Highlights: Gov. Cuomo's $137B budget plan
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Following are key elements of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's $137.2 billion budget for 2014-15. The State Legislature is expected to vote on the spending plan by April 1.
Higher education spending would increase by $26 million to $3.26 billion, or 0.8 percent.
State universities and colleges, including Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State College and the College at Old Westbury, would see a total decrease of $2 million -- 0.2 percent -- in general fund appropriations. The state also would spend $2 million less, or 0.3 percent, on two-year schools such as Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College.
The proposal includes $110 million to expand the NYSUNY 2020 plan, which provides competitive grants to state universities and colleges, with priority given to those that use technology to enhance student learning or have public-private partnerships. Under NYSUNY 2020, passed in 2011, student tuition increases were capped at $300 annually for five years.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said Tuesday that Cuomo's proposal "answers the critical maintenance needs of our infrastructure across the state, and provides the additional resources our 64-campus system will need to answer to new challenges in education, teacher preparation, research, emergency preparedness and job training."
The governor's budget proposal includes $10 million to establish a new pharmacy school at Binghamton University and $5 million to expand and upgrade infrastructure at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to accommodate larger class sizes.
Cuomo's budget restores funding to the state Superfund program for one year and increases funding for the Environmental Protection Fund.
The Department of Environmental Conservation budget would drop by $43 million, or 4.7 percent, to $876 million. The agency has experienced several years of cuts. The cuts are due to the transfer of information technology staff to the Office of Information Technology Services and the completion of projects funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the 1996 Bond Act, budget documents said.
Funding for Department of Agriculture and Markets would rise by $3 million to $122 million and the budget for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation would increase by $10 million to $292 million.The watchdog group Environmental Advocates of New York, which last year released a report saying the DEC was struggling to enforce environmental protection laws and standards because of a reduction in staff, said it would analyze Cuomo's proposed cuts.
"The best standards and laws in the world don't matter if there are not enough cops on the beat," executive director Peter Iwanowicz said in a statement.
The budget also includes $100 million for the state Superfund program and covers costs for site cleanup when the owner refuses to or cannot pay.
For the second year in a row, the proposed budget includes an increase for the Environmental Protection Fund, which pays for local environmental initiatives such as farmland conservation and groundwater protection. Funding would increase by $4 million to $157 million.
The Cuomo budget also would extend the state Brownfields Cleanup Program by 10 years and revamp associated tax credits for remedying contaminated sites, with an emphasis on creating affordable housing, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
Cuomo proposed $220 million in capital grants and tax credits for expanding businesses. The funds, along with $500 million from the coffers of state agencies, would be distributed in a fourth competition between 10 Regional Economic Development Councils statewide. Since Cuomo established the councils in 2011, more than $2.2 billion in state business aid has been awarded to projects expected to maintain and create 75,000 jobs.
Officials said the state panel that will determine how the new money is allocated will focus on promoting export activity and foreign investment in the state. Since 2011, the Long Island council has secured $244.3 million.
In his State of the State speech two week ago, Cuomo unveiled a Global NY initiative aimed at helping New York businesses increase the amount of goods and services they sell overseas. His budget proposal includes money for advertisements in foreign countries.
William Wahlig, executive director of the Long Island Forum for Technology, a Bethpage nonprofit that aids local technology companies, welcomed the emphasis on international trade. "We have products that are unique and could be very desirous in the foreign marketplace," Wahlig said.
Cuomo also would tap the state Power Authority for $50 million to air more "New York Open for Business" TV ads. He also earmarked $5 million to pay for regional tourism campaigns in an initiative begun last year.
Cuomo also is pushing to turn university research into commercial products using business incubators, for which he is requesting $3.75 million statewide. Last year, Stony Brook University received up to $375,000 over three years to expand its offerings and connect tenants to nearby research institutions such as Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Cuomo's budget provides modest increases in aid for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other public transportation agencies. The MTA would receive $4.3 billion in state aid -- an $85 million bump from 2013.
William Henderson, executive director of the MTA Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, noted that the authority has experienced sizable cuts in state funding for years and that the increase, while welcome, won't make that big a difference for the MTA.
"It's not something that can solve all problems," Henderson said. "We're talking about an organization that has a $12 billion budget." Other transit agencies, including the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, and Suffolk County Transit, would share $461 million -- a $7.9 million increase from 2013-14. NICE has said it needs state aid to maintain service levels.
The proposed budget also contains funding for the second year of the Department of Transportation's $3.4 billion capital plan, and $155 million in new funding to expedite some road and bridge projects.
The State Department of Motor Vehicles would see a $24 million cut in aid under the Cuomo budget.
In an effort to control Medicaid costs, the budget would hold Department of Health spending for the program to $16.5 billion, a 3.8 percent increase from 2013-14. Total Medicaid spending for the state -- including federal and local government matching funds -- is projected to be $58 billion, up from $55.6 billion under the current state budget.
Excluding Medicaid, total spending proposed for the Department of Health, is $4.1 billion, down from $4.6 billion.
Cuomo said his budget would save $10.9 million in various public health and aging programs through efficiency and cost-cutting.
Because of New York's changes to Medicaid, the federal government will save $17 billion by the end of 2015, Cuomo said. He is asking for $10 billion of that amount to help "the transformation of New York's health care delivery system." The money is essential to strengthen "health care infrastructure" and bring about changes required by the federal Affordable Care Act.
The budget also provides $53.5 million for New York's health insurance exchange.
Human Services spending would drop by 3.8 percent, to $8.87 billion dollars compared with $9.22 billion last year.
However, child care funding would rise by $21 million. The program helps low-income working families with a portion of their day care and after-school care expenses. It was unclear yesterday how much of increase would go to Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Local child care advocates who have fought previous cuts said demand has increased since the recession.
"It's a critical program for so many low-income families," said Richard Koubek, chairman of Suffolk's Welfare to Work Commission, which is conducting a study of child care funding levels in Suffolk.
Cuomo's budget would provide $125 million for a "pay for success" initiative to reward social service programs once they reach performance targets such as lowering recidivism rates. The first such project calls for training and employing nearly 2,000 former convicts.