State lawmakers are in Albany this week to pass the agreed-upon budget finalized by legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The $133 billion budget impacts many facets of life in New York, and probably none greater than the City of New York. Lawmakers from the Big Apple explained the impact some of the key pieces of this year’s budget will have on the city.
Brooklyn Assemblyman N. Nick Perry
Member of the Transportation Committee
On the funding for the MTA:
This transportation budget includes full funding of the MTA capitol five-year plan. The five-year plan usual deals with infrastructure and issues that affect riders directly.
I don't know that we can ever do enough [in the budget] because the needs keep changing. the transit system serves a very vibrant, growing, and rapid-moving city. the issues and concerns change as we move from day to day.
Queens Assemblywoman Michele Titus
Member of the Social Services Committee
On the increase in public assistance funding:
It’s a modest increase that we have not seen in several decades.
For so many decades they have not received any increase, and the cost of living, as you know is continually going up. and if we are giving a grant, a benefit that still doesn't meet that families needs, they are then tapping into all other social service safety net services that we have. this was a really good thing that we did this year.
Queens Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan
Chair of the Education Committee
On the increase in school aid:
Eight hundred and five million dollars has been added to the education budget. Some of that money is added in something called GAE restoration--in other words, to recover from the two years worth of cuts. But for the first time in two years were able to supplement that in some way by going back to this foundation formula which is very progressive, and helps the city, because the city has high-needs kids, English language learns, and there's a number of other things.
It's a relief and it's a positive thing. it's not step that everybody would like. Of course, it's a small step, but it's still a step forward as opposed to the last two years when we were just treading water.
Manhattan Assemblyman Micah Kellner
Member of the Racing and Wagering Committee
On the creation of a new New York State Gaming Commission
It looks like we're doing gaming in the right way. We don't want to kill the golden goose here, and this gaming commission is very smart. It consolidates a lot of different things, but makes sure that the smaller items like racing and charitable gaming are still being watched in a careful way.
We're going to be able to do seven casino sides, across this state, in a smart way. We don't want over saturation. We don't want casino-on-your-corner. This is a way to do gaming in a limited way, where it generates the maximum amount of money for the state so that we can do economic development.
Manhattan State Senator Liz Krueger
Member of the Banks Committee
On funding to combat foreclosures
About two and a half years ago the state of New York, recognizing the crisis going on with the huge numbers of New York homeowners being threatened with foreclosure and discovering that there was not a base of attorneys or organizations to provide technical assistance and legal support to help homeowners...created a program and put it in the budget for $25 million to provide these kinds of services.
We weren't as bad many other states. That doesn't change the fact that we had enormous number of cases in New York--New York City and the rest of the state. And, in fact, the numbers currently on the books is a growing number, not a shrinking number. So this problem is not done.
Queens Assemblywoman Grace Meng
Member of the Children and Families Committee
On the creation of the Office of New Americans
The Governor's office and his administration have been working on that initiative for a while. I really applaud the administration; he's really been trying to reach out to every community, making sure that everyone has equal access to government services. That’s especially important at the state level.
I always bring this one issue up because it's been brought to me multiple times: a lot of people who suffer from mental health [issues], especially if they don't speak English, they can't call the traditional hotline, for example, because of language obstacles. And so now to have an office in place, that'll make sure people can reach out to resources we already have, and that we’ve probably paying for, and then in turn be able to keep some sort of data or statistics on how many people actually need the help, and that'll help government be more responsive as well.
Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried
Chair of the Health Committee
On the state's partial takeover of Medicaid costs
In New York, local government's pay a share of the cost of Medicaid. For New York City that's a bout $6 billion a year. Several years ago, we put a limit on that; we capped it at about $6 billon, but the local share is allowed to grow at about three percent every year, even if the overall cost of Medicaid grows more than that.
What we did in this year's budget was to gradually eliminate that three percent growth, so for New York City, the number will stay at about $6 billion regardless of how much the cost of Medicaid overall all goes up.
There is a strong move in counties around the state for a state takeover of the entire cost of Medicaid. I think that as a policy matter, that makes perfectly good sense…I think gradually, over the next few years, the local share of Medicaid will get picked up by the state. it will require a time when state revenues grow more than they are at the moment.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Karim Camara
Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus
On the changes to the juvenile justice system
It's very significant because we're able to, at a tremendous saving to taxpayers, provide more services. Right now, for the amount that we spend for one juvenile in the up state facility, we can send five of them to Harvard University.
Not only are we saving the taxpayers money--more comprehensive services, they're closer to their families, so they have a support network. Many studies show that recidivism rates drop when we have a family network involved, particularly with youthful, nonviolent offenders.
The city also has a plan for comprehensive services: education, recreation, etc. A caseworker assigned to each individual. So, again, tremendous savings to the taxpayer, comprehensive services. We're able to give individuals the recreational outlets, educational outlets, so that once they're released, hopefully, they will not be back in a facility.