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Jacobs announces passage of state budget; Ortt calls budget 'responsible'; Morinello 'pleased' with process

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Mon, Apr 10th 2017 10:30 am

Jacobs: Spending plan protects taxpayers & funds priorities

Ortt:  Budget  will help 'improve the lives of all New Yorkers and make Western New York a better community to live, work and raise a family'

Morinello: Give and take required to achieve results

New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs announced the passage of the 2017-18 New York state budget, saying the $153 billion spending plan resulted in the state living within its means and prioritizing spending to ensure equity for all New Yorkers.

"The budget that was ultimately approved rejected hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes and fee increases, and protects hardworking taxpayers through the extension of last year's historic $4.2 billion middle class income tax cut," Jacobs said. "Equally important, rejecting those tax and fee increases helps us to maintain our competitiveness and affordability as we continue to advance the economic recovery underway in our region."

Jacobs said the continuation of the middle class tax cut approved last year will mean a reduction in rates of 20 percent, and middle class families will see their lowest income tax rates in 70 years.

For his part, Jacobs said he was pleased with the victories for Buffalo and Western New York that made it into the final budget. Noting parity in the distribution of state resources was a primary objective of his going into the budget process, Jacobs highlighted some of the priorities he fought for during negotiations:

Bringing Ridesharing to Buffalo & Western New York - A top priority for Jacobs, the state budget expands ridesharing outside New York City. After a 90-day period for the state to develop a regulatory framework, ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft will be able to begin operations and provide Western New Yorkers with a transportation alternative.

Buffalo Billion II - $500 million to support a second phase of economic development stimulus spending for Buffalo and Western New York. Examples of projects proposed for the phase two spending include creation of a $10 million workforce development fund for training initiatives, a combined $25 million for strategic advanced manufacturing and health and life sciences projects, relocating Buffalo Manufacturing Works to the Northland corridor and the extension of the Metro Rail to the DL&W Terminal and redevelopment of the building and surroundings.

Education Funding - Increases state education aid by $1.1 billion. School aid will total more than $25.8 billion in the coming year, the largest commitment ever to public education. This includes an unprecedented increase of $700 million in Foundation Aid that will benefit local school districts.

Workers Compensation Reform - The most significant worker's compensation reform in over a decade will provide businesses, local governments and not-for-profits major savings, including rebates this year, while enhancing protections for injured workers. Reforming temporary benefit timelines is expected to reduce employer contributions approximately $350 million annually. The budget requires updating the impairment for loss of use awards, the first time these have been updated in decades, to reflect advances in modern medicine, which produce better outcomes. It is anticipated these new guidelines will save employers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Huntley Closure Mitigation Funding - Successfully amended language that increases the reimbursement percentages, extend the reimbursement timeframe from five years to seven, and provides an additional $15 million under the state's power generation mitigation fund. These changes will mean approximately $5.4 million in combined additional revenue to the Ken-Ton School District, the Town of Tonawanda and Erie County.

Combatting Heroin and Opioid Abuse - As a co-chair of the heroin and opioid task force, Jacobs fought for and delivered $214 million - a record-high level of funding - to strengthen prevention, treatment, recovery and education services across the state, along with $100,000 for Save the Michaels of the World Inc. in Western New York.

Clean Water Infrastructure - $2.5 billion to support water infrastructure programs statewide. This will include municipal grant programs for drinking water and wastewater replacement and repair, a rebate program for septic improvement or replacement projects, and the creation of a new water mitigation and remediation program to allow for quick responses to drinking water emergencies.

Local Roads and Bridges - Significant commitment to rebuilding New York's aging infrastructure through a $1.5 billion capital plan increase to accelerate road and bridge projects throughout the state. The Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIP's) is increased $65 million for a total of $503 million this year for local road and bridge projects. And $50 million was added to the Local BRIDGE NY program, bringing that total to $150 million, including $20 million for culvert projects.

Protecting Seniors - Ensuring the health of seniors with $133 million to fully fund the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) Program, $50 million for the Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly Program, $31 million for Community Services for the Elderly Program and $27 million for the Wellness in Nutrition Program.

New Tax Relief for Working Parents - The budget includes $47 million in additional tax relief for working families' child care expenses. The state's Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is expanded for taxpayers with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000, and the current cap on child care expenses would rise from $6,000 to a maximum of $9,000 (depending on the number of children) for families with up to five children.

Higher Education - Helping middle-class families afford college with more than $1.1 billion in Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding this year. Ensuring "student choice" with $19 million in aid available for an Enhanced Tuition Award initiative specifically designed for students at private colleges and universities. An additional $3.1 million in tuition assistance for part-time community college students was included to help working parents.

Fair Wages for Direct Care Professionals - $55.5 million in 2017-18 to compensate direct care professionals who provide critical care and assistance to individuals with disabilities. Jacobs said this funding is critical to address salary gap and high turnover rates to ensure vulnerable citizens receive adequate care.

"I am very pleased that a final budget is now in place that accomplishes my two most important objectives heading into the budget process: addressing critical needs in our community while fighting to protect taxpayers," Jacobs said.

New York State Sen. Rob Ortt issued the following statement regarding the New York budget agreement.

"While the drawn-out budget process was nothing to tout, I'm generally pleased with the final outcome of the actual budget. This budget delivers for our state and our region and rejects radical policies. We're prioritizing our local economy as we make critical investments in agriculture, reform a broken workers' compensation system to help small businesses and injured workers, and bring ride-sharing services to a region that demands it.

"We're delivering for upstate communities with record investments in infrastructure like roads, bridges and water while ensuring our schools and colleges get the funding they deserve. We're helping middle class families with much-needed tax cuts and assistance with crippling child care and tuition costs. Finally, we're taking care of our most vulnerable with historic assistance for individuals facing mental health crisis, workers and families caring for the disabled, and drug prevention and recovery programs. 

"Because of our work, this budget importantly omitted contentious progressive proposals championed by the governor, Assembly Democrats and New York City special interest groups. We eliminated the DREAM Act, so that taxpayers would not foot the bill for illegal immigrants' college tuition. We held strong to ensure that 'raise the age' policies favor public safety and victims over violent felons. And we rejected ill-conceived tax hikes on hard-working families and businesses, because they already pay far too much.

"This is a responsible budget that will help to improve the lives of all New Yorkers and make Western New York a better community to live, work and raise a family."

Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, "After weeks of stagnation and disagreement, I can finally say my first budget process is complete. While I take no joy in the way this process has played out, I am pleased to have delivered on some vital issues for the residents of my district. The inclusion of ridesharing for Western New York will finally mean a safe and reliable option for our community. Also, increased tuition assistance (TAP) will make college more affordable, and the inclusion of tax credits for youth apprenticeships will mean increased opportunities for our youth to gain on-the-job experience while decreasing the tax burden on small-business owners.

"However, governing is a matter of give and take. While you may obtain some of the top items on your priority list, compromise is always necessary to avoid political gridlock at the expense of all parties involved.

"I am disheartened to see the inclusion of a confusing and muddled 'Raise the Age' provision, which will place an undue burden on the already backed-up family court system in our state. I am hoping for oversight on 'Raise the Age' over the next year, so we truly accomplish the goal that's intended. There is significant methodology that needs to be reviewed to make this better."

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