This Week in Albany

Week ending January 23, 2015

State Budget Highlights

Major actions included in Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal:

Taxes

  • Create a property tax circuit breaker for taxpayers residing in municipalities that stay within the tax cap. CSEA has always advocated for a circuit breaker but this proposal, coupled with the tax cap and freeze credit, would place a tremendous burden on local governments.
  • Create a new Education Tax Credit that amounts to a voucher system that would give up to a million dollars in tax credits to donors to certain educational institutions. The proposal is tied to the “Dream Act,” which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

State Operations

Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)

  • Provide for additional positions in OPWDD for state-operated transitional care pilot programs for the continued transition of clients to appropriate community integrated settings.
  • Fund a 2% salary increase for direct care and clinical not-for-profit providers.

Office of Mental Health (OMH)

  • Allow for the possibility of a net reduction of 400 state operated inpatient beds. $110,000 for each net reduction would be reinvested to improve community services. Community reinvestments have been promised many times without coming to fruition.

Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)

  • Increase funding by $85 million for capital investments as a result of an initiative known as “raise the age.”  This initiative would prohibit 16 and 17 years old from being housed in correctional facilities and would require secure facilities to house these clients. This would result in additional CSEA positions over the next few years.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • $50 million will be provided for new snow plows and to equip DOT vehicles involved in snow management with GPS systems.
  • Design-build would be expanded to all state agencies and made permanent.
  • Funding for the CHIPS program remains same as last year.
  • The budget would authorize DOT and the Thruway Authority to share services. This proposal is concerning and more details are needed.

Local Governments

  • AIM funding is once again held flat and $150 million is provided to encourage local governments and school districts to consolidate and share services.

Child Care

  • Increase child care subsidies by $21,125,000 and provide funding for CSEA’s new child care contract.

Health Care

  • Impose a fee on every policy of insurance issued in the state to support the health insurance exchange. According to the Governor, this fee would average $25 per year.
  • Provide $700 million in capital funding for health care delivery systems in Brooklyn. More details are needed on this proposal.

Education

  • Increase aid for schools by $1.1 billion, but only if proposed reforms are accepted. If the legislature rejects the reforms, state aid to education would only increase by $377 million.
  • The reforms proposed in the budget include changes to teacher tenure and evaluations, and an increase in the charter school cap by another 100 schools.
  • Importantly, the budget would create a turnaround strategy for failing schools that would include appointing a receiver who would have the power to oversee a failed school district and void certain aspects of a collective bargaining agreement. Language is currently too vague to determine if CSEA collective bargaining contracts would fall under this provision.

SUNY/CUNY

  • Keep State funding consistent for SUNY/CUNY colleges.
  • Reduce the SUNY hospital subsidy by $18.5 billion.
  • Tie some aid for community colleges to performance funding.

Other Issues

  • Reform Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs), including a proposal to a claw back funds when companies do not live up to their promises.
  • $3 billion from financial settlements would be spent on loans and grants for infrastructure projects.
  • A competition between 7 upstate regions for three $500 million pots of money for economic development.

Please check the Legislative and Political Action Department’s webpage for updates on the budget as they become available.

Voters Reject Dissolution Again

Residents of the Village of Medina in Orleans County resoundingly rejected a proposal to dissolve their village by a more than two-to-one vote this week.

Local government consolidation has been a major focus of Governor Cuomo during his time both as Governor and Attorney General, but the 949 to 547 vote is more proof that residents want to keep the local services provided in their communities.