E-Mail Newsletter – March 21, 2014

As we head into the final days of the state budget cycle, the Assembly, Senate, and the Governor are in lengthy negotiations particularly on the need for funding – for infrastructure, education, and issues of parity.

Some of the major outstanding issues include the Governor's proposed two-year property tax-freeze costs, which would provide $1.8 billion over the next three fiscal years, but force additional cuts to localities and school districts, where most have already faced serious pressure to cut costs and share services to stay within the tax cap passed three years ago. With these challenges in mind, the Assembly continues to be in support of property tax relief in the form of a circuit-breaker that would tie property tax relief to one’s income and will especially assist those on a fixed income.

Another outstanding issue is the need for additional education funding, since most school districts have less funding than they did five years ago. The funding currently being negotiated is $240 million over the Governor's proposed budget, but this is significantly below the $400 million increase proposed by the Assembly. I continue to advocate that this is not the time to squander state funds with additional cuts and remain concerned about some of the proposed tax cuts for the most wealthy.

With budget negotiations well underway, a measure put forth by the Senate majority coalition is of particular concern. The State Senate measure would create the ‘Education Investment Incentives Act’ that would allow wealthy individuals and companies to target their state tax payments to public, private, parochial, and charter schools, in addition to educational scholarships for religious schools.

After seriously considering the proposal, I remain troubled that if passed it could have costly repercussions, particularly to low wealth schools and school districts and divert tax dollars that are more directly targeted to education. This unprecedented tax credit (of up to 90 percent) for a donation of up to $1 million) could be used by wealthy investors to shift their tax burden with no distinction made to the needs of or the wealth of a student or a school. A proposed $675 million in tax credits over three years would result in a serious loss of state revenue and diverts funding to private schools, which raises some constitutional questions.

Restoring wages to M/C employees. Management/Confidential (M/C) employees comprise nearly 9,000 employees in the state, with over 4,000 here in the Capital Region. Our efforts continue to assist these employees whose wages have been frozen for the past five years. As a former M/C employee, I know of situations where secretaries, clerks and administrative professionals individually have had thousands of dollars withheld while the vast majority of state workers have received some increases. It is simply unfair and unreasonable for the families of well-regarded, qualified and experienced M/C employees to be singled out, and punished financially -- while fellow employees working in the same title have received and will continue to receive raises and I will continue to advocate on their behalf.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act. Unemployment remains high among our disabled veterans who have given so much for our country. With this in mind, the Senate, Assembly, and the Governor have agreed to create the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act. The act sets a six-percent participation goal in the awarding of state contracts to service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. To qualify, small businesses must be at least 51 percent owned by a service-disabled veteran who controls day-to-day operations. In addition, one in seven veterans are self-employed or small-business owners. With passage of the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act, New York will join 44 other states and the federal government in implementing a program to help self-employed service-disabled veterans compete for more state contracts.

The Assembly honors Bishop Hubbard. In recognition of Bishop Howard Hubbard’s decades of service to the Diocese of Albany and the people of the Capital Region, the Assembly presented the bishop with a commemorative proclamation in the Assembly chamber this week. I am honored to have been able to participate in this recognition to thank the Bishop for his decades of devotion and service to this region.

CNSE and SUNY IT merge. The SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the SUNY Institute of Technology will merge to form the SUNY Institute of Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (INSET), which will provide a world-class, yet affordable educational option for students interested in nanotechnology and engineering.

New episode of Capital District Assembly Update features NYCOM's Peter Baynes. This week, Assemblyman John McDonald and I spoke with Peter Baynes, the executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), about issues facing New York's municipalities today and in the future. Check out photos from the taping and I'll be posting the video onto my Facebook page and my website as soon as it airs.

Events in and around the 109th:

+ The twenty-sixth annual Somos el Futuro conference is being held in Albany this weekend. Hosted by the New York State Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican and Hispanic Task Force, the conference is focused on issues facing the Hispanic community across New York State. For the schedule of events and for more information, visit somosnewyork.org.

+ Free tax filing services are available through the Internal Revenue Service for those who make under $58,000. For more information, visit irs.gov/freefile.

+ 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 ---