Cuomo sees positives in budget extender

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 April 2017 at 8:12 am

Hawley: ‘Absolutely unacceptable way to operate state government’

ALBANY – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday announced the passage of the FY 2018 State Budget Extender, which funds all government operations through May 31 and advances key priority infrastructure, economic development, and environmental projects across New York, Cuomo said in a news release.

The Budget Extender also secures $2.5 billion to ensure access to clean, drinkable water for all New Yorkers, protects the state’s most vulnerable from the soaring cost of prescription drugs, and increases direct care professional salaries 6.5 percent over the next two years.

Over the next two months, the state expects to spend $24.6 billion, which includes the general fund, aid to localities and school districts, special revenue, capital projects, and debts service. The Extender also authorizes $16.4 billion in new capital appropriations to advance critical economic development and infrastructure projects.

Here are highlights of budget from Cuomo’s office:

Fully Funding New York’s Transportation Capital Program

The FY 2018 Budget Extender continues New York State’s historic investments in the transportation system, which are improving our roads and bridges, increasing mobility, and supporting economic growth. The Budget Extender reflects the third year of the $55 billion transportation capital plan, which is enhancing and expanding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) network, and improving roads, bridges, airports rail facilities, ports and transit systems.

The FY 2018 Budget Extender also continues the state’s record commitment to funding local highway and bridge projects. Funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and the Marchiselli program is maintained at last year’s level of $477.8 million. The Budget Extender also continues $100 million in highway aid through the PAVE NY program.

Protecting New Yorkers from the Soaring Cost of Prescription Drugs

Under the FY 2018 Budget Extender, New York is the first state in the nation to cap the growth of prescription drug spending in its Medicaid program, which has grown 25 percent over the past three years. The agreement provides the Department of Health with a range of tools to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including the ability to drive down the cost of certain drugs whose price is high relative to its therapeutic benefits‎. This unpreceded agreement enables the Medicaid program to allocate more resources for other essential health services and ensure high-quality care across New York State.

Increasing Direct Care Professional Salaries

The Budget Extender includes a landmark agreement that will provide New York’s 120,000 direct care professionals with a 6.5 percent raise over the next two years. These increases will help state-funded non-profits that specialize in the care of vulnerable New Yorkers not only recruit and retain employees, but continue to provide the same level of excellent care that have made them the backbone of New York’s developmentally disabled and behavioral health system.

Investing in Higher Education

The FY 2018 Budget Extender continues the state’s record investments in higher education, providing nearly $1.33 billion in capital funding to SUNY, CUNY and private colleges in New York. The state’s higher education institutions educate over 1.2 million students. The State University of New York and the City University of New York administer 47 four-year colleges and graduate schools that provide more than 403,000 full- and part-time students with an array of undergraduate, graduate, and first professional educational opportunities. SUNY and CUNY also support 37 community colleges, serving over 324,000 students. In addition, nearly 520,000 students attend the more than 100 private colleges and universities across the state. Over the past 10 years, total enrollment at New York’s institutions of higher education has increased by 103,000.

Providing Clean Drinking Water to All New Yorkers

To ensure that current and future New Yorkers have access to clean water, the Budget Extender initiates the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, $725 million of which is available immediately. This investment will protect public health, safeguard the environment, and benefit New York’s economy. These funds will help local governments address water emergencies, pay for local infrastructure construction projects, underwrite land acquisition for source water protection, and investigate and mitigate emerging contaminants in drinking water. These projects will improve the quality and safety of municipal drinking water distribution and treatment systems, and wastewater infrastructure.

Safeguarding New York’s Environment for Future Generations

• Environmental Protection Fund: The Budget continues EPF funding at $300 million, the highest level in the history of the state. Appropriations include funding for solid waste programs, parks and recreation, open space programs, and the climate change mitigation and adaptation programs.

• NY Parks 2020 Initiative: Building on the NY Parks 2020 initiative, which is investing $900 million to upgrade and repair our State Parks, the Budget allocates $120 million in New York Works capital funding – an increase of $30 million from FY 2017. This funding will aid the ongoing transformation of the state’s flagship parks and support critical infrastructure projects. The additional $30 million will target projects that will strategically leverage private funding to improve New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation facilities and services.

• Adventure NY Program: DEC will launch the Adventure NY program, which will improve access to State lands, rehabilitate campgrounds, and upgrade DEC recreational facilities. This new initiative will build on existing efforts and includes $70 million in New York Works capital funding, an increase of $30 million from FY 2017. This funding will also enable DEC to continue to address critical infrastructure needs, including dam safety and flood control projects.

Driving Economic Growth and Revitalizing New York’s Infrastructure

• Downtown Revitalization Initiative Round II: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative was created last year to fund transformative housing, economic development, transportation, and community projects to attract and retain residents, visitors, and businesses to downtowns. The first round awarded a total of $100 million to ten communities that are currently experiencing population loss and/or economic decline to develop revitalization plans for their downtown area, developed in collaboration with policy and planning experts. The FY 2018 Budget Extender expands this initiative by providing another $100 million for ten new communities, bringing the total program funding to $200 million.

• Life Sciences Investment: The FY 2018 Budget Extender invests $300 million in capital funding as part of a $650 million initiative to grow a new, world-class life science research cluster in New York and expand the state’s ability to commercialize research and grow the economy. Through this multi-faceted initiative, New York will significantly increase its share of industry-funded research and development, support the commercialization of existing academic research, and usher in the next generation of advanced technologies. Beyond the advancements in science, this initiative will position New York to be a magnet for emerging manufacturing based enterprises, bolstering regional economies and creating thousands of jobs.

• Buffalo Billion Phase II: The Budget Extender allocates $400 million in capital funding toward the $500 million Buffalo Billion Phase II. Buffalo Billion Phase II will extend investment in Western New York to the neighborhood level and strengthen existing connections between downtown, suburban, and surrounding areas. Phase II will focus on revitalization and smart growth efforts, improvements to workforce development and job training, growing advanced manufacturing, tourism and life sciences, and connecting communities to foster growth through rail expansion.

• Regional Economic Development Councils: Since 2011 the REDCs have awarded nearly $4.6 billion in state funding to over 5,200 projects through a competitive process to spur job creation based on regional priorities. Projects receiving funding through the REDC initiative are expected to create and retain 210,000 jobs in New York. The Budget Extender includes $150 million in capital funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for REDC Round VII.

• Photonics Venture Challenge in Rochester: New York State will establish a $10 million, multi-year Photonics Venture Challenge in Rochester. This business competition aims to support start-up companies that commercialize these rapidly developing technologies through a business accelerator program. It includes a top award of $1 million to the most promising start-up company. There are currently no accelerator programs in the world with a photonics focus and the Rochester region is uniquely positioned to build a nationally recognized program.

• I ❤ New York Welcome Centers: Modeled after the successful Long Island Welcome Center, the state will establish welcome centers – one in each region of the state – that feature an array of experiences including Taste NY, Path Through History, I ❤ New York and State Parks that highlight each region’s tourism assets.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, issued this statement about the budget extender:

“This nearly 2,000-page budget extender serves as a microcosm of the dysfunction, secrecy and incompetence in Albany’s budget process. We have been kept mostly in the dark for days and now are expected to vote on an almost 2,000-page budget extender that will keep the government in function until May 31 only minutes after it was printed. This is an absolutely unacceptable way to operate state government, and the state leaders and New York City politicians who are perpetuating this stalemate because they can’t agree after weeks of negotiations should be ashamed of themselves. Furthermore, they have cost taxpayers roughly $250,000 in per diem in travel expenses for legislators by keeping them here through the weekend while an agreement is being negotiated.”

State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, issued this statement:

“I’m deeply disappointed in today’s passage of a budget extender. Importantly, the budget extender allows the state to continue government operations at last year’s funding levels to ensure that critical services are provided. But that’s the bare minimum of what citizens expect out of their government and should never be the expectation of achievement. While it may resonate with their liberal base, the focus of our state’s Democrats needs to be on what we need to do here in New York as opposed to what’s happening in Washington, DC. Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans aren’t in charge of New York; the Governor and Legislature are in charge and we need to act like it. The reason we do not have a budget is simple – Democrats are choosing to stand with violent offenders and criminals over public safety and hardworking New Yorkers. Because of that, individuals with disabilities won’t get additional services they need, our schools and roads won’t receive critical aid increases, and our economy will continue to suffer without ride-sharing services and workers’ compensation reform.”

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