WPCNR ALBANY ROUNDS. From the Governor’s Press Office. (Edited) April 1, 2014:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have announced the historic passage of the State’s fourth consecutive on-time budget.
The budget holds spending growth below two percent for the fourth consecutive year, continuing a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades where state spending increased at a higher rate than inflation and personal income growth. Along with other targeted investments that will grow the economy and strengthen New York’s communities, the budget contains $1.5 billion in property tax cuts to aid New York’s homeowners and encourage local governments to increase efficiencies, as well as a major five percent increase in State education aid.
Property Tax Reform
$1.5 Billion in Property Tax Relief: The Budget agreement includes a new Property Tax Credit to provide relief to New York homeowners and address one of the primary drivers of the State’s high property taxes – the outsized number of local governments.
The property tax relief package is designed to incentivize local governments and school districts to share services and reduce their financial burden on the taxpayer. In the first year under the reform plan, New Yorkers will receive property tax relief if their local governments stay within the property tax cap. The property tax cuts will be extended for a second year in jurisdictions which comply with the tax cap and have put forward a plan to save one percent of their tax levy per year, over three years.
While localities may offer a variety of approaches, the plan is designed to incentivize county governments and school districts to convene and facilitate a process and submit a county-wide or BOCES region-wide plan for approval. Over three years, the program will result in over $1.5 billion in direct property tax relief.
Tax Relief for Renters and Low-Income Homeowners: For New York City residents, the Budget creates a new $85 million, progressively structured “Circuit Breaker” tax relief program. Qualifying homeowners and renters will be eligible to receive a refundable tax credit against the personal income tax when their property taxes or rent exceeds a certain percentage of their income.
Eliminating Duplicative and Overlapping Governments: Funding of $39 million is included in the Budget to provide grants to local governments for the implementation of consolidations and of regional services as well as tax credits to residents of local governments that fully dissolve or consolidate.
Assisting Distressed Local Governments: Available funding for the Financial Restructuring Board is maintained at $80 million to provide grants or loans to local governments that implement restructuring initiatives identified by the Board.
Cutting Taxes to Create Jobs
Cutting Manufacturer’s Taxes to Zero: The Budget agreement lowers the cost of doing business for manufacturers, making New York a more attractive place for firms to locate and create jobs. The Budget will establish a 20 percent real property tax credit for manufacturers who own or lease property and lowers the tax rate on income for all manufacturers from the current 5.9 percent to zero in 2014 and thereafter.
Accelerated Phase-Out of 18-A Utility Surcharge: The Budget accelerates the phase-out of the 18-a temporary assessment for all customers. New Yorkers pay some of the highest energy bills in the nation and the temporary utility assessment exacerbates this burden on struggling businesses and families. The Budget will save businesses and residents $600 million over the next three years.
Cutting and Simplifying Business Taxes: The Budget agreement includes the most significant improvements to New York’s business tax system in nearly three decades. The Budget modifies and simplifies the tax code to reflect the reality of a complex economy and makes the state more attractive to both new and existing businesses. Further, the business tax rate is reduced from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent, the lowest rate since 1968. These reforms will help bring more out-of-state companies to New York, creating jobs and generating increased revenue to invest in state programs that will help all New Yorkers.
Eliminate the Corporate Capital Base Calculation: The capital base taxes corporations on their assets owned in New York. This tax discourages corporations from placing capital in the state. This Budget will phase out this asset tax over six years beginning in 2016, removing the disincentive for corporations to grow their businesses here.
Transforming New York’s Schools
Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten: The Budget builds upon the success of the first-ever State-funded full-day pre-kindergarten program by committing to invest $1.5 billion over five years to support the phase-in of a Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten program.
Protect Choice for all of New York’s Children: The Budget increases tuition funding for charter school students over three years: $250 per student the first year, $350 the second, and $500 in the third. The Budget will also promote the growth of charter schools by addressing their facility needs, and charter schools will be eligible for pre-kindergarten funding.
Reform Common Core Implementation: The Budget puts into law a series of recommendations to immediately improve the implementation of the Common Core in New York State.
o Bans standardized “bubble tests” for young children: The legislation prohibits the use of standardized “bubble tests” for children in pre-kindergarten through second grade.
o Protects students from high stakes based on unfair test results: The legislation ensures that the results of English and math Common Core testing for grades 3-8 are not used against students and will not appear on their permanent records.
o Uses instructional time for teaching and learning – not over-testing: The legislation caps the amount of time that can be used for standardized tests and for test prep; improves transparency about what standardized tests students are required to take, and why; and implements measures for school districts to more easily eliminate unnecessary standardized testing.
o Establishes strict data protection and security requirements, while ensuring that appropriate educational and operational data-sharing can occur: The legislation reinforces strict data protection requirements, including procedures for parent notification in case of any data breach, including by a third party, and strong penalties for violations; establishes a “Parents’ Bill of Rights for Data Privacy” that includes comprehensive transparency about what data is collected by the State and by school districts; who it is shared with and why; and names a Chief Privacy Officer for the State Education Department whose responsibilities include establishing standards for educational agency data security and privacy policies. Under the legislation, the State will halt its relationship with inBloom and consider alternative paths to accomplish the goals of increased data transparency and analytics.
School Aid: The Budget includes a $1.1 billion – or 5.3% – increase in education aid for the 2014-15 school year. High-needs school districts will receive nearly 70 percent of the 2014-15 allocated increase.
Increase support for Students: The Budget increases the maximum benefit under the Tuition Assistance Program by $165, from $5,000 to $5,165, and increases awards for students that are either wards of the State or in the care of foster parents.
Increase support for Higher Education: The Budget increases Community College Base aid by $75 per student FTE to $2,497. A total of $102 million in funding is included for Higher Education Opportunity programs at SUNY, CUNY, private and independent colleges (EOP, SEEK, HEOP). The budget provides $30 million in capital appropriations to the Higher Education Capital Matching Grants program for capital grants to Private Colleges and Universities.
Offer a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Scholarship: The Budget includes $8 million in funding for a new STEM scholarship program. Full tuition scholarships to any SUNY or CUNY college or university will be offered to the top ten percent of high school graduates if they pursue a STEM career and work in New York for five years.
Restoring Public Trust:
The Budget includes further reforms to ensure New Yorkers have confidence that their elected officials are serving them honestly and with transparency.
New Crimes for Violating Public Trust: The Budget includes legislation that would create a series of new crimes for violating the public trust.
These new crimes include:o Bribery of a Public Servant: The Budget includes legislation to give prosecutors better tools to convict offenders. Under current state law, a prosecutor has to prove that there was a corrupt agreement or understanding between the person paying the bribe and the person receiving the bribe in order to seek the maximum penalty available against the bribe giver.
Under the new law, the prosecutor would not be required to prove that the bribe giver shared a corrupt intent with the bribe receiver, but only that the bribe giver intended to bribe the receiver and did in fact offer a benefit to the public official. Bribe giving and bribe receiving penalties would also be increased, lowering the threshold for a Class C felony for both bribe giving and bribe receiving from $10,000 to $5,000, the amount of money used to bribe, and creating a new class B Felony when a bribe is for $100,000 or more.
o Corrupting the Government: The Budget includes legislation to hold accountable anyone – whether or not they are a public official – who is found to have engaged in schemes to defraud the state or local government, and enhances penalties for all offenders convicted of defrauding the government through the crime of Corrupting the Government. Under the new law, a public servant or anybody acting in concert with a public servant who engages in a course of conduct to defraud a state or local government would be guilty of a crime ranging from the fourth degree (class E felony) to the first degree (class B felony), depending on the amount defrauded.
New Penalties for Public Corruption: The Budget includes legislation to create higher penalties where state or local government property is stolen. This means an offender would face a higher penalty if the act was committed against the government. The sentence would be one level higher than for the underlying offense. A defendant, depending on the amount of property wrongfully taken, could be a guilty of a class B felony.
Lifetime Ban from Government: The new class of felony public corruption crimes would impose additional penalties, apart from jail sentences and criminal fines, including:o Permanently barring all those convicted of public corruption felonies from holding any elected or civil office, serving as a registered lobbyist, or doing business with the state, including through any organization they run.
o Barring individuals from bidding on or obtaining state contracts.
o Giving judges the option of requiring payment of up to three times the amount of the profit or gain made from an illegal transaction.
Reducing the Influence of Money in Elections by Providing Matching Funds for Political Campaigns: The Budget legislation puts in place New York State’s first-ever program to provide matching funds for a political campaign thereby reducing the influence of money in politics. This comprehensive program will be initiated immediately on a pilot basis – to be in effect for the 2014 Comptroller’s race – and will be modeled after New York City’s successful 6:1 matching funds program.
Independent Enforcement Unit at Board of Elections: The State Board of Elections’ ineffective structure, consisting of four commissioners who are evenly appointed by each major party, leads to gridlock and rarely produces any serious investigations of election law violations. The Budget legislation creates a new, independent enforcement division headed by a chief enforcement counsel, who is appointed outside of the Board to a 5-year term, vested with authority to investigate violations of the Election Law. It would also create a compliance unit that would make complying with the Election Law’s reporting requirements a priority and help ensure a transparent system of election finance reporting.
New Disclosure Requirements for Political Donations: Current law requires disclosure every six months to a year or, in some cases, never, of independent political expenditures. The Budget legislation plugs this loophole-laden law to increase transparency by mandating more frequent reporting of these expenditures and the sources of the contributions that make them possible, and amends the law to expand the definition of the kinds of communications that warrant such increased reporting to better reflect the reality of how politics is played today.
New Disclosure Requirements for Outside Clients: The Budget legislation includes legislation that will mandate disclosure by Legislators and other state employees of clients and customers who have been referred to those individuals or firms with which those individuals are affiliated by registered lobbyists.
Protecting the Environment
The Budget increases the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), maintains State funding for core environmental, parks and agricultural programs, expands outdoor recreational opportunities, and provides a new round of New York Works capital funding for environmental facilities. State agency and public authority funding will continue to make New York a leader in the clean tech economy, reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change, and allow the transformation of our transmission system to a distributed smart grid network.
Environmental Protection Fund: The Budget includes $162 million for the EPF, an increase of $9 million from 2013-14.
Expand Opportunities for Hunting, Fishing and Other Activities: The Budget continues the Governor’s commitment to outdoor recreation with $6 million for 50 new projects to provide access to approximately 380,000 acres of existing State lands for recreation, including boat launches, bird-watching areas, trails, and hunting blinds, and $4 million for upgrades and improvements to fish hatcheries across the state. In addition, the Budget reduces short-term fishing license fees; authorizes crossbow hunting for hunters 14 years of age or older for small game, and for big game throughout firearms seasons and during portions of archery season except in Suffolk and Westchester counties; increases from two to eight the number of authorized free fishing days; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free adventure plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted adventure plates for existing lifetime license holders, and regular fee adventure plates for annual license holders.
Creating a More Resilient New York
The Budget supports continued progress toward making New York more prepared for and resilient to future emergencies. Equally important, the Budget reflects an approach to public safety that is tough, smart and fair. These priorities, taken together, will help ensure the safety of all New Yorkers in the event of an emergency
.Establish a State-of-the-Art Weather Detection System: The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) will collaborate with an academic partner to secure a private entity to establish and operate a state-of-the-art weather detection system – one of only six such systems in the nation. An initial capital investment of $15 million is being sought from Federal funding related to Superstorm Sandy.
Create a College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity: The Budget includes $15 million in capital resources to fund initial planning and development costs for a new College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.
Equip Gas Stations with Back-up Power Capacity: New York is the first state in the nation with a comprehensive plan to ensure that power is maintained at strategically located gas stations in an emergency. This voluntary program is being extended to include approximately 241 Upstate gas stations within a half mile of exits on critical highways. Another $3.1 million will be made available through Federal funding related to Superstorm Sandy.
Expand State Strategic Fuel Reserves: To prevent future supply disruptions, the current strategic fuel reserve will be expanded statewide to serve emergency responders. The estimated $10 million cost is expected to be supported by the New York Power Authority.
Prepare Citizens for Emergencies: The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, in collaboration with the National Guard, will offer emergency preparedness courses throughout the year to interested citizens, with a goal of training 100,000 citizens by March 31, 2015. Support for this initiative will come from Federal homeland security funds.
Making New York Safer, Healthier and Fairer
The Budget provides funding for core supportive services for needy populations, provides for the transformation of our health care system, increases funding for child care subsidies that allow low-income individuals to seek or maintain employment, expands the availability of affordable housing across the State and makes further investment in the Pay for Success program.
Expand Affordable Housing Opportunities: The Budget authorizes $100 million to be invested to create and preserve 3,000 affordable housing units in multi-family developments. This investment of Federal storm recovery funds in affordable housing will serve as a catalyst to attract private investment into the market by lowering mortgage costs and will lead to more affordable rents. The Budget also continues and enhances the House NY program initiated in 2013-14 that invests $1 billion over five years to preserve and create 14,300 affordable housing units statewide by adding $40 million of capital funding.
Transform New York’s Healthcare System: The Budget continues Medicaid reforms of the Medicaid Redesign Team that are achieving better health care outcomes at a more sustainable cost. The Budget supports more effective models of care, supports community-based activities to improve population health, and makes investments in health care infrastructure and health information technology to transform the health care delivery system
.o Increase Medicaid Funding Consistent with the Spending Cap: The Budget reflects the continuation of the Medicaid spending cap enacted in 2011-12 and recommends funding consistent with its provisions.
o Transform New York’s Health Care System: The Budget takes the next step in the transformation of New York’s health care system by providing $1.2 billion in new capital funding for targeted investments that would complement projects supported by the Medicaid waiver. By the end of 2014-15, the MRT will have generated over $17 billion in Federal savings. The waiver will allow the State to reinvest up to $8 billion of that savings into the transformation of New York’s health care delivery system.
o Continue Implementation of MRT Recommendations: The Budget continues the implementation of MRT reforms. These reforms represent the most comprehensive restructuring of the Medicaid program in State history, with initiatives designed to improve the full spectrum of health care services. A cost neutral package of new MRT initiatives is proposed to make critical investments in health care delivery. Investments are balanced by savings resulting from targeted Medicaid integrity initiatives to reduce fraud and abuse, and improvements in benefits design.
o Improve Health Information Technology: Collecting and sharing health care data across providers and regions will enable better evaluation, leading to more efficient resource allocation, improving the quality of service at reduced costs. The Budget includes $65 million for the State Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) to continue its efforts to establish a true statewide electronic medical record system, and establish an All Payer Claims Database (APCD). This investment will leverage up to $30 million of Federal Medicaid funds for these projects for a total of up to $95 million
.Fund the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice: New York is one of only two states that continue to prosecute 16- and 17-year olds through the adult criminal justice system. The Budget includes funding for the Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice to make recommendations on how best to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, improve outcomes for youth, and promote community safety.
Protecting Consumers from Surprise Medical Bills: The Budget includes landmark changes designed to protect consumers against the financial nightmare of surprise medical bills from out-of-network physicians. Most importantly, it takes the consumer out of the middle of billing disputes between out-of-network medical physicians and health insurers, and holds the consumer harmless from out-of-network costs in the case of emergencies and surprise bills. The agreement also holds insurers accountable for building and maintaining robust provider networks, so consumers have sufficient in-network health care options. It also incorporates new disclosure requirements aimed at helping consumers identify whether providers are in their network, which will reduce incidents of surprise bills.
Crack-Down on Youth Texting-While-Driving: The Budget agreement includes legislation to intensify the efforts to curtail the prevalence of texting while driving by young drivers. Young and new drivers convicted of texting-while-driving will have their license suspended for 120 days on the first offense, and a year for the second offense.
Targeted Human Services COLA: The Budget includes $13 million growing to $122 million to support a 2% salary increase on January 1, 2015 and another 2 % salary increase on April 1, 2015 to direct care and support workers. The April 1, 2015 COLA will also include clinical staff.
Title Insurance Reform: The Budget includes measures to provide stronger oversight for the title insurance industry, which will help better protect consumers and lower costs for New York homeowners. The Budget provides the Department of Financial Services (DFS) with authority to issue licenses to title insurance agents for the first time, just as it licenses all other insurance agents and brokers. Licensing will require agents to meet qualification standards and undergo regular training. DFS will also have the authority to monitor abuse by agents and to revoke licenses accordingly, as well as help root out conflicts of interest that drive up costs for homeowners. Together with other measures including regulations DFS will soon issue on title insurance, these reforms are expected to result in a 20 percent reduction in title insurance premiums and closing costs for new home purchases and a more than 60 percent reduction in costs on refinancing transactions.
Mental Health Services: The budget adds $38 million to expand community mental health services. This will fund 628 new supported apartments and 122 new “waiver” slots that provide enhanced services for children including respite, skill building, intensive in-home supports and enhanced care coordination.
Protecting Children: The budget provides $3 million total for Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children.
TANF and Public Assistance Programs: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Funding is continued at 2013-14 levels for SUNY/CUNY Child Care, Non-Residential Domestic Violence Services, Career Pathways, Displaced Homemakers, Advantage Schools, Wage Subsidy Program, Nurse Family Partnership, ATTAIN, and Settlement Houses. In addition, the Budget includes the authorization of a New York City shelter supplement program within available public assistance resources to reduce the level of homelessness.
Improving Safety: Legislation included with the Budget requires that criminal history background checks be conducted on prospective direct care employees of adult care facilities.
Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) Program: The Budget increases the income threshold for the program from $29,000 to $50,000, which is expected to increase the number of beneficiaries by 15 percent. This will help over 7,000 New York City senior citizens stay in their homes.
Support for the Elderly: The budget provides $4.1 million for the expansion of the eligibility for the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Program (EPIC) and $5 million for Community Services for the Elderly.