • $3.77 million to reject proposed changes to Early Intervention programs.

In addition, $7.81 million is restored to preserve the right of spousal refusal, ensuring couples do not lose their life savings in the event a spouse becomes ill and needs long-term care. The Assembly also protects the amount of resources the at-home spouse is allowed to retain at $74,820 by restoring $5.7 million in the budget and rejecting the proposal to reduce the amount of retained resources to $24,180.

Keeping children healthy

There are approximately 2.1 million children who rely on New York’s Medicaid program to help access a wide range of health care needs ranging from check-ups to behavioral health services. To ensure that these vital programs are available, the Assembly restores $135 million in cuts to the program and provides $15 million to continue with the planned expansion of children’s behavioral health services.

The Assembly budget proposal also:

  • earmarks $525 million in capital funding for the state’s health care providers, which includes at least $75 million for community-based providers;
  • provides $460 million in support for critical safety-net providers;
  • provides $10 million in capital support for children’s behavior health development;
  • restores $9.19 million to protect 30 public health programs from consolidation; and
  • provides $3.82 million to restore school-based health centers to the 2016-17 state budget level.

“Budget cuts should never be made at the expense of children who rely on these programs to survive,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “We must be the voice of the vulnerable children who can’t speak for themselves, but desperately need our support.”

Seeking justice for child victims

The Assembly budget proposal includes the Child Victims Act to extend the civil and the criminal statutes of limitations for sex offenses against a minor.

“Victims of childhood sexual abuse carry the trauma and pain with them for the rest of their lives – we must do all we can to empower them, allow them more time to seek justice and help them move on with their lives,” said Assemblywoman Walker.

Investing in communities to create local jobs

“A strong local economy puts people to work and boosts wages, reducing poverty and creating a pathway to the middle class,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “By investing directly in our communities, we’ll help create good-paying jobs and make Brownsville stronger.”

In an effort to spur job growth, the Assembly plan creates the NYS Innovation Voucher Program to encourage public-private partnerships that connect small businesses with research facilities and includes $1 million in funding.

The Assembly budget proposal also provides $100 million in capital funding for the Restore New York Communities Initiative, which has helped remove or revitalize over 200 blighted properties across the state. The Assembly plan extends the Historic Properties Tax Credit for five years and modifies it so tax changes at the federal level will no longer diminish its value. Transforming a single property can reinvigorate an entire community by attracting businesses, reducing crime and increasing property values, Assemblywoman Walker noted.

Further, the Assembly continues to make the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) a priority with a $100 million investment. DRI awards $10 million to 10 communities across the state that are struggling with population loss or economic distress. The much-needed funding helps municipalities complete projects that will create jobs, stimulate the local economy and transform downtown communities into thriving economic centers where New Yorkers want to work and put down roots.

In order to promote collaboration between higher education and the private sector, as well as encourage technological developments here in New York, the Assembly budget proposal provides a total of $10 million for the Centers of Excellence – an increase of $1.28 million. It also allocates $15 million for the Centers of Advance Technology (CATs) – an increase of $1.18 million. The proposal also provides $20 million in capital support for both the Centers of Excellence and CATs for various capacity and modernization projects throughout the state.

“New technological advances are being made every day, creating new industries and good-paying jobs,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “It’s vital that New York remain at the forefront of innovation so we can attract new companies and help existing ones thrive. We must make these investments now so we can better secure our state’s economic future.”

The Assembly proposal also provides an additional $365,000 funding for the Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) Development and Lending Program for a total of $1 million, with priority given to recapitalizing the MWBE Investment Fund. Additionally, the budget plan increases the New York Youth Jobs Program tax credit by 50 percent, which encourages businesses to hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth, ages 16 to 24.

Protecting New Yorkers from federal tax shifts

“The federal tax law has created a lot of uncertainty and its full impact on New Yorkers is far from clear,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “The Assembly budget attempts to mitigate the law’s most harmful aspects to protect hardworking taxpayers’ money.”

The Assembly proposal would allow New York taxpayers to continue to itemize all deductions that were available in 2017 and would preserve the standard deduction for single filers. Additionally, the Assembly supports the creation of charitable contribution funds by local governments that would allow taxpayers to donate to local schools and governments for general purposes and receive a property tax credit worth 95 percent of their donation. Since local property tax deductions are capped by federal law now, but deductions for charitable donations are not, this new payment option would reduce some of the federal tax burden that was shifted to property taxpayers.

Ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share to help fund vital services

To ensure New York’s wealthiest continue to pay their fair share, the Assembly makes the state millionaires tax permanent and creates a higher rate for those making over $5 million per year. The rates would be 9.32 percent for incomes between $5 million and $10 million, 9.82 percent for incomes between $10 million and $100 million, and 10.32 percent for incomes over $100 million. Revenue from the tax is crucial to funding important services and programs throughout the state, including public education and infrastructure improvements. Although arguments have been made that the millionaires tax encourages the wealthy to pack up and move out of state, just the opposite has been true. The number of New York millionaires has increased by 63 percent since 2009, when the tax was first implemented.

“The federal tax law is very good to the wealthy and provides them with huge tax savings,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “New York’s millionaires tax is needed to make sure they pay their fair share and do their part to help better fund our schools and vital programs. Everyone benefits from a well-educated workforce and safe and reliable transportation infrastructure. We’re all New Yorkers and we all want to see our state as strong as possible – this revenue booster helps make that happens.”

In another effort to ensure tax fairness, the Assembly revenue proposal imposes a 3 percent corporate surcharge on large corporations that are seeing windfall profits as a result of the federal tax law. It also creates progressive Real Estate Transfer Tax rates for properties valued over $5 million, with 25 percent of the receipts dedicated to either the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), non-MTA transit or upstate roads and bridges, depending on where the property is sold.

The Assembly plan also includes a proposal to close the carried interest tax loophole, which would tax the carried interest income of hedge fund and private equity investors as ordinary income. This provision would only take effect once the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania enact legislation with a similar effect.

Increasing aid to local governments

The Assembly budget proposal includes $775 million in Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding – $60 million more than the executive’s proposal.

“Providing increased aid to municipalities is always a big priority for me,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “The Assembly’s budget plan boosts AIM funding so key government services aren’t cut and local officials can keep property taxes down.”

Funding the MTA and investing in infrastructure

The Assembly’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Transit Sustainability Proposal provides additional revenue to the MTA through a per ride surcharge on for-hire vehicles and taxis, a progressive real estate transfer tax for multi-million dollar properties and the imposition of a real estate “flipping tax” in New York City. The additional revenues would help improve subway reliability as well as support the MTA’s commuter rail lines, non-MTA transit systems statewide and the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs).

The Assembly’s budget also restores $1.75 million to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Staten Island Rebate Program and provides $500,000 to reinstitute the South Fork Commuter Connection East End shuttle services. The funding would also be used to fund programs and improvement and sustainability projects, including the construction of structured parking facilities at Metro-North Railroad stations.

Additionally, the Assembly’s proposal:

  • Ensures the new revenue is in a lockbox, keeping the dedicated funds working toward improving transportation in New York State;
  • Requires the MTA to prioritize “state of good repair” over aesthetic projects;
  • Requires an independent audit be performed to analyze the MTA’s financial needs in relation to maintaining a state of good repair; and
  • Requires the MTA to make public all spending related to the Subway Action Plan and new dedicated revenues and the related impact on services and performance measures.

Boosting non-MTA transportation funding

The Assembly budget proposal includes $104.5 million in non-MTA transit capital funding – continuing a $20 million increase that was part of the 2017-18 state budget – $335 million for non-MTA downstate transit systems and $221.5 for upstate transit systems.

The plan also allocates $4.3 billion for the fourth year of the five-year $29.2 billion state Department of Transportation (DOT) Capital Plan. The majority of this multi-billion dollar investment will go toward road and bridge maintenance, while also helping fund the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs), PAVE-NY, BRIDGE NY and the Marchiselli Program. Of this funding, CHIPs will receive $519 million – an increase of $81 million – dedicated to local roads and bridges.

“With these crucial investments in our transportation infrastructure, we can increase safety for both motorists and non-motorists, and help ensure that local businesses can get their products to consumers,” Assemblywoman Walker said. “This funding will also help create good-paying construction jobs. Now that the Assembly has made our priorities clear, I’ll work to ensure that the enacted state budget delivers for Brownsville.”

Looking out for consumers

The Assembly budget proposes $350,000 to create the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate (UCA). The UCA would represent the interests and advocate for residential utility consumers on matters like rates, charges and terms and conditions of service at the state or federal level. Additionally, the Assembly proposes $1 million for funding to organizations that advocate on behalf of consumers regarding utility cases before the Public Service Commission (PSC).

“New Yorkers are too often faced with confusing rates and services by utility companies, leading to overcharging and making them vulnerable to scams,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “They need and deserve advocates who can intervene and be their voice. There’s too much at stake. We depend on these companies to keep us warm in the winter and for gas and electricity to cook our food and light our homes. Consumers need someone in their corner.”

Additionally, the Assembly’s proposal establishes the New York State Secure Choice Savings retirement program to help private-sector employees plan for their future.

Protecting the environment

The Assembly budget invests $300 million in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), affirming the importance of a vibrant, healthy environment. It also fully funds the state’s Superfund Program with a $100 million appropriation, including funding for the Environmental Restoration Program, which provides money to help municipalities remediate brownfields.

The Assembly also proposes to include the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act in the budget to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change in New York. This act would establish a council comprised of state agencies and individuals with expertise in environmental protection and environmental justice. It would also require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish limits for greenhouse gases and provide recommendations for reducing them, among other duties, and would establish a Climate Justice Working Group to identify disadvantaged communities needing additional support in reducing emissions.

“While the Trump administration wants to turn back the clock by stripping down the EPA and National Park Service, we remain committed to fighting climate change and leading the way in environmental stewardship,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it affects our economy, our health and safety and our children's future."

Additional environmental protection actions in the Assembly budget include:

  • $90 million in New York Works funding for state parks in SFY 2018-19, including $15 million to create a new state park in Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn;
  • Increased funding for land acquisition, which has been proven to help protect water quality, environmental justice and invasive species eradication;
  • $65 million over multiple years from the EPF and the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 to combat harmful algal blooms in the state's water bodies; and
  • $50 million in capital funding to complete the Hudson River Park.

Funding early voting

The Assembly proposal includes $7 million to institute early voting and other voting reforms statewide, which would help to offset some of the costs to counties from conducting elections. Early voting would take place during a seven-day period before any general, primary or special election. During the early voting period, designated polling locations would be required to be open for eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends and holidays, and to offer evening hours on at least two days. County boards of elections would have the option of providing additional early voting hours and would be required to publicize to voters the location, dates and hours of all early voting polling places within each county.

“Elections are the cornerstone of a healthy democracy, but only if all of our voices are heard,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “Early voting will help busy New Yorkers who can’t make it to the polls during traditional hours exercise their right to vote. This measure will help increase voter turnout and ensure government is truly representative of the people.”

Closing the LLC loophole

“In the past decade, we’ve seen the amount of money wealthy special interests pour into our elections reach truly absurd and troubling levels,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “We must make it clear that government represents the will of the people, not the interests of a handful of plutocrats. By closing the LLC loophole, we can increase transparency, help level the playing field and prevent the wealthy few from making nearly unlimited campaign contributions to further their special interests.”

The Assembly’s measure extends the $5,000 aggregate contribution limit, already applicable to corporations, to include LLCs, and requires LLCs to disclose the names of individuals with membership interests, attributing LLC contributions to them and helping get rid of dark money in our elections.

Tackling the scourge of sexual harassment

The Assembly’s budget proposal includes meaningful policies to confront sexual harassment. Assemblywoman Walker noted that the powerful “#MeToo” movement is demanding that we listen and act to confront the scourge of sexual harassment that has gripped society and injured victims personally, financially and professionally.

“For decades, victims – especially women – have been pressured to remain silent out of fear of retaliation and stigma,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “Victims have been paying the price, rather than the perpetrators, for far too long, and it’s time they got justice and peace of mind instead of undeserved scorn and guilt.”

The proposal provides the state Attorney General the authority to prosecute criminal cases and defend civil cases for all protected classes and preserves a plaintiff’s right to confidentiality. It also allows a state or local government that has paid a victim on behalf of a public employee to recover payment from the employee responsible for the harassment. Further, it would require a neutral third-party arbitrator, ban mandatory arbitration agreements, void clauses in employment contracts that waive rights relating to discrimination claims and establish annual reporting requirements for employers related to discrimination.

Honoring our veterans

The Assembly recognizes the sacrifices made by our veterans and restores $675,000 for veterans programs in this year’s budget. These vital programs help veterans train for and find work, connect them to needed resources, provide legal and other services and supply low-income active-duty members, veterans and their families with needed assistance.

The funding includes:

  • $250,000 for the New York State Defenders Association;
  • $200,000 for Helmets to Hardhats;
  • $100,000 for SAGE Veterans Project;
  • $100,00 for Veterans Justice Project; and
  • $25,000 for the Veterans Miracle Center.

To encourage businesses to hire veterans, the Assembly extends the Hire a Veteran Tax Credit for two years. Employers receive a tax credit of up to $5,000 for each veteran hired and up to $15,000 for each veteran with a disability that is hired.

“It’s tragic when someone who has sacrificed so much to serve our country then comes home and has to worry about where their next paycheck will be coming from or how they will feed their families,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “While we’ll always be fighting for better treatment of veterans, these programs step in to provide needed services and support to ensure veterans have what they need and deserve.”

Investing in agriculture

The Assembly is standing up for the preservation, growth and safety of New York’s agriculture industry. The Assembly’s budget restores $4.2 million to help fund a variety of programs to support and promote New York farms as well as help make farming safer.

“New York State farms not only provide healthy nourishment for our families, they’re also growing and expanding in other ways that benefit the economy,” said Assemblywoman Walker.

“Whether it’s selling fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, teaching us more about how our food is grown, providing opportunities to pick your own fruit or to sample craft beer, cider and wines, the products and services farms offer contribute vitally to our health and economy.”

The funding will support a variety of programs by restoring:

  • $1.1 million to the New York Farm Viability Institute, a resource for helping farmers become more profitable;
  • $1 million for the Agriculture Migrant Child Care program to ensure children of migrant workers are kept safe and thriving; and
  • $125,000 for the Tractor Rollover Protection Program, which helps upgrade tractors to improve safety.

It also supports organizations that help farmers effectively grow and promote their products by restoring:

  • $272,000 to the New York State Apple Growers Association;
  • $75,000 to the Maple Producers Association; and
  • $50,000 to the New York Wine and Grape Foundation.

To support and showcase agriculture in our communities, the Assembly budget restores $80,000 for local fairs and provides $5 million for capital improvements.

And to continue last year’s commitment to local animal shelters, the Assembly budget proposal restores the $5 million capital fund to assist animal shelters, many of which are overcrowded, dependent on volunteers and struggling financially.