Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, has helped finalize a third consecutive on-time state budget. Ceretto remarked the fiscally responsible state spending plan includes the lowest middle-class tax rates in 60 years, as well as additional tax relief for middle-class families. It also includes funding that will benefit students, seniors and businesses in Western New York.
"By investing nearly $1 billion in additional state education funding, this year's budget will help to provide a world-class education to our students while helping to hold down local property taxes," Ceretto said. "Supporting the education of our children is essential to ensuring that New York is prepared for the future and is critical to making a prosperous New York a reality."
Ceretto noted that, under the finalized state budget, Western New York schools have received significant increases in state school aid funding, with every school in his Assembly district receiving an increase. Grand Island received a 7.48 percent increase, Lewiston Porter received a 4.32 percent increase, Niagara Wheatfield received a 4.86 percent increase, Niagara Falls received a 4.01 percent increase, North Tonawanda received a 4.1 percent increase, and Starpoint received a 5.91 percent increase.
In addition to this enhanced school aid, there was also increased funding for teacher centers, $4.5 million in new funding for private schools for safety equipment, and added support for community colleges to provide the necessary training to secure good, well-paying jobs.
Ceretto noted the budget also provides additional support to senior citizens. Under the finalized budget, the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage, or EPIC, program, which provides prescription drug coverage for New York's senior citizens, has received an additional $1.2 million in funding.
"Many seniors live on fixed incomes and are forced to chose between putting food on the table and the medications that can save their lives," Ceretto said. "To help provide seniors with financial relief and to make certain that they have access to the medications they need, this year's budget provided an additional $1.2 million to the EPIC program to enhance prescription drug coverage for senior citizens."
As the ranking minority member of the state's tourism committee, Ceretto supported several initiatives in this year's budget to help promote tourism and the wine and grape industry in Western New York. This year's budget provides $7 million in funding for the Market-NY program to promote regional tourism industries and New York products. The budget also provides $1 million for the Wine and Grape Foundation to help accelerate the growth and expansion of this key industry in Western New York.
"Wine production is the fastest growing agricultural industry in the state, creating hundreds of good-paying jobs and attracting thousands of visitors to Western New York every year," Ceretto said. "The budget will help grow our region's wineries, which in turn will help strengthen the local economy and bolster tourism throughout Western New York."
Also notable in this budget is the $75 million increase in CHIPS funding that brings the total funding to $438 million. This program provides money to improve state highways and infrastructure, helping to keep the economy moving.
"This sorely needed funding will help make needed improvements to our local roads, highways, and bridges," Ceretto said. "Better roads are not only safer, they are also an important part of the local economy. This greatly enhanced highway funding will help make the region a more attractive place for businesses, as well as enhance the quality of life for area residents."