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Cuomo touts budget with school aid increase, help for middle class

Staff Reports Posted 18 January 2017 at 2:59 pm

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the proposed FY 2018 Executive Budget on Tuesday evening, which builds on the state’s fiscal discipline over the last six years while strengthening the middle class, reducing taxes, and making smart investments in New York’s future.

For the seventh consecutive year, the budget is balanced and holds spending growth below 2 percent.

“This year’s budget raises up the middle class and advances our progressive values, all while continuing our record of fiscal discipline,” Cuomo said in a statement. “From making college more affordable and revitalizing our infrastructure, to cutting the cost of prescription drugs and doubling the child care tax credit, the budget advances the Middle Class Recovery Act by driving smart economic growth and generating opportunity for all New Yorkers.”

Highlights of the FY 2018 Executive Budget:

• State Operating Funds spending is $98.06 billion in FY 2018 – an increase of 1.9 percent. (State Operating Funds exclude Federal funds and capital). All Funds spending $152.3 billion for FY 2018.

• Increases Education Aid by $1 billion for a total increase of 4.1 percent, including $961 million for School Aid, bringing the new School Aid total to $25.6 billion.

• Increases State Medicaid spending under the growth cap (3.2 percent) to $18.3 billion.

• Invests $163 million to make college tuition free for middle-class families at SUNY and CUNY.

• Caps price of prescription drugs sold to Medicaid by state review board at no cost.

• Continues $20 billion investment to create and preserve 100,000 units of affordable and 6,000 units of supportive housing.

• Expands “Buy American” provisions to all procurement over $100,000, protecting our state’s manufacturing and construction sectors.

• Invests $2 billion over five years for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act.

• Supports New York’s middle-class families by doubling New York State Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

• Begins Middle Class Tax Cut for six million New Yorkers – saving households $250 on average next year and $700 annually when fully effective.

• Extends tax rate on millionaires – 45,000 taxpayers impacted, 50 percent non-residents.

Investing in Education

The FY 2018 Executive Budget continues the progress made to strengthen educational outcomes and increase access to high-quality learning across New York State, Cuomo’s office said today. Education aid has increased $6.1 billion or 31 percent over the last six years. The FY 2018 Budget increases education aid by $1 billion or 4.1 percent, including a $961 million increase in School Aid, bringing the total investment to $25.6 billion – the largest in the history of New York.

Increasing Access to Higher Education

Tuition-Free College for Middle-Class Families through Excelsior Scholarships: Cuomo proposes making college tuition-free for New York’s middle-class families at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges.

New York’s tuition-free college degree program, the Excelsior Scholarship, is the first of its kind in the nation and will help alleviate the crushing burden of student debt while enabling thousands of students to realize their dream of higher education. Under the program, tuition-free college would begin immediately for students of families making up to $100,000 annually, and phase in over the next two years to those making $125,000 annually. Once fully phased in, the program is estimated to cost $163 million per year.

New York State provides more than $7 billion in total support for colleges and universities—an increase of $1 billion since 2012. This investment includes more than $5 billion for SUNY state-operated campuses and CUNY senior colleges, and more than $700 million for community colleges. New York State also provides over $1 billion in financial assistance to students through the Tuition Assistance Program, various scholarships and loan forgiveness programs.

Curbing the Cost of Prescription Drugs

The budget continues efforts to control the rising cost of prescription drugs. In Medicaid, gross prescription drug costs have grown by $1.7 billion or approximately 38 percent over the last three years. The governor is therefore advancing a three-point plan to protect consumers and taxpayers from the health and economic consequences of the rapidly rising cost of prescription drugs.

Combating the Heroin Epidemic

In 2016, the Governor signed into law a comprehensive plan to end the heroin and opioid epidemic in New York State. The FY 2018 Budget builds on this progress by investing $200 million to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs targeted toward chemical dependency, residential service opportunities, and public awareness and education activities.

Implementing Buy American Act

Each year, New York State spends billions of dollars on the procurement of goods and services. However, existing regulations place little emphasis on ensuring this spending power is leveraged to support all American manufacturing, many which are right here in New York State.

Under the Governor’s “Buy American” plan, all state entities will be required to give preference to American-made goods and products in any new procurements more than $100,000. This measure would implement the nation’s strongest mandate for the purchase of American-made products by state entities.

Protecting the Environment

The budget proposal initiates an unprecedented investment in clean water programs, increases capital funding for environmental and recreational facilities, maintains historic funding levels for the Environmental Protection Fund, and continues state funding for core environmental, parks and agricultural programs.

• Clean Water Infrastructure Act: To ensure that current and future New Yorkers have access to clean water, the budget initiates the $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act. Funded at $400 million per year over five years, this historic investment will support critical drinking water, wastewater, and source water protection initiatives.

• Empire State Trail: The Budget invests $53 million for Phase I of the Empire State Trail to develop and connect fragmented stretches of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Erie Canalway. When complete, the trail network will stretch through the Hudson Valley and Adirondacks from New York City to the Canadian border and along the Erie Canal from Albany to Buffalo. This investment will create the largest state multi-use trail in the nation, attracting new tourists to explore New York’s diverse landscapes and rich history.

• NY Park’s 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 can strategically leverage private funding to improve New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation facilities and services.

• Environmental Protection Fund (EPF): The budget continues EPF funding at $300 million, the highest level of funding in the program’s history. Appropriations include $41 million for solid waste programs, $87 million for parks and recreation, $150 million for open space programs, and $22 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program.

Enabling Access to Ridesharing Across New York State

The current limitations on the availability of ridesharing services has meant that millions of New Yorkers are not only missing out on an alternative form of transportation, but thousands more are being prevented from pursuing new flexible job opportunities as rideshare drivers.

The executive budget authorizes Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to operate throughout the state and creates uniform licensing requirements.

Delivering Real Property Tax Relief and Relieving Local Government Mandates

• With the Countywide Shared Services Property Tax Savings Plans Initiative, counties will be required to work with the other local governments contained within their county, as well as with the community and civic leaders, to develop plans to lower property taxes. The plans must generate real, recurring savings for taxpayers by eliminating duplicative services and proposing coordinated services to enhance purchasing power, such as sharing expensive transportation or emergency equipment. Taxpayers will then vote on these cost-saving plans in a referendum in the November 2017 general election.

• Indigent Defense: This year, the governor introduced a plan to extend the provisions of the Hurrell-Harring settlement to the rest of the state. Under this plan, the state will fund one hundred percent of the costs necessary to extend the reforms in the Hurrell-Harring settlement to all of the state’s counties and the City of New York, with appropriate fiscal oversight through the Division of Budget. The annual cost to the State is estimated to be $240 million when fully phased-in. This initiative will guarantee that indigent defendants have counsel at arraignment, provide caseload relief for public defenders local judges and prosecutors, and improve the state criminal justice system for indigent defendants.

• Medicaid Relief: The state has eliminated growth in the local share of Medicaid, saving counties $3.2 billion in FY 2018. All growth in the Medicaid program for counties is being absorbed by the state and New York is also assuming Medicaid administrative responsibilities for counties. This will result in greater efficiencies and help achieve health care reform initiatives.

Driving Economic Growth and Revitalizing New York’s Infrastructure

• I LOVE NY: The Budget includes $70 million for I Love NY tourism and business marketing – building on the success of the state’s tv and web advertising, tourism centers and Taste NY promotions. Since 2011, $150 million in state investments have returned an additional $9 billion increase in direct visitor spending, rising from $54 billion to $63 billion. As part of our efforts, the budget proposes legalizing and incentivizing wine and beer sales in movie theatres across the state to drive sales of Taste NY products.

• Buffalo Billion II: The Executive Budget allocates $500 million over five years to support the second phase of the Buffalo Billion investment development plan. 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 4,100 projects through a competitive process to spur job creation based on regional priorities. This new strategy has resulted in 210,000 new or retained jobs in New York. The Executive Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for a seventh round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.

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