Farm Bureau, School Boards Association, others see positives in Cuomo budget

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 10:17 am

Organizations representing highway superintendents, schools, agriculture and other industries are praising a budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, which was presented on Tuesday. Cuomo said many of the proposals are contingent on the federal government coming through with aid for the state and local governments.

Cuomo is urging the Biden Administration and Congress to come through with $15 billion in addition relief for the state.

Here are some responses to the governor’s budget.

New York Farm Bureau: Broadband and Nourish NY are priorities

“Governor Cuomo’s proposed executive budget rests on many uncertainties facing our state’s fiscal future. Without additional federal support, agricultural programs and rural needs would undoubtedly suffer.

“The Governor’s budget address highlighted two priority issues for New York Farm Bureau, universal and accessible broadband and $25 million in additional funding for Nourish NY. Many rural communities are still lacking affordable and fast broadband which in turn slows down business activity and family necessities that many New Yorkers take for granted.

“Nourish NY has proven a lifeline for people in need as well as for many of our farms. When there were major disruptions along the food supply chain at the beginning of the pandemic, Nourish NY stepped in to coordinate a pathway to move food from the farms to food banks, compensating farmers for their products and reducing food waste at the same time. The program must continue.

“As we take a deep dive into the budget, we are pleased that Governor Cuomo has also extended the farm workforce retention tax credit of $600 per employee. Its purpose was to ease the burden of climbing minimum wage rates on the fragile farm economy. New York Farm Bureau will continue to monitor budget information as it rolls out, especially considering the mounting deficit the state finds itself in this year.

“We urge lawmakers to be careful how they spend money. The agricultural budget is a tiny fraction of overall state spending, but farms feed all New Yorkers and are an economic engine that returns state investment exponentially. Funding reductions for research, marketing, conservation programs and the like would place even larger barriers in front of the state’s farms and food system that would prove more costly to correct down the road.”

Highway Superintendents: ‘Essential to invest in local roads and bridges’

Statement from New York State County Highway Superintendents Association President Todd Gadd: “The New York State County Highway Superintendents Association is encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s continued focus on infrastructure. As detailed in the State of the State address, the governor’s ambitious agenda will create good-paying jobs and revive communities around those projects. As our leaders in Albany begin to rebuild the state’s economy, it’s essential that they invest in local roads and bridges.

“Restoring funding for important initiatives like New York’s Consolidated Local Streets & Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), BRIDGE-NY, PAVE-NY and other local transportation programs will put thousands of New Yorkers to work right away while ensuring the safety of motorists. Additionally, Governor Cuomo and legislators should increase the level; of funding for the state’s Extreme Winter Recovery program to $100 million. These are smart investments that will yield significant returns.

“Our organization looks forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Beastie and all legislators to ensure significant funding for essential local roads and bridges. Together, we can get our economy moving again.”

School Boards: Budget should provide stability for education, not unpredictability and anxiety

Statement from New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider: “Governor Cuomo presented a budget proposal – or actually, two proposals – today that includes a lot of unknowns and uncertainty for school districts. The unusual design of his budget presentation – one that assumes a minimum level of federal assistance to New York and one that provides a fairer share – underscores the fact that the governor’s budget plan is, more this year than ever, a work in progress.

“We are heartened by the state’s success in paring back the projected budget deficit, though the gap still remains daunting. New York is in dire need of assistance from the federal government, and we join with the governor in calling for our state to receive its fair share of future Covid relief packages.

“We remain concerned with the governor’s proposals to help balance the state’s budget at the expense of school districts. Those proposals include: using federal money to offset state aid cuts, reducing and consolidating categorical aids, limiting reimbursement for the steps districts took to keep their transportation programs intact last spring and eliminating prior year aid claims.

“We fully support the governor’s call for the federal government to remove the “SALT” cap on state and local tax deductibility, which has hurt so many New Yorkers who support their local school districts with their property tax payments.

“On the heels of the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic, our schools and our students need and deserve a recovery that provides financial stability, not more unpredictability and anxiety. We are hopeful that, with sufficient federal help, our students and schools will thrive in the post-Covid recovery. We look forward to working with our state lawmakers to chart a course that provides the financial stability that our schools and students need.

Teachers: Don’t cut funding to schools, colleges and other public services

Statement from New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta: “This tale of two budgets is stark and a clear message to Washington that New York needs its fair share in additional stimulus funding. We agree. But, as we’ve said since last year, a two-pronged approach to the state’s fiscal crisis that includes additional federal funding for public services and new state taxes on the ultrawealthy is a long-term imperative.

“It’s a positive signal to hear that the governor’s best case scenario budget would turn fair funding from Washington into significant resources for K-12 education, higher education and health care. However, under the ‘worst case scenario,’ using federal money while reducing the state’s share of education funding — rather than supplementing state funding — is reminiscent of the Gap Elimination Adjustment we fought for years to close. As a state, we can’t afford to view cuts of any kind to public schools and colleges, public health care, and other public services funded by state and local governments as a default option — especially when the billionaire class has seen its wealth grow as millions of New York families have struggled during this pandemic.

“We look forward to reviewing the executive budget legislation in detail and amplifying the voices of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in education, higher education, human services and health care in Albany and Washington in the months ahead to fight for a budget that meets New Yorkers’ needs during this COVID crisis.”

Restaurant workers: Relief needed for restaurant industry

Statement from Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit representing subminimum wage workers: “One Fair Wage appreciates Cuomo’s singling out the restaurant industry, given the devastating blow it’s taken by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, we hope that the much-needed relief for the industry will include those struggling the most – restaurant workers – by eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers. New York restaurants cannot recover and thrive after the pandemic without their essential workers, and workers cannot return to work without One Fair Wage.

“With tips down 50-75% and instances of sexual harassment on the job increasing every day, the subminimum wage for tipped workers has changed from an issue of racial, economic and gender injustice to becoming an issue of life or death, not to mention a public health emergency.

“President-Elect Biden recognized this when he announced on Thursday that a $15 minimum wage and One Fair Wage – a full minimum wage for tipped workers with tips on top – would be part of his Covid-10 relief package that is moving quickly in Congress. We hope that Governor Cuomo can align with President-Elect Biden and make New York a leader in getting ahead of this federal legislation by making One Fair Wage a part of his Covid-19 relief package for small businesses and restaurants, in particular in New York.”