Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that construction and installation of an over-height vehicle detection system at two interchanges on the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Hudson Valley have been completed. The purpose of the systems is to identify over-height commercial vehicles illegally entering Parkway ramps – an effort to improve safety on the Parkway. The detection systems were built at the Mamaroneck Avenue southbound ramp onto the Parkway and at the four ramps from I-287/Westchester Avenue onto the Parkway. The detection systems’ functionality is currently being tested. A photo of one of the detectors can be found here.
The detection systems, developed by New York State Department of Transportation, are designed to prevent commercial trucks from entering the Parkway, where they could strike low bridges. This is the latest effort by DOT to keep commercial vehicles off parkways and improve roadway safety across the State. Bridge strikes often result in serious accidents, significant traffic delays for motorists and sometimes damage to the bridges.
Governor Cuomo announced nine appointments to his administration, building his second term team to implement his bold agenda.
Catherine Leahy Scott has been appointed Workers’ Compensation Fraud Inspector General, a position she will hold in addition to her role as Acting Welfare Inspector General and New York State Inspector General, to which she was recently reappointed.
Vincent Bradley has been nominated to serve as Chairman of the New York State Liquor Authority. Mr. Bradley previously served as Assistant Attorney General in Charge at the Poughkeepsie Regional Office of the New York State Attorney General, managing all operations of the regional office.
Jeffrey Pearlman has been appointed Chief of Staff and Counsel for Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Mr. Pearlman previously served as Chief of Staff to Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the State Senate Democratic Conference.
Mark Wade has been appointed Executive Director of the Worker’s Compensation Board. Mr. Wade currently serves as Deputy Superintendent of Property & Casualty Insurance at the New York State Department of Financial Services, a position he will be transitioning out of to assume his new role.
Charles Fields has been appointed Deputy Secretary of State for Business and Licensing. Previously, Mr. Fields served as an Executive Strategy Consultant at Celgene Corporation, a publicly-traded biotechnology company focused on future technology and business capabilities.
Robyn Adair has been appointed Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the Department of Environmental Conservation. Ms. Adair previously served as Assistant Counsel in the Office of General Counsel for the New York State Department of Public Service, where she negotiated penalty settlements and drafted settlement agreements with public utilities and worked with agency staff to investigate natural gas incidents in New York.
Justin Levin has been appointed Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the Department of Health. Mr. Levin previously served as Assistant Special Counsel and, prior, FOIL Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Lindsey Boylan has been appointed Vice President of Business Development for Empire State Development. Ms. Boylan previously served as Vice President of Municipal Finance Client Strategy at RBC Capital Markets where she oversaw all brand promotion and client strategy for the company’s Municipal Finance Group.
Saadia Chaudhry has been appointed Director of Customer Experience for the Executive Chamber. In this role, she will help drive a range of high-priority projects to improve customer service for citizens and businesses.
“For the fifth year in a row, the State Budget holds spending growth below two percent and continues a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of budgets that increased spending faster than inflation or personal income growth.
“This $142 billion budget is the most meaningful that we have agreed to in many years, not because of what we are spending but because of how we are spending it. We are not just maintaining services and the status quo with this budget. We are investing in a new future for our state.
“This budget addresses two of the most fundamental and intractable issues that have vexed the state for generations – education and ethics…”
To read the full statement from Governor Cuomo on the 2015-16 State Budget, please click here.
The Budget also allocates the state’s $5.4 billion in financial settlements to continue growing and strengthening New York’s economy as outlined by the Governor in his original Opportunity Agenda. This includes the $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative to jumpstart the best regional approaches to economic development, $1.3 billion to stabilize the Thruway Authority and keep tolls down while still funding critical repair and maintenance and supporting the ongoing construction of the New NY Bridge, and $500 million to ensure that every New Yorker has broadband access by the end of 2018 – representing the largest and most ambitious state broadband investment in the nation.
Below are highlights of the 2015-16 State Budget:
Education Transformation Act 2015
New York’s education system is set to implement some of its most dramatic and fundamental reforms in years through the Education Transformation Act. The Budget includes the Governor’s proposal for an increase of $1.3 billion in state education support to take education funding to its highest level ever – $23.5 billion.
The components of the transformation are as follows:
- Best and Brightest Recruitment: To attract our best and brightest to the teaching field, the Budget provides funding for a new full scholarship program for SUNY/CUNY for top students who commit to teach in New York for five years.
- Graduate Education Program Accreditation: The first statewide, uniform admissions standards for teacher preparation programs will be established, and SED will have enhanced authority to close programs that fail to prepare students for the teaching profession.
- Teacher “Bar” Exam / CTE: The State currently requires teachers to pass a teacher “bar” exam – and will now also require teachers to complete 100 hours of continuing education and recertify every five years or lose their licenses.
- Teacher Evaluation System: A redesigned teacher evaluation system will be established whereby educators are rated in two categories, student performance and teacher observations.
- Reduce Student Testing: The Chancellor of the Board of Regents will outline to the Governor and Legislature recommendations by June 1, 2015 on how to decrease the overall amount of state and local testing, improve test quality, and reduce test-related stress and anxiety.
- Tenure = Performance: The Education Transformation Act of 2015 reforms tenure so that it is based on performance and is not simply a function of time.
- Bonuses & Promotions: A bonus of up to $20,000 will be provided to teachers who are top performers, and promotion opportunities will be tied to the evaluation system.
- Teacher Removal: For Ineffective teachers: Statewide, all hearings will be heard before a single officer rather than a panel. Local districts will be able to use new expedited removal proceedings for teachers with two consecutive Ineffective ratings, and will be required to do so for teachers with three consecutive Ineffective ratings.
- Failing Schools: Failing schools will be required to have a state-approved improvement plan in place with student achievement metrics and goals. If a failing school does not show demonstrable improvement at the end of one year, the school will go into receivership. During that year, either the Superintendent or the Chancellor will be vested with the increased powers of a receiver. The receiver will have the power to hire and fire staff and restructure the school and $75 million will be available to help failing schools improve.
Continued Pre-K Investment: The Budget includes $365 million to continue our $1.5 billion commitment over five years for full-day 4-year old Pre-K.
Expanding Pre-K for 3-Year Olds and in High-Needs Districts: In addition, studies show that 3-year olds enrolled in high-quality programs make some of the largest gains in cognitive and behavioral skills. This Budget invests an additional $30 million to expand Pre-K for 3 and 4 year-olds in high-needs districts.
New Disclosure Requirements
Public officials will be required to disclose all outside earned income they receive, from whom they receive it, the actual services performed to receive the income, and whether there is any connection to the state government or the office that they hold or their public duties.
Public officials who are convicted of public corruption should not have taxpayers pay for their retirement. The budget applies New York’s pension forfeiture law to all public officials who are convicted of public corruption, including those who entered the retirement system before enactment of the pension forfeiture law in 2011. The law allows a judge to protect an innocent spouse and minor dependent children and goes into effect after a second passage of a constitutional amendment by the legislature and voter approval in 2017.
Per Diem Reform
The Budget reforms per diems by establishing a new set of verification requirements including:
- To ensure an official is where they claim to be, the legislature will install an electronic system that verifies personal attendance of legislators at an official event.
- The Speaker of the Assembly and the Temporary President of the Senate will develop and implement policies to verify attendance at official events and establish standards and limits for reimbursable events.
- Reimbursements will be governed by federal regulations.
- Legislature will create a publicly accessible website showing members’ reimbursement and travel.
Prohibition of Personal Use of Campaign Funds
The Budget bars using campaign contributions for personal use. Such personal use will be defined as expenditures that are exclusively for personal benefit of the candidate or any other individual, not in connection with a political campaign or holding of a public office or party position.
Campaign Finance Disclosure
The Budget further expands the requirement for disclosing independent expenditures to include independent expenditures on communications made within 60 days before a general or special election, and 30 days before a primary election that reference a clearly identified client.
Additional Funding for Enforcement; Review of JCOPE to Ensure Performance
The Budget also provides an additional $1.2 million for enforcement activities at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, amounting to a 27 percent increase in the Commission’s operating budget. The budget also includes additional funding to support modernizing technology systems at the Commission.
$5.4 Billion Investment in New York’s Economy
The Budget directs New York’s $5.4 billion in financial settlements toward items that will grow the economy over the long-term and position every region of the state for growth in the future, particularly Upstate. This includes supporting locally-driven priorities for economic development and bolstering some of the state’s most vital forms of infrastructure. Those investments include:
- Launch a $1.5 Billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative
- Ensure Statewide High-Speed Broadband Access by the End of 2018
- Support for capital projects for health care systems
- Build new Metro-North Stations in the Bronx; Extend Access to Penn Station
- $150 Million for Counter-Terrorism Efforts and Disaster Prevention and Response
- $150 Million for Transformative Economic Development on Long Island
- $150 Million for Municipal Restructuring
- Support for Capital Projects for Health Care Systems
- $65 Million in Ports & Rail Hub Infrastructure
- $50 Million to Transform State Fairgrounds
- $50 million to Expand & Protect Agriculture in the Southern Tier & Hudson Valley
- Student Loan Relief
- Increase investment in the Environmental Protection Fund
- Launch another $110 million round of NYSUNY2020 and NYCUNY2020
- Strengthen Roads & Bridges Statewide
- Local Capital Aid for Extreme Winter Recovery
- Continue the Progress of the Regional Economic Development Councils
EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY AND ENSURING FAIRNESS FOR ALL
The Budget also includes the Governor’s economic mobility agenda, designed to help give every New Yorker a chance to succeed:
- Invest in affordable housing and community development
- Student loan relief
- Expand urban youth jobs program
- Increase MWBE business opportunities
- Combat hunger
- Strengthen New York’s nonprofits
- Providing assistance to our homeless
- Anti-Poverty Initiatives for Rochester, Syracuse, and Binghamton
The Governor’s economic mobility agenda is complemented by a number of other investments and initiatives that are designed to expand opportunity and build a stronger, healthier and fairer New York, including:
- Raising the Age
- $1 Billion Capital Investment in Hospitals
- Increase Investment in the Environmental Protection Fund
- Brownfields Reform and State Superfund
- Enhance Oil Spill Preparedness
- Design Build
- Strengthen Roads and Bridges Statewide
- Local Capital Aid for Extreme Winter Recovery
- Upstate Transit Aid Increase
- Support for Fort Drum
- Launch another $110 Million Round of NYSUNY2020 and NYCUNY2020
- $50 Million Continued Investment in START-UP NY
- Continue the Progress of the Regional Economic Development Councils
- Align Community Colleges within Regions
- Bring International Attention to Upstate New York by Continuing an Unprecedented Investment in the “I LOVE NY” Campaign
- Double the New York State Venture Capital Fund
- Invest $15 million for Nation’s First Emergency Preparedness College
- Rainy Day Reserves
For further details on all highlights of the 2015-16 State Budget announced by Governor Cuomo, please click here.
“I direct all agencies, departments, boards and commissions to immediately review all requests for state funded or state sponsored travel to the State of Indiana and to bar any such publicly funded travel that is not essential to the enforcement of state law or public health and safety. The ban on publicly funded travel shall take effect immediately.
“New York State has been, and will continue to be, a leader in ensuring that all LGBT persons enjoy full and equal civil rights. With this action, we stand by our LGBT family members, friends and colleagues to ensure that their rights are respected.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the opening of the new 93,500 square foot ice arena. The Cornerstone CFCU Arena is a $15 million dollar project designed to enhance the quality of life in the community by providing young people with easily accessible activities, while at the same time promoting physical fitness and developing good sportsmanship through supervised games. The arena is also an economic generator, expecting to attract more than 150,000 people each year for public skating, competitive hockey, skating lessons, private parties and performance training. These patrons could create a demand for more than 4,000 nights per year in area hotels. View the arena here.
The state-of-the-art facility is located at the intersection of Chestnut and Market Street, just south of the historic Erie Canal that runs through the heart of downtown Lockport. The arena, designed by Bammel Architects, PC, houses two NHL-sized rinks, a community room and sports training facility for skaters of all ages. There is 2,000 square feet of tenant space for a restaurant as well as 630 seats for spectators, which are actually heated by the rink’s refrigeration equipment.
The Cornerstone CFCU Arena is a federally designated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation. Funding for the project came from a bank mortgage and a $1 million grant from the Western New York Regional Economic Council, $1 million from the John R. Oishei Foundation, and a donation of $4 million from the Grigg-Lewis Foundation. A portion of Chestnut Street on the South side of the arena was re-named “Grigg-Lewis Way” as part of the grand opening ceremonies.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced his office completed the following audits:
- Glens Falls Housing Authority – Tenant Rents (Warren County)
Duties for processing tenant rents were not adequately segregated and compensating controls were insufficient. Rent money was not adequately secured and was not always deposited in a timely manner and receipts for rent were not issued to apartment complex tenants.
- Town of Groveland – Fiscal Oversight (Livingston County)
The board did not have a contractual agreement with the firm that performed financial services for the town prior to 2013, and contracts for 2013 and 2014 lacked specific details of the services to be provided. The supervisor did not appropriately monitor the firm’s work and did not adequately review monthly financial statements and reports before providing them to the board.
- Town of Hammond – Town Clerk Operations (St. Lawrence County)
The clerk did not always record, deposit, disburse and report all moneys collected in a timely and accurate manner. The clerk recorded cash received in the accounting system, but did not compare the collections to bank deposits. In addition, the clerk did not retain source documents to support property tax payments received and did not always issue duplicate receipts for tax collections.
- Town of Milton – Financial Records and Reports and Sales Tax Revenues (Saratoga County)
The town comptroller has not provided the board with complete and accurate monthly financial reports. Also, the town improperly budgeted and allocated sales tax revenue, resulting in town taxpayers with real property located in the village of Ballston Spa receiving an extra benefit from distributed sales tax revenues at the expense of town taxpayers with property located outside the village.
- Towns’ Road Management Plans (2014-MR-2)
Of the nine towns audited, six towns did not have adequate funding in 2014 for keeping their roads free of observable defects, and seven towns lacked the necessary records for auditors to determine if they implemented their plans or for the board to effectively monitor plan implementation.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits have been issued:
- State Board of Elections (BOE): Localities’Procurements of Paper Ballots (2013-S-36)
The New York State Board of Elections and local boards of election need to work collaboratively in the procurement of paper ballots to avoid millions of dollars in unnecessary costs. The ballot procurement processes used by the 13 Local Election Boards audited resulted in significant unnecessary costs. Auditors estimate that the local boards visited could have saved, in the aggregate, about $10 million during the audit period by competitively procuring ballots and by using sound historical data to project the numbers of ballots needed.
- City University of New York School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS): Procurement Card and Travel Card Purchases (2013-S-39)
CUNY SPS charged over $500,000 in advertising services to its state-issued procurement cards instead of contracting for these services, as SPS purchasing guidelines require. For fiscal years 2009 to 2011, SPS used a procurement card to purchase a total of $283,701 in printing services from one vendor instead of engaging in the competitive bids process for printing services in excess of $5,000, as state law requires. A state-issued travel card was used to purchase several meals from New York City restaurants for employees who were not on travel assignments as well as to pay for the office’s holiday parties. The travel card was also inappropriately used to pay for lodging and airfare totaling $6,546 for seven persons, five of whom were not SPS employees.
- Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Motor Vehicle Financial Security and Safety Responsibility Acts: Assessable Expenses for the Two Fiscal Years Ended March 31 (2014-S-42)
DMV administers the Motor Vehicle Financial Security Act and the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act. These acts help ensure that the operators of motor vehicles driven in New York State possess adequate insurance coverage, or are financially secure, to compensate those persons they might injure or whose property they might damage as a result of an accident. Auditors found that for the fiscal years ended March 31, 2012 and March 31, 2013, net assessable expenses for the acts totaled about $20.3 million and $18.9 million, respectively, and that DMV is reporting its assessable expenses accurately. However, DMV lacks written policies and procedures for identifying which expenses are assessable.
- Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA): Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) – Selected Travel Expenses (2013-S-77)
MTA’s travel policy directive does not clearly state all the requirements or procedures the staff need to take with regard to travel related transactions. This has caused the LIRR to incur higher than necessary travel expenses. Employees did not return unused cash advance monies within the time frame required by the LIRR Travel Policy. LIRR officials also did not perform any analysis for personal vehicle usage but do perform a cost benefit analysis when determining whether to purchase a new vehicle.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund has committed an additional $30 million to Primary Venture Partners to invest in state-based companies, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced. The commitment will be made through the pension fund’s In-State Private Equity Investment Program, designed to make profitable investments in companies located in New York state. This is the state pension fund’s third commitment to Primary Venture Partners.
Primary Venture Partners, formerly known as High Peaks Venture Partners, is an early stage venture capital firm. The pension fund made previous commitments to the firm in 2010 for $15 million and in 2003 for $27 million through the In-State Program.
Primary Venture Partners has overseen the pension fund’s state-based investments in 42 companies including Vnomics, a fleet management software company located near Rochester and FieldLens, a construction industry mobile and web application developer located in New York City.
The pension fund has invested $786 million in 298 companies and has supported nearly 4,000 jobs across the state through the In-State Program. To date, the program has returned a total of $293 million to the pension fund. There is $467 million available for new investments. Read about the pension fund’s In-State Private Equity Investment Program.
As part of a coordinated law enforcement action, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his office and the Attorneys General of Oregon, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas filed lawsuits against Orbital Publishing Group, Inc. and a ring of interrelated New York and Oregon companies for mailing millions of unauthorized and allegedly misleading magazine and newspaper subscription notices to consumers nationwide. The solicitations were sent without the permission of the publishers and stated that consumers were receiving “one of the lowest available rates,” when, in fact, they were being charged, in some cases, more than double the publication price. The companies then pocketed the difference.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit, which charges violations of New York State law, alleges that, from at least 2010 to the present, the interrelated companies sent consumers unlawful solicitation notices designed to look like they came directly from at least 44 publications. The victimized publications include some of the nation’s leading periodicals, including Consumer Reports, National Geographic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit charges the companies violated Sections 349 and 350 of New York’s General Business Law, which prohibits deceptive business practices and false advertising, and Section 335-a of the General Business Law, which requires magazine renewal solicitations to disclose the month and year that the consumer’s subscription expires. The companies’ solicitations failed to provide this information. As a result, some consumers sent money to the companies to renew their subscriptions, not realizing that their current subscription had not yet expired. Other consumers complain that they sent payments to the companies but never received their subscriptions. Many of the consumers affected by the scam appear to be elderly.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement with the National Junior College Athletic Association (“NJCAA”), to eliminate an eligibility rule that limited the participation of students who attended fewer than three years of high school in the United States in their member colleges’ athletic programs. As part of the settlement, the NJCAA has agreed to eliminate the rule nationally, engage in outreach to junior colleges and students about the change, and submit any future eligibility rules concerning students’ national origin to the Attorney General for review.
Under the terms of the agreement, the NJCAA will:
- Permanently eliminate the eligibility rule for member colleges nationwide;
- Develop an outreach campaign to member colleges and their students concerning elimination of the rule and the opportunities available for all student-athletes. The campaign will include notices on the NJCAA website; fact sheets for distribution by athletic directors at member colleges; and quarterly posts to the Association’s various social media accounts, through January 2016;
- Submit for the Attorney General’s review any proposed eligibility rule concerning a student’s citizenship status, national origin, or residency in the U.S., through 2017; and
- Report to the Attorney General complaints made by any member college, student, or prospective student in New York State, alleging discrimination on the basis of citizenship status or national origin.
Assembly Announces Support for MWBE Programs in Enacted 2015-16 State Budget
Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, chair of the Government Operations Committee, announced vital Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) initiatives as part of the enacted 2015-16 State budget.
The financial plan includes $1 million for the Minority and Women-Owned Business Development and Lending Program, which provides financial assistance to MWBEs, as well as to projects and programs that assist the development of entrepreneurship among minorities and women in New York.
The budget extends the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program for an additional year and allows for the hiring of seven new full time employees to support the program. This important program has provided valuable opportunities for MWBE-certified businesses to access state contracting opportunities and technical assistance to secure them. The budget also extends the completion date of the MWBE Disparity Study by six months. The report will now be due by August 15, 2016.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried announced that the SFY 2015-16 Budget provides more than $86.1 million in funding for Medicaid initiatives and restores millions in funding to support community health programs that will ensure access to quality, affordable care and service for New Yorkers.
In addition to providing capital assistance for hospital facilities, the enacted budget will continue to directly fund dozens of community health programs across the state and maintain prescription drug assistance to ensure that lower income New Yorkers can continue to afford the treatment they need. The final budget also restores funding to continue Medicaid support for elderly New Yorkers who require costly long term care, without jeopardizing the financial viability of their spouses.
Funding for other Assembly priorities is also included in the budget, including $8.5 million for the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program, $3.9 million for Infertility Services and $3.3 million for the Enhancing the Quality of Adult Living (EQUAL) program, which supports adult care facilities to enhance the residents’ quality of care and life experience.
Additional funds are provided for the following programs and services:
- National Lymphatic and Tissue Bank – $200,000
- Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency – $209,000
- HIV/AIDS – Community Service Program (CSP) – $525,000
- HIV/AIDS – Multi Service Agencies (MSA) – $525,000
- Family Planning Services – $750,000
- NYS Breast Cancer Network – $50,000
- NYS Coalition for School Based Health Centers – $39,000
- Primary Care Development Corp – $400,000
- Community Health Advocates – $500,000
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Local Governments Committee Chair William Magnarelli and Economic Development, Commerce, Industry and Job Creation Committee Chair Robin Schimminger announced that $19.5 million in funding restorations for economic development funding is included in the approved 2015-16 SFY Budget.
The 2015-16 SFY Budget will provide $19.5 million in funding restorations to programs administered through the Department of Economic Development and the Empire State Development Corporation, which includes:
- $3 million for military base retention efforts;
- $1 million for the Bronx Overall Development Corporation;
- $1 million for the NUAIR Alliance at Griffiss International Airport;
- $1 million for the Beginning Farmers NY Fund; and
- $600,000 each for Advanced Manufacturing in Central New York and the Seneca Army Depot.
This budget also provides additional funding support for many vital economic development programs, including:
- $1.28 million for the Centers of Excellence, guaranteeing that each of the 10 centers receives $1 million;
- $1 million to New York State Incubators, providing a $6 million total for the NYS Business Incubator and Innovation Hot Spot Program;
- $500,000 for the Centers of Advanced Technology, providing a total of $14.32 million;
- $500,000 for local tourism matching grants, for a total of $4.32 million; and
- $200,000 for Canisius College Women’s Business Center and Center for Professional Development.
The importance of New York grown food products to the state’s economy is recognized in the budget with language to expand the eligibility provisions of the Real Property Manufacturing Tax Credit to farmers.
Inadvertently, farmers were excluded from this tax benefit that provides a tax credit equal to 20 percent of a manufacturer’s real property tax bill. Eligibility for this newly established tax credit, which was enacted in 2014, will now be extended to qualified taxpayers who are engaged in the production and manufacture of goods, processing, assembling, refining, mining, extracting, farming, agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, viticulture or commercial fishing.
Assembly Speaker Heastie, Transportation Chair Gantt and Corporations Chair Brennan Announce Funding Increases of $25 Million in State Aid for Upstate Transit Systems and $50 Million for the CHIPs Program in Budget
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt and Corporations Authorities and Commissions Committee Chair James Brennan announced that the 2015-16 SFY Budget provides a $25 million increase in state aid to upstate transit systems, $50 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) and $250 million in additional funds for the Department of Transportation (DOT) road and bridge capital projects.
Heastie, Gantt and Brenan noted that the Assembly pushed for a greater state commitment in transit aid to help the many financially struggling upstate transit systems that are in need of additional state support. As a result, the budget provides a total of $188.6 million for upstate transit operating aid, an increase of $10 million above both last year’s amount and the Executive Budget. It also provides additional and new capital funding of $15 million to help upstate transit operators invest in equipment and facilities that enhance the transit services they provide to the public.
The upstate transit systems that will benefit from the Assembly’s advocacy for additional state aid include the Capital District Transportation Authority, Central New York Regional Transportation Authority, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, and Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah J. Glick announced the final 2015-16 state budget provides funding for key programs that will help make higher education more affordable and more attainable for New York students and their families. The enacted budget provides increases in funding for Opportunity Programs, enhances community college base aid and boosts outreach programs to put students on the Higher Education Road to Success.
The budget also includes a 20 percent increase in funding for opportunity programs over last year. Opportunity Programs administered by State Education Department will be increased by 15 percent. Total allocated funding includes:
- $26.8 million for Educational Opportunity Program (EOP);
- $23.3 million for Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge (SEEK);
- $1.12 million for College Discovery;
- $15.3 million for Liberty Partnerships;
- $29.6 million for Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP);
- $13.1 million for Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP); and
- $9.98 million for Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP).
By raising community college base aid, the state reduces a financial burden for both students and municipalities. With this in mind, this year’s budget includes a base aid increase of $100 per full time equivalent (FTE) student at SUNY and CUNY community colleges, bringing the total base aid amount to $2,597 per FTE. In addition, the budget includes $2.5 million for CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which aims to help motivated community college students earn their degrees as quickly as possible. $7.5 million in funding for a new, New York AIMS Merit Scholarship program, which awards funds based on merit and need, is also provided.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the 2015-2016 SFY Budget includes $200 million for the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015 to assist municipalities in funding water quality infrastructure projects. The new grant program was initiated by the Assembly to address the financial crisis that many localities face when securing funding for waste water and drinking water infrastructure projects.
The need to provide clean drinking water and sewage treatment results in significant challenges for municipalities that are unable to take on sufficient debt to fund the overall costs of the projects. Although local governments often have the option of applying for NY Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) loans, many do not take full advantage of this opportunity because they cannot afford to incur the amount of debt necessary to finance their clean water projects.
The 2015-16 SFY Budget provides $200 million over three years for the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, and municipalities will work with EFC and the Department of Environmental Conservation to secure funding.
The New York State Senate passed a $142 billion 2015-16 State Budget that reflects the Senate’s commitment to strengthening the economy, increasing education funding by $1.4 billion to $23.5 billion and substantially restoring Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) cuts, reducing the tax burden on New Yorkers, and creating a brighter future for communities across the state.
Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, “This fifth consecutive on-time budget builds upon the progress we are making to revitalize the state’s economy and spend only what taxpayers can afford. We included an overall school aid increase of approximately $1.4 billion along with dramatic relief from Gap Elimination Adjustment cuts. When combined with education reforms to further improve student performance, our children will be better prepared to achieve brighter futures. Communities in each region of the state will have opportunities to strengthen their economies and create jobs through tax relief, investments in infrastructure, and workforce development. And important investments in quality health care and natural resource protection will help improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”
For the fifth straight year, the 2015-16 State Budget keeps within a two-percent spending cap, rejects tax increases, and turns a $10 billion deficit into a surplus within those five years.