Assemblymember Steck: State budget moves our communities forward

Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) announced the 2017-18 state budget provides substantial investments in education and water infrastructure and reforms the tax code.

“This year’s negotiations were contentious and the process is far from perfect, but the final budget is a win for our Capital Region communities,” said Steck. “From extending the state millionaires tax to repairing our critical water systems, the budget takes strides to move New York State forward.

Making the tax code fairer

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 $160 million over two years for a living wage initiative for direct care workers. 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)

“The revenue from the millionaires tax provides vital funding for programs and services that our citizens rely on. It’s only right that the wealthiest continue to pay their fair share,” said Steck. “The top 1% of New Yorkers has increased their share of total income in our State almost threefold since 1980. They have reaped tremendous gains during that period. It is not unreasonable for those citizens to give a small fraction back to the public.”

Investing in local schools

The 2017-18 state budget increases education aid by $1 billion for a total of $25.7 billion, a 4.1 percent increase from last year’s budget, reaffirming the Assembly Majority’s unrelenting commitment to putting every student on their path to success. The budget also increases Foundation Aid by $700 million for a total of $17.2 billion.

In the 110th Assembly District, the budget provides aid to Capital Region schools, increasing investments for schools in Steck’s district to $235 million, an increase of $18 million. Foundation Aid will be increased locally by $9.3 million to $158 million in order to ensure the equitable distribution of resources for all schools.

“By investing in our children and helping eliminate the barriers they face, the budget helps ensure that all New York children have access to a high-quality education,” said Steck.

Increasing affordability in higher education

Further, the budget makes a substantial investment in SUNY schools and helps expand access to higher education through scholarship and important programs.

“A college degree is increasingly necessary to gain access to good-paying jobs and yet the cost of college continues to rise,” said Steck. “That’s why the final budget helps expand affordability so that a college degree becomes a reality for more New Yorkers.”

The state budget provides funding to establish the Excelsior Scholarship, which provides additional scholarship opportunities for New Yorkers who earn less than $125,000 annually. Students who attend a private college in New York and earn less than $125,000 annually would also be eligible for a scholarship award of $6,000.

“The Excelsior Scholarship is not free tuition. But it is symbolic of the realization that the cost of college has reached excessive proportions and that something needs to be done to make college affordable for middle class students.” Unfortunately, the budget also carried a $200 increase in tuition for those families not eligible for Excelsior. Still, the goal of free tuition is worthwhile to pursue.”

Investing in water infrastructure statewide

The budget provides $2.5 billion for water and sewer infrastructure, which is a $500 million increase over the governor’s proposal, to help ensure clean drinking water by repairing and replacing old pipes and water mains, as well as preventive measures, such as source water land acquisition, to keep water from becoming polluted.

“It’s no secret that the water and sewer infrastructure systems in our upstate communities are aging and need to be repaired and replaced,” said Steck. “This funding will help us bring them into the 21stcentury and ensure the safety of our drinking water. More, however, needs to be done to establish a continuing plan for infrastructure upgrades, such as formula-based aid to municipalities like we already have in the area of highway aid to localities.”