Affordability and opportunity – those are the ideals I have stressed all year, and both are at the heart of the recently approved 2018-19 state budget.
For the eighth consecutive year, the state budget holds the line on spending, adhering to a self-imposed two-percent spending cap. This was a key factor in closing a $4.5 billion deficit. In fact, capping state spending has saved taxpayers nearly $52 billion on a cumulative basis since the 2010-2011 budget.
I believe strongly in fiscal responsibility and I worked closely with my colleagues in the senate to deliver a budget that does not overspend and raid taxpayer’s wallets. The governor proposed more than $1 billion in onerous tax-and-fee increases and the state assembly, led by New York City Democrats, added even more. The final budget rejects the new taxes and protects the continued roll-out of the landmark $4.2 billion Middle Class Income Tax Cut that began taking effect in January and will reduce tax rates on middle class families and thousands of small businesses by 20 percent over the next several years.
Education aid for our public schools is always one of the largest portions of the state budget, and this year was no exception. I successfully fought to increase aid to our schools by approximately $1 billion over last year. Overall, education funding will total more than $26 billion in the coming year. The state aid helps foster success in the classroom and keeps local property taxes in check.
Support for local roads and bridges is going up. To help localities repair and rehabilitate local roads and bridges, the budget provides an additional $65 million in one-time Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Program (CHIPS) funding for extreme winter recovery, for a total of $503 million. I also helped secure $122 million to support infrastructure improvements needed to attract and expand businesses. The new capital funds include investments in transportation, environmental mitigation, aviation, and other economic development-related infrastructure projects throughout the state.
The budget provides key investments in job training and workforce development initiatives so New Yorkers can enhance their job skills – providing a pathway for new opportunities, financial security and career success. Specific highlights include:
· $5 million for the Next Generation Job Linkage Program that assists employers in identifying potential jobs, defining their necessary skills and providing employees with the appropriate training;
· $5 million for the SUNY/CUNY Apprentice Initiative, a targeted training initiative that helps employers refine the skills of new hires and enables more experienced employees the chance to upgrade their skills;
· $4 million for the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), a highly successful not-for-profit that works with businesses and the AFL-CIO to provide focused training for workers and for workforce transition support to help stop the outsourcing of jobs to other states. An additional $3 million is also provided for WDI’s Manufacturing Initiative;
· $3.6 million for Business and Community College Partnerships that support innovative, specifically-tailored workforce training programs coordinated between individual businesses and community colleges.
The budget also includes support for key programs that people talk to me about every day. Funding cut by the governor to help our farmers, veterans, and senior citizens was restored by the senate and included in the final plan. I also worked to secure increased state dollars for vital healthcare programs targeting Lyme, women’s health initiatives, and the battle against heroin and opioid addiction.
There is sweeping legislation to address sexual harassment in the workplace. This deplorable crime must be stopped and this measure includes new protections and penalties that send a strong message.
The plan isn’t perfect, and there are additional issues to be addressed during the remainder of the legislative session. But overall, the state budget addresses the needs and values of our diverse state, serves as a strong foundation for new opportunities, and helps make New York a more affordable place to live and work.