Assemblywoman Woerner: 2018-19 State Budget Delivers for Our Communities

March 31, 2018

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) announced she helped pass the 2018-19 state budget, which increases education aid by $914 million and provides critical funding to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, help beginning farmers thrive and ensure the racing and gaming industry remains a vibrant part of the local economy.

“This year’s state budget delivers important funding to every community within the 113th Assembly District,” said Woerner. “While there will always be more organizations and projects in need of funding than the state’s revenues can accommodate, I am pleased that my priorities – including programs to battle the heroin and opioid addiction crisis, support agriculture and aid our local schools – have been funded in this budget.”

Expanding treatment options for New Yorkers battling addiction

The budget will provide $250,000 to Saratoga Hospital for the establishment of a medical management program for those battling opioid addiction. This program would address the needs of those who have been overprescribed addictive opioids for many years, helping them to safely reduce and ultimately end their physical dependence on opioids.

Saratoga County has some of the highest rates of drug overdoses in New York State and far too few services to address those overdoses. Primary care practices are overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of patients who are addicted to opioids, whose physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms need more specialized and intensive treatment. The approach of Saratoga Hospital’s medical management program will help these individuals reduce their use of opioids by utilizing pharmaceutical techniques that gradually transition their bodies from dependence on opioids like Oxycontin and morphine using less dangerous drugs.

“Heroin and opioid addiction has left death and destruction in its wake in communities across our state and our country,” said Woerner. “By funding this new treatment program, we can help more residents get on the road to recovery and ultimately save lives.”

To combat the devastating effects of heroin and opioid addiction statewide, the state budget invests more than $200 million in treatment and prevention programs, including a $26 million increase – or 4.5 percent – in operating and capital support for the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).

The budget plan also creates a $100 million Opioid Stewardship Fund, which will help curb dependence by expanding prevention, treatment and recovery programs for individuals with substance use disorder. The fund ensures that the pharmaceutical companies, not consumers, are held responsible for the damages caused by highly addictive opioids, noted Woerner.

Helping farmers get ahead

Additionally, the budget provides $1 million for beginning farmers, including $400,000 for the creation of the Farmland for a New Generation program that was first proposed by Assemblywoman Woerner in collaboration with the American Farmland Trust (A.9619-A). The program will foster a strong partnership between the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and the American Farmland Trust, as well as between other land trusts and agricultural service providers, to significantly expand support for new and next generation farmers.

Currently, nearly 30 percent of the farmland in New York is operated by senior farmers over the age of 651 who often face barriers to transferring their farms to the next generation. Farmland in transition is vulnerable to being lost to real estate development – meeting the same fate as the nearly 5,000 farms that have been lost to real estate development in New York since the 1980s. At the same time, beginning farmers – including young people, immigrants, veterans, and others seeking to start a farm – have difficulty finding affordable farmland in close proximity to markets. The Farmland for a New Generation Program will help new farmers connect with those looking to sell their land, in addition to providing assistance with the process of starting or selling a farm.

The budget also increases aid to localities by $1 million and provides $1.9 million to the New York Farm Viability Institute, which helps farmers become more profitable. In addition, the budget provides $750,000 in funding for the Farm to School Program, which helps make it easier for schools to buy from New York State farmers.

The state budget also reduces fees for certain pesticide applicator programs, which will help local golf courses and sod suppliers.

Funding for agriculture programs also includes:

  • $750,000 for the New York State Apple Growers Association;
  • $1,201,000 for the PRO-DAIRY program;
  • $225,000 for the Maple Producers Association; and
  • $125,000 for the Christmas Tree Farmers Association.

“Agriculture is the largest industry in the state of New York and it’s critical that we do everything we can to ensure our farmers have access to the resources they need to grow and thrive,” said Woerner. “This new program will help the next generation of farmers gain a foothold in the industry so they can continue providing local, fresh food to families all across the state.”

Safeguarding the racing and gaming industries

The budget also includes several important protections for the racing industry, a major source of economic development in Saratoga and Washington counties. To ensure that the New York Racing Association (NYRA) – which operates the Saratoga Race Course – remains as fiscally stable as possible, it will now be allowed to keep 90 days of operating expenses in its reserves. This brings the amount that NYRA is authorized to keep in reserves closer to the amount authorized for most other not-for-profit organizations and businesses, helping to ensure stability in provided services and security for employees.

Additionally, Assemblywoman Woerner successfully advocated for a budget which continues tax parity between racinos and casinos, an important measure for the economic health of the racing industry. In the 113th Assembly District, this tax parity allowed the Saratoga Casino Hotel to invest an additional $43 million in the construction of a hotel and restaurant, which increased primarily unionized employment to an excess of 600 jobs.

“After having returned NYRA to a private non-governmental entity, it is important that we give its leadership the tools to ensure that this critical economic driver can continue to create good-paying jobs and boost our tourism industry,” said Woerner.

Improving public parks, promoting local artists and preserving historic sites

The state budget provides $1.75 million to repair and replace balcony ramps, railings and lighting at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and $600,000 to rehabilitate the Spa campus buildings and grounds. It also allocates $150,000 to help rehabilitate the childhood home of Susan B. Anthony House in Washington County.

To promote local artists, the budget creates a $10 million capital fund for local arts organizations, which will be administered through the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and REDCs. The fund will provide grants of at least $50,000 to organizations across the state, and NYSCA will be able to match grants for local groups with limited resources. The idea for the capital fund came out of last summer’s Arts round table hosted by Woerner and Assembly Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee Chair Daniel O’Donnell.

The budget also extends the Rehabilitation Tax Credits (A.9842) through 2025 and decouples this program from the corresponding federal program. These tax credits helped to secure investments for the restoration of the Adelphi Hotel and Algonquin Apartments in Saratoga Springs.

“This budget is a huge win for our cultural centers and local arts organizations, helping ensure these community institutions can continue to thrive,” said Woerner.

Investing in local libraries

The budget continues New York’s commitment to local libraries, providing a total of $96.6 million, an increase of $1 million over last year. It also allocates $34 million for library capital funding. In many upstate rural communities, libraries are more than just a place to check out books. They are often a community center that provides a number of different resources that may be otherwise unavailable, noted Woerner.