After 12 straight days of around the clock negotiations, the Assembly, State Senate, and the Governor finally reached an agreement on the $153.1 Billion 2017-2018 State Budget. The revenue language bill was printed late last night, the Assembly has been discussing it since 10 o'clock this morning and it finally passed a few minutes ago, on our 13th day in a row here in Albany. Needless to say, we did not get all that we wanted but given the nature of the negotiating process, I am sure that is a surprise to no one.
I have kept you updated throughout this process, but wanted to do a final run off on where we landed on many of the issues that we have discussed over the last few months.
Raise the Age
Before this agreement, New York was one of only two states in the nation, the other being North Carolina, that prosecutes all 16 and 17 year-old offenders in adult criminal court where they face the same sentences as adults.
Under the new law, cases involving 16 and 17 year-old defendants would be adjudicated as follows:
- Civil violation charges, such as open container violations and possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as misdemeanors under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, such as DWIs, would continue to be handled in the local court;
- All misdemeanor charges under the Penal Law would be handled in Family Court;
- All felony charges would begin in a newly established Youth Part of the criminal court, presided over by a Family Court judge, where offenders would have access to additional intervention services and programming;
- Non-violent felony charges would be transferred to Family Court, unless the district attorney makes a motion and demonstrates extraordinary circumstances that justify retaining the case in the Youth Part of the criminal court;
- Violent felony charges would remain in the Youth Part of the criminal court and be subject to a three-part test that weighs the seriousness of the offense to determine whether the case will be eligible for presumptive removal to Family Court;
This is a good Raise the Age bill. Much of the delay in the negotiation process had to do with the specifics of this issue and I do want to commend our Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie on his efforts, which allowed for us to achieve a positive resolution on an issue that so many of our constituents cared so much about.
Clean Water Infrastructure Act
As a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee, I am pleased with the deal the Assembly was able to make to address concerns about drinking water quality and deteriorating water treatment facilities across the state. We were able to get the Governor to increase the number from his Executive Budget by $500 Million to a total investment of $2.5 Billion. Here is how the funding will break out:
- $1 billion for the 2017 Water Infrastructure Improvement Act;
- $245 million for Water Quality Improvement Projects;
- $200 million to New York City for projects located in the New York City watershed;
- $150 million for the Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grant Program;
- $110 million for land acquisition for source water protection;
- $130 million for mitigation and remediation of contaminated drinking water; and
- $75 million for upgrades and replacements of septic systems and cesspools.
Affordable & Supportive Housing
The Legislature has approved allocations for the $2.5 billion affordable and supportive housing funds appropriated in this year and last year's budget agreements. Last year, $150 million of this funding was released for supportive housing initiatives. Yesterday's agreement outlines the schedule for the remaining four years through 2021.The five year $2.5 billion capital plan is allocated as follows:
- $1 billion for the Supportive Housing Program;
- $472 million for the Multifamily New Construction Program;
- $125 million for the Senior Housing Program;
- $45 million for the Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund;
- $150 million for the Middle Income Housing Program;
- $100 million for NYC 100 Percent Affordable Housing Program;
- $200 million for NYCHA capital repairs;
- $146 million for the Multifamily Preservation Program;
- $75 million for Mitchell-Lama Preservation programs;
- $125 million for Public Housing Authorities outside New York City; and
- $63 million for the Small Building Program.
- $6.5 million for homeless housing programs; and
- $2 million total funding for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities and Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities
MTA/Direct Support Professionals/Seniors/Millionaires Tax
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Capital Plan is allocated $65 million, which is a restoration of the funding amount cut by the Governors executive's budget from the MTA's operations budget.
Direct Support Professionals: $160 million over two years to support two 3.25 percent wage increases (a total of 6.5 percent over two years) for direct support professionals. Under the proposal, on January 1, 2018, direct care and direct support staff will receive a 3.25 percent pay increase. Direct care, direct support staff, and clinical staff will receive another 3.25 percent increase on April 1, 2018 to ensure that these critical workers receive wages above the minimum wage.
The Millionaires Tax will be continued as is through the next two years, but the Mansion tax, however, which would have helped protect us against the billions of dollars in federal aid that we may lose due to cuts from the Trump administration will not be in the budget.
On Seniors: The $17M of Title XX funding that the Governor redirected from Senior Centers to early childcare providers has been restored. Additionally, we were able to secure $20 Million in funding to early childcare providers. This saved 65 Senior Centers in NYC from closure.
Education Foundation Aid
As you know, I see the funding of our public schools as essential to the ultimate success of our children and future generations. In New York State, this starts with fully funding our Foundation Aid.
Foundation Aid is the formula used to determine funding for school districts after the NYS Court of Appeals ruling in 2006, which found that New York State was violating students constitutional right to a sound and basic education by leaving schools without the funding necessary.
This is why I started a petition on my website and ultimately, thanks to the help from so many public school parents around the 44th Assembly District delivered over 1,000 letters to the Governor, calling on him to fully fund our Foundation Aid. Foundation Aid accounts for Teachers, Para-Professionals, Principals, and other operating expenses associated with running our schools.
In the Governors executive budget, he called for a 3.9% increase in total Foundation Aid additionally he intended to repeal the Foundation Aid formula from Education Law, which would have exacerbated the inequities in schools districts across our city.
In the final agreement, The Assembly was able to get the Governor to drop his repeal of the Foundation Aid formula and move the number up slightly to a 4.4% increase in education funding for a total increase of $1.1 Billion statewide. Just for some added context, Under Foundation Aid, the state is actually owed $4.3 Billion.
Obviously, I am not happy with this final result, but I am pleased that the formula will remain and I know that Foundation Aid is major priority for the Assembly Majority and for our Speaker, Carl Heastie. I look forward to working with him and the Assembly Majority in future years to fight for the money that our NYC public schools are actually owed.
The 421-a real estate tax abatement which has been suspended since January 2016 has been rebranded as the Affordable Housing NY Program
The rebranded 421-a will cover rental buildings with over 300 units. In order to qualify for the tax abatement two criteria will have to be met.
First, between 20%-30% of the rental units in the new rental development will have to be set at an "affordable" rate based on Area Median Income for the NYC metropolitan region.
Second, developers of new rental unit developments will have to pay certain set wages in Manhattan (below 96th street) and select parts of Brooklyn and Queens. However, any developer can opt into this program and there are different formulas within the program which will dictate affordable housing levels.
While I dont believe 421-A has produced meaningful affordable units for the cost of a tax abatement that has been provided to real estate developers. At least this variation of the 421-A provides clear wage protections for workers. In the future a more sensible affordable housing plan would create real affordable units based on a more accurate Area Median Income and provide clear wage protections in exchange for a future tax abatement for the developers.
This program will not be linked to our rent laws in the future and it will expire in 2022, so we must be diligent in protecting our rent stabilized and rent controlled units going forward.
There are no electoral reforms in this budget. This is especially unfortunate since if we were able to create more open and fair elections we would create a better legislature - which in turn would make attaining so many of our legislative goals so much easier.
I want to acknowledge all of the efforts from the 44th Assembly District around this issue. All of your phone calls, emails, Tweets & Facebook posts to the Governor and Legislative leaders did not go unnoticed and you should be proud of the fight and level of activism that you showed on these critical issues. Dont give up and rest assured that I will be right there with you fighting along your side.
In a budget with 10 bills and thousands and thousands of pages of text, there is obviously much more baked into this than I was able to get to in this email. Please feel free to reach out to my office at (718) 788-7221 or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more information on any particular budget issue.
Have a great weekend & soon I will join you back in Brooklyn!