Governor’s budget, State of State draws praise and concern

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2015 at 12:00 am

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of State address this afternoon, as well as a $141.6 billion budget proposal.

The governor wants to direct billions to the upstate economy, and overhaul the education system including teacher evaluations.

He wants high-speed Internet available state-wide, and significant investments in roads, bridges and infrastructure.

Some reactions include:

New York Farm Bureau:

“If we want to have a growing agricultural sector in New York, it’s important for the State of New York to partner with the industry and invest in growing our farm economy,” said Dean Norton, NYFB president. “Governor Cuomo’s State of the State offered some worthwhile plans to continue supporting family farms. We appreciate the funding for conservation easements in both the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley. The money will help eligible farms reinvest into their operations in these two regions, but the focus on boosting agriculture in New York must be a statewide approach, committing resources to better infrastructure, greater market access and critical research and development.

“New York Farm Bureau is also supportive of the additional money for the Environmental Protection Fund. This will assist farms in achieving environmental stewardship goals, as greater assistance is needed across the board for water quality programs, soil and water conservation, controlling invasive species, and statewide farmland protection projects.

“An additional $50 million to transform the Great New York State Fairgrounds is also welcome news. Upgrading the facilities will reflect modern day agriculture in the state and will invite even more people to walk through the turnstiles to see the great things happening on our diverse farms across New York.

“However, New York Farm Bureau has serious concerns about attempts to raise the minimum wage to $10.50. The financial impacts of the current scheduled increase to $9 has yet to play out and already the Governor looks to raise it even higher. This proposal comes at a time when the prices farmers receive for many of their commodities are dropping. It will be a drag on the farm economy should this additional hike become a reality.”

New York State School Boards Association:

“Governor Cuomo today delivered a broad, sweeping vision for reforming the public education system,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer.

“We admire the governor’s willingness to take on such bold initiatives as reforming the cumbersome teacher disciplinary process, repairing the state’s broken teacher and principal evaluation system, and rewarding exemplary teachers.

“But state aid to school districts should not be held hostage to education reforms. Without knowing how much state funding they will receive, school boards will not be able to properly develop their budgets and estimate their tax levies.

“We are concerned that the governor’s speech made little mention of anything positive about public education. Schools need relief from the Gap Elimination Adjustment and a greater investment in Foundation Aid, not an expansion of charter schools or adoption of education tax credits.

“Even the governor’s $1.1 billion funding proposal – which is only available if lawmakers adopt his package of reforms falls way short of the amount schools need to sustain current programs.

“While we support efforts to improve student achievement in chronically underperforming schools, we would oppose those solutions that unduly place blame on elected school board members for issues that may be beyond their control.

“The governor’s proposals represent a starting point. We look forward to working with lawmakers to support New York’s public schools.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia:

“A plan to expand broadband Internet access will be beneficial to the more rural parts of my district, and I look forward to hearing more about the proposal. I am concerned that Gov. Cuomo’s small-business tax cut plan is not structured in a manner that allows business owners to expand and hire more employees.

“The proposed cut is less than one-tenth of what the legislature gave to Hollywood film executives to entice them to produce movies in New York State. We need to get our priorities straight and protect family-owned businesses that have been in New York for generations.

“Furthermore, I am concerned that the governor’s plan does not properly fund agriculture in a way that will protect our farmers and allow their businesses to stay in New York and be passed down from generation to generation.”

New York State Bar Association on raising the age of criminal responsibility:

“The New York State Bar Association has long supported raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18,” said President Glenn Lau-Kee. “We look forward to studying Governor Cuomo’s proposal.

“Every child accused of a nonviolent felony deserves a second chance. Research demonstrates-what parents intuitively know-that 16- and 17-year-old kids lack the maturity and judgment to understand the legal consequences of their actions. A criminal record at a young age can shadow a lifetime, affecting an individual’s future education and employment.

“Raising the age of criminal responsibility will help all children to embark a more positive path to adulthood. Providing troubled teenagers with support and guidance can help them turn around their lives.”

New York State Public Employees Federation:

“We have some concerns with the budget plan unveiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo today,” said PEF President Susan M. Kent. “First, the proposed 2015-16 budget proposal includes no funding increases for state agencies. With agency budgets remaining flat, understaffing will continue and needed public services in communities will decline. Yet, the governor emphasized how he believes in community and that ‘the New York way is one for all, and all for one.’

“The governor spoke about the billions of dollars in settlement funds the state has received and how he has earmarked the money. PEF members were directly responsible for bringing that $5.4 billion into New York. We believe the governor and the Legislature should recognize the value of the work done by the professional workers represented by PEF in securing the settlement by ensuring funds from the windfall are reinvested, in part, to state agencies to maintain and improve public services in all New York communities.”

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network on proposal toregulate of e-Cigarettes:

“Governor Cuomo listened to a recommendation that we and other groups made to his staff in December and we are encouraged by his comments regarding a proposal to make electronic cigarettes be subject to New York State’s Clean Indoor Air Act in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, and other places that do not allow smoking,” said Michael Burgess, NY government relations director for American Cancer Society Cancer Action.

“If enacted, this would protect against second hand exposure to nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals found in these products. It will also help ensure that enforcement of existing smoke-free laws is not compromised, and that the public health benefits of smoke-free laws are not undermined.

“Governor Cuomo’s proposal also includes prohibiting the use of flavored nicotine in e-cigarettes. This measure, in addition to including electronic cigarettes in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, would help protect young people from the potentially harmful effects of these products.

“In the last year, there has been a significant increase in the sale of electronic cigarettes nationally and usage among high school students nationally has doubled within a recent one-year period. ACS CAN applauds the governor’s proposed regulations and will continue to work with the governor and state legislators to protect New York residents with the potential risks associated with electronic cigarettes.”