The new fiscal year is almost upon us and on Tuesday Governor Cuomo presented his budget, one that would eliminate the $1.3 billion budget gap. Cuomo’s budget, having yet to look at every detail, appears sound.
For starters, the budget gap would be closed without taxes being raised. All New Yorkers, particularly my constituents, should, I would think, greet this news with a smile. This marks the third consecutive year that the Executive Budget closes the budget gap without any new taxes or fees.
Another issue that the Governor addressed is educational aid. He’s proposing an increase of $889 million in aid. Included in that amount is $25 million to support a full-day pre-kindergarten program targeted toward higher need students in lower wealth school districts via a competitive process. The Executive Budget also allots $11 million to offer $15,000 in annual stipends for four years to the most effective teachers, beginning with math and science teachers.
These education proposals also include a “Bar Exam for Teachers”. To ensure the best and brightest are teaching our children, the State Education Department will increase the standards for teacher certification to require passage of a “bar exam,” in addition to longer, more intensive and high-quality student-teaching experience in a school setting.
Promoting and improving the educational standards has been a signature issue for me. I will take a particularly close look at each of the educational proposals to get a better sense of how my constituents and their children would be benefited.
The budget also calls for support of those impacted by Superstorm Sandy, including recovery and rebuilding projects, programs, and other initiatives. Specifically, there are appropriations of $21 billion for disaster-related recovery, rebuilding and mitigation. An estimated $30 billion of Federal aid will flow through these appropriations or be directly administered by the Federal government, local governments and other entities.
Communities that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, Superstorm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee will be eligible for rebuilding and mitigation grants.
There will also be mandate relief and local government aid. The most prominent aspect of this portion of the budget is a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option.
With Tier VI in place, there is now an opportunity to adopt an alternate pension funding mechanism – a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option to allow local governments and school districts to lock in long-term, stable rate pension contributions for a period of years that would dramatically reduce near-term payments but still achieve full funding in each system over the long-term.
These savings will provide immediate access to the savings of Tier VI and offer local governments and school districts needed relief, improving their ability to maintain necessary services to their residents and students. Local governments that opt in would avoid volatility in contribution rates and be better able to plan for the future. The option is voluntary and requires approval from the Comptroller’s office.
I realize this is a great deal to digest. It’s just a brief overview, though, of what is clearly an outline of a more comprehensive set of issues. If you want to take a look at the entire budget go to OpenBudget.Ny.gov.
In the days and weeks ahead the budget will garner a great deal more attention and bring about, I imagine, a fair amount of debate. It should. Not everyone will agree with everything the Governor has proposed. To that end, it’s important to remember that I will review every aspect of the proposed budget, evaluated each of the items the Governor has outlined and then continue to do what I have done since taking office – make sure that my constituents are represented in the best way possible.