E-Mail Newsletter – March 14, 2014

This week, the New York State Assembly passed its "one-house" budget resolution in response to the Governor's proposed budget, which includes increased funding for education, jobs and economic development, tax relief, and support for local governments and infrastructure. The State Senate passed a separate resolution and negotiations between the three proposed budgets begin next week. Below are highlights from the Assembly's proposed budget -- and as we near the end of the budget cycle, I will continue to inform you of important developments as we move to pass the final budget by April 1.


Lowering taxes for homeowners and renters. The Assembly budget proposal delivers $1.1 billion in property tax relief. The proposal would apply to homeowners making less than $200,000 per year and would base property taxes on the ability to pay, not property value. Unlike the governor’s budget proposal, there are no strings attached to this “circuit breaker” proposal. A locality’s efforts to consolidate services or stay under the property tax cap would have no bearing on receiving a property tax cut.

Additionally, the Assembly budget rejects the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the income threshold inflation adjustment for Enhanced STAR eligibility which is slated to hit seniors in the 2015-16 school year.

Lowering utility bills. The Assembly passed a budget last year that would eliminate the 18-a utility surcharge by 2017-2018. This year’s proposal would remove the surcharge this year rather than three years down the road, saving families $200 million annually.

Reforming the estate tax. New York is one of only 14 states that still has an estate tax. In an effort to reform and reduce this financial burden, the Assembly budget would increase the estate tax the current threshold from $1 million to $3 million over two years, raising the amount of income that can be excluded from this tax.


Restoring funding for vital education programs. The Assembly is proposing a $1.1 billion increase (or 4.7 percent) for this year, the largest increase in six years and $402 million over the Executive budget proposal. This proposal includes $335 million to accelerate the phase-in of Foundation Aid, $367 million for Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) restoration, and provides the authority for a $2.3 billion Smart School Bond Act in an effort to update technology and connectivity in schools and classrooms or to allow the expansion of Pre-K classes. The funds could be used by nonpublic schools, approved private schools, special act schools and schools for the blind and deaf. In addition, the Assembly budget proposal restores $14.3 million for teacher resource and computer training centers.

Investing in full-day universal Pre-K. The Assembly’s budget proposal earmarks $100 million in universal, full-day Pre-K (UPK) funding for high-need districts. Under the plan, any unspent funds would be placed in a reserve account which would be available to districts in following years. Those funds could be used to establish full-day kindergarten where needed. Funding for this program would total $1.5 billion over the next five years.

The Assembly budget authorizes the city of New York to impose a small income tax surcharge (0.534 percent) for those making over $500,000 in order to fully fund full-day UPK and expand after-school programs.

Charter transition aid. Assemblymember McDonald and I urged the Assembly to include a new Tier 4 in charter transition aid to provide funding for schools districts such as Albany with an over-saturation of charter schools. This will give some additional necessary relief to Albany for the costs of charter schools, particularly since roughly 50 percent of Albany's state aid is given to charter schools, even though they serve only 20 percent of Albany's students.

Libraries to receive $2 million. The Assembly’s budget proposal includes a restoration of $2 million that was cut from the Executive budget, for a total of $84.9 million. This was not as high as the $4 million requested but we are hoping it will increase as negotiations get underway.

Appointments to the State Board of Regents. While budget discussions were taking place, the terms of four of the seventeen seats on the Board of Regents were up this year, and the State Legislature voted this week to reappoint three incumbents and appoint one new Regent. The selection process -- with a record number of applicants and considerable discussion as to the responsibility of the Regents for oversight of education policy can be considered a referendum on the continued dissatisfaction with the over-testing and over-labeling of our children.


Providing growth incentives for businesses. In an effort to help bring manufacturing jobs back to our state, the Assembly’s proposal expands on the governor’s plan to minimize taxes for Upstate manufacturers by accelerating the phase-in of tax cuts for qualified manufacturers.

The Assembly’s budget also expands the film production tax credit to include the Capital Region and Mid-Hudson Valley regions.

Additionally, the Assembly budget would enhance the Youth Works Tax Credit by lowering the work requirement from 20 to 10 hours for students who are working while attending high school. It would also allow for an additional $1,000 credit if that employee continues working for another year, saving businesses another $4 million per year and providing critical jobs for youth.

RESTORE New York funding. The Assembly’s budget includes $50 million in capital funding for a fourth round of economic development grants through the RESTORE New York Community Initiatives program to encourage redevelopment of blight in our neighborhoods.

Providing financing opportunities for entrepreneurs. Small businesses are encouraged to grow from the proposed $25 million for the Small Business Revolving Loan Fund.

‘Back to Work NY’ jobs plan. The proposal includes $12.5 million for the creation of a new “Back to Work NY” jobs program. Funding would help the long-term unemployed get back to work by creating opportunities for retraining and internships.

The proposal also provides $26.25 million for a new Advanced Manufacturing Career Opportunity program to help train workers in advanced manufacturing.

Making child care more affordable. The Assembly budget proposal includes an additional $95 million to improve the state’s child care system to help parents find affordable, reliable care, including:

+ $70 million for capping the co-payment for families receiving subsidies at 20 percent or less of income over the federal poverty level; and

+ $2.5 million to disregard the earned income of teenagers under 18 in the household for the purpose of determining child care eligibility.


Addressing tax-exempt parcels at Harriman Campus with PILOT payments. The Assembly has included, as part of its budget proposal, a plan to require the state to make payments to the City of Albany in lieu of taxes for any future improvements to the Harriman State Office Campus. This proposal is a major step in remedying this long-term concern. For years, a PILOT plan for the Harriman State Office Campus has been an ongoing request by the City of Albany for financial relief from its astounding 57 percent of tax-exempt property. Worse yet, 80 percent of Albany's commercial property is not taxed. A PILOT payment could potentially bring in $11.7 million annually in state aid to Albany.

Improving transportation and infrastructure creates jobs. The Assembly budget proposal maintains $25 million for the New York Works program to be allocated as follows:

+ $10 million for the Airport State Program and the Airport Improvement and Revitalization program (AIR99);

+ $10 million for freight rail capital projects; and

+ $5 million for upstate and downstate non-MTA transit systems.

Further, the proposal authorizes an additional $10 million for non-MTA transit systems, such as CDTA locally, from a 2005 bond act reappropriation.

Providing relief to local governments. The Assembly budget proposal also includes an $80 million increase in Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding for cities, towns and villages to help struggling local governments provide the essential services residents depend on.

Events in and around the 109th:

+ The Voorheesville PTA will present an evening with Steve Songs, an award-winning children’s artist best-known for PBS Kids’ Morning Music Time, on Friday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lydia C. Tobler Performing Arts Center at Voorheesville Middle/High School. For more information, visit the event’s website.

+ The Albany Figure Skating Club will hold its annual Spring Ice show at the Bethlehem YMCA (900 Delaware Avenue, Delmar) on Saturday, March 15 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. This event will feature young skaters from all over the Capital Region in solo and group performances, as well as the Albany Figure Skating Club’s synchronized skating teams. The public is welcome and is invited to attend. Admission is $3 per person, $1 for seniors, and free for children under five. For more information, visit albanyfsc.org.

+ The Guilderland Chamber will be hosting an after hours mixer at Mezza Notte (2026 Western Avenue, Guilderland) on March 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visit guilderlandchamber.com for more information.

+ Art work provided by students across the Capital Region will be on display in the Empire State Plaza concourse through Saturday, March 15. Students within the City School District of Albany contributed 125 works on display.

+ The Affordable Housing Partnership will be conducting a series of workshops on home buying, financial education, credit usage, and property management over the course of the next few weeks. You can register for these workshops by visiting the AHP website here.

Job Opportunities: I’ve set up a page on my Assembly website for job announcements and listings that we’ll update periodically. If you know of any job listings, send my office a note.

Capital District Assembly Update: Tune in every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Channel 17 (for Time Warner Cable subscribers) for the next episode of Capital District Assembly Update, co-hosted by Assemblymember McDonald and me. You can also previous episodes and clips on my Assembly website.

As always, for the latest about my office’s happenings or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---