eNews: April 2022

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Dear e-News Reader:

This edition will be longer than most with more in-depth discussions of a few key budget items I thought you might be interested in. The infusion of one time federal resources gave us the opportunity to make critical investments, while also putting a substantial amount into a “rainy day fund.” As in previous years, I always approach the budget with our communities in mind, even though it applies statewide. Because of this, there are items in the budget that benefit certain parts of the state more than others. That’s where compromises and negotiations come into play. As always, my office is available to help address your questions and concerns.

Best wishes to all,

Donna

1. Budget HighlightsProperty Tax Relief

Property tax relief is on the way to New Yorkers with the Homeowner Tax Rebate Credit that was created in the state budget which low- and middle-income households, as well as senior households, will be eligible for. Under this program, the basic STAR exemption and credit beneficiaries with incomes below $250,000 and all Enhanced STAR recipients will be eligible for the rebate. This will be a percentage of the homeowner’s existing STAR benefits and is estimated to be an average tax cut of $970. Credits will be an advance on Tax Year 2022 income tax returns and will be directly sent to eligible homeowners beginning in Fall 2022.

To read more about the various tax relief initiatives included in the budget: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-fy-2023-budget-investments-deliver-tax-relief-new-yorkers

Gas Tax Holiday
In response to higher-than-usual gas prices, we approved a 7-month gas tax “holiday” beginning June 1st and ending on December 31st. Each gallon of gas will be 16 cents less during this period which will save New Yorkers over $585M. Broome County also recently passed a cap on County gas taxes at $3 per gallon from June 1st through December 1st. Any gas station or wholesaler who is found to be abusing this “holiday” will face civil penalties up to $1,000 and will be ordered to pay restitution to customers under NYS price gouging laws.

Infrastructure Investments

We approved a new five-year, $32.8B DOT Capital Plan to support major infrastructure improvements statewide. This is a $9.4B (40.2%) increase over the previous five-year plan. Under the capital plan, direct support for local roads and bridges will increase to more than $6.1B, an increase of nearly $2.5B (69%). This includes the new Operation Pave our Potholes initiative as well as doubling the funding available through the existing BRIDGE NY program, a program which provides funding to rehabilitate and replace bridges and culverts. As a member of the Assembly Committee on Transportation, I worked hard to make sure that this infusion of federal dollars will be spent wisely.

To read more about the State’s infrastructure investments: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-record-328-billion-transportation-infrastructure-part-fy-2023-budget

Child Care

After years of state and local advocacy, childcare is finally being recognized as a necessity.  We will be investing $7B over the next four years, which more than doubles previous funding for childcare subsidies. Included in these funds is $901M to help nearly 15,000 providers cover their increasing operating costs, including wages, rent or mortgages, utilities, supplies, and training. This funding will also cap family co-pay contributions to no more than 10% of their annual income and provide grants to new and existing providers in childcare deserts statewide to expand their capacity. NYS is also increasing the income eligibility threshold for childcare support to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($83,250 for a family of four). This will extend eligibility for subsidies to more than half of young children in NYS.

To read more about these critical childcare investments: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-announces-historic-investment-child-care-part-fy-2023-budget

Education

We provided historic investments for our K-12 education system with $31.2B going to local school districts. The budget also includes $21.3B in Foundation Aid, which is an increase of $1.5B from last year. It also includes $1.1B for Universal Pre-K to help an additional 17,500 children attend.  Additionally, a total of $100M of matching funds over the next two years has been designated to address student well-being and learning loss in response to the pandemic.

To read more about education funding in the budget: https://nyassembly.gov/Press/?sec=story&story=101550

Agriculture and Food

As the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, one of my responsibilities during this budget was to ensure that our Ag producers have the resources and support they need to be successful. Included in the final budget was over $11M for the Farm to School program; a program that connects local schools with local farms. We also extended the Nourish NY program that helps farmers reroute surplus agricultural products to underserved populations through our network of food banks. The Environmental Protection Fund also supported Farmland Protection and Climate Resilient Farming; two areas I have championed.

2. Budget Left Critical Items BehindWhile there was much to be happy about in this year’s state budget, there were also some big disappointments. One involves the $9B deficit facing the NYS Unemployment Insurance Fund. Due to COVID pandemic job losses, which resulted in large increases in UI payments, employers across NYS have been forced to foot the bill with higher tax rates. I worked with the Business Council of NYS, Upstate United and the Greater Binghamton Chamber to address this in the budget, to no avail. I will continue to speak out about this to our federal and state leaders.

We also did not do enough to increase the reimbursement rates paid to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Many are at risk of closure or significantly scaling back services and beds. While the home care workforce will see modest pay raises, we continue to underfund services for our most vulnerable. I will continue being a vocal advocate for them.

Standing with the Business Council of NYS, Upstate United, the Greater Binghamton Chamber and some of my Upstate colleagues during a press conference at the Capitol to calling for UI support for small businesses in the budget

 

3. Binghamton Housing Recieves Grant to Support Youth

I was joined by Mayor Jared Kraham and the Binghamton Housing Authority (BHA) to announce the completion of two study rooms, one at the Carlisle Hills Apartment Complex and the other at Saratoga Heights. They were funded by a $50,000 grant I secured for them last year. The study centers are places for children and young adults to do schoolwork and have access to the internet. Funds were used to purchase computers, printers, desks and supplies. It’s critically important that we continue investing in primary prevention and early intervention for area youth. Safe study spaces are an important step for so many.

Cutting the ribbon on the new Study Center at Carlisle with Mayor Kraham and local Binghamton CSD students.

 

4. Vestal and Endicott Receive Water Improvement GrantsThe Village of Endicott and Town of Vestal will receive much needed funds to improve water quality in their respective communities; I had strongly advocated for both. The Village of Endicott will receive two grants; the first for $4.3M to create a long needed water source to replace two water wells rated highly susceptible to contaminants. The Village also received a second grant of $75,295 for other infrastructure improvements. The Town of Vestal received a grant for close to $1 million to replace the Old Vestal Road & Bunn Hill Road water main which will improve water quality to the service area and fire protection. I know how hard they worked to receive these funds and how important these upgrades will be for the community.
5. Telecommunications Appreciation Week Visit to Broome EMS9-1-1 and emergency dispatchers do an amazing job keeping our communities safe. They work around the clock to support police, fire, and medical services. In recognition of their hard work, I joined with others during the week who dropped off lunch for the dispatchers at the Broome County Public Safety Facility and Emergency Management Center. I also presented them with a copy of the Resolution we passed in the Assembly and Senate recognizing April 10th-16th as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in the State of New York. This is just a small token of gratitude to show our appreciation for the work they do.

Delivering a resolution to Broome County Emergency Services Director Patrick Dewing commemorating April 10th-16th as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.