Assemblymember Hunter: State budget invests in Central New York
Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter (D-Syracuse) announced that the 2017-18 state budget provides substantial investments in workforce development, affordable housing and infrastructure, as well as allows ride-hailing to operate upstate and combats the heroin and opioid epidemic.
“While the process was far from perfect, this year’s budget is a big win for Central New York communities,” said Hunter. “From legalizing ride-hailing upstate to supporting our aging roads and bridges, the budget ensures our communities will continue to grow and thrive.”
Investing in the CNY economy
In order to help close the skilled workforce gap and better prepare local workers for a changing economic landscape, the budget provides funding for the Empire State Apprenticeship Program (ESAP). The program builds on the state’s previous efforts to ensure New Yorkers have the skills they need to get good-paying jobs.
The budget also allocates $5 million for capital improvements to local fairgrounds to repair and replace aging facilities to ensure upstate residents can enjoy these institutions for years to come. Further, the budget includes $100 million in SUNY capital projects, which will help spur economic development and create better facilities for students. This much-needed funding will help local campuses, like Onondaga Community College, SUNY ESF and SUNY Upstate, noted Hunter.
In order to continue its support of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs), the state budget also allocates funding towards the program to help ensure that MWBE participation goals are met throughout the state.
“It’s crucial that we fund minority- and women-owned businesses to ensure that they can continue to boost the economy and lift up everyone in our communities,” said Hunter.
Making the tax code more fair
To ensure New York’s wealthiest continue to pay their fair share, the 2017-18 budget extends the state millionaires tax for two years. It was set to expire at the end of this year. Revenue from the tax is crucial to funding important services and programs throughout the state, including public education and infrastructure improvements. Although arguments have been made that the millionaires’ tax encourages the wealthy to pack up and move out of state, just the opposite has been true. The number of New York millionaires has increased by 63 percent since 2009, when the tax was first implemented.1
“At a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet, it’s only right that the wealthiest pay their fair share,” said Hunter. “With this revenue, we can better fund our schools, repair our roads and bridges and provide tax relief for millions of New Yorkers.”
Bringing ride-hailing services upstate
Ride-hailing services will be able to start operating on Long Island and in upstate New York in July as part of the budget.
The law requires that ride-hailing companies:
- obtain a license to operate from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after providing proof of insurance;
- conduct a criminal background check on all potential drivers, including a review of multi-state/multi-jurisdiction criminal records locator, the NYS Sex Offender Registry and the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website;
- provide digital networks that display a picture of the driver and the make, model, color and license plate number of the vehicle before the passenger enters it;
- do not accept cash payment and solicit or accept street hails;
- implement a “zero-tolerance policy” regarding drug and alcohol use;
- adopt a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of destination, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age and sexual orientation; and
- implement and maintain a policy of providing accessibility to passengers with a disability and the accommodation of service animals.
The law also gives the state Division of Human Rights enforcement authority over complaints of discrimination, as well as requires the DMV to promulgate regulations to ensure ride-hailing vehicles are easily identifiable.
“Ride-hailing is long overdue for upstate New York,” said Hunter. “These services create jobs, offer a reliable alternative to public transportation and help reduce drunk driving.”
Repairing and replacing aging infrastructure
The budget increases funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPs) and Pave NY by $65 million to help local governments pay for road and bridge improvements without burdening local taxpayers. Further, it allocates $2.5 billion for water infrastructure, including:
- $1 billion for the 2015 Water Infrastructure Improvement Act for water infrastructure improvements;
- $245 million for water quality improvement projects;
- $150 million for inter-municipal water infrastructure grants;
- $100 million for municipal water quality infrastructure programs; and
- $75 million for septic and cesspool replacements and upgrades.
“New Yorkers should never have to worry about the safety of their water. That’s why I fought for a sizeable investment in our water infrastructure so that we can address this issue before it’s too late,” said Hunter.
The budget also includes an increase in funding for Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM), which provides direct state aid to local governments.
Investing in affordable housing
The budget provides $2.5 billion for affordable housing and anti-homelessness initiatives, including:
- $1 billion for supportive housing;
- $125 million for senior housing; and
- $125 million for public housing authorities outside New York City and a strengthening of tenant protections.
“All New Yorkers deserve safe, affordable housing and this budget helps make this a reality for more members of our communities,” said Hunter.
Hunter also fought to include $100,000 for the Fortune Society, Inc., which offers a host of services for formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and their families.
Fighting the heroin epidemic
Despite increased media attention and legislative action, the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to rage in communities across Central New York. The number of deaths attributed to heroin or other opioids has more than doubled in Onondaga County from 2014 to 2016.2
The budget increases funding by $33 million over last year’s budget – for a total of $203 million – to combat the epidemic and increase access to treatment for New Yorkers struggling with a substance abuse disorder. This funding supports a variety of treatment and prevention programs, including family support navigators, peer supports, recovery clubhouses and community coalitions. The budget also provides $10 million in additional capital support to increase the number of beds in in-patient treatment facilities.
“The heroin epidemic continues to devastate families across our state and especially in Onondaga County,” said Hunter. “With this funding, we can help more people get on the road to recovery and rebuild their lives.”