By Assemblyman Will Barclay
As I write this column, we are closing out on a long week of budget talks and have just passed the state budget in Albany. I was happy with the budget process. It was done during the daylight and lawmakers had plenty of time to review the bills before voting. Again, we met the April 1 deadline–the second time in two years. This is essential to the many state agencies and organizations as they move forward with their budget processes. I was pleased with the timeliness of this budget. This is the earliest the state budget has passed since 1983.
Overall, this is a good budget that keeps our fiscal constraints, our financial times, and the taxpayer in mind. It does not raise taxes and does not increase spending from last year. The total budget passed at $132.6 billion. There are aspects that I would have changed, but overall, it is a budget that moves our state forward and better represents the taxpayers. It also includes a job creation plan and will reinvest in infrastructure with help from the federal government as well.
I was pleased to drive more school aid to higher-need school districts. Though this additional aid won’t close all of the budget gaps for all of the school districts, it does help our low-wealth school districts a great deal and I was pleased negotiations were made to our benefit concerning school aid this year.
Funding for EPIC was restored. I appreciated hearing from all of you who took the time to call my office who were directly affected by this prescription drug program. This program helps seniors pay prescription co-pays that Medicare does not cover. Funding for this program will be restored in January.
This budget creates the New York Works Task Force which is expected to coordinate capital plans across 45 agencies and authorities, oversee investment in projects and access to funding, and facilitate job creation. I was pleased to vote in favor of this plan. I hope this creates more transparency and better state agency organization. I also hope this forces agencies to work together more.
The Task Force will be comprised of people from finance, labor, planning and transportation will also recommend financing options for projects and methods to accelerate construction of infrastructure.
This budget includes funding for New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to develop the 2013 State Energy Plan, part of the Governor’s Energy Highway initiative. We need a comprehensive energy plan that accounts for downstate’s demands while utilizing Upstate’s resources and capacity to develop that energy. I am hopeful this energy plan accounts for both, which has the potential to create many jobs in our region.
This budget also reinvests in our parks. We allocated money to the New York Works Fund to rehabilitate state parks. According to the plan, projects will be funded in every region of the state, making improvements in 48 state parks and historic sites that serve 37 million visitors annually. I was most pleased to cast my vote in favor of this budget bill. Our state parks preserve history, provide recreation opportunities, and are the face of our state.
I look forward to sharing more details with you in the coming weeks on many of these budget decisions.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.