Reaction to New York State budget
Reaction to the passage of the $135 billion New York State budget – it was approved early Wednesday by the Senate and is now making its way through the Assembly — has been mixed.
School and farm organizations praised the work that was done, but also expressing concern about what still needs to be accomplished, including reforming school aid and reducing costs associated with agricultural production to help family farms meet financial challenges.
RELATED STORY: State budget has benefits for Livingston County.
Here are some reactions to the budget:
Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, said the state’s education budget “demonstrated a growing awareness for the serious fiscal crisis confronting hundreds of low-to-moderate wealth school districts in all parts of the state.”
Timbs called the state’s actions a “welcome approach that we greatly appreciate” but also said it “is yet another year that has not provided schools with any genuine long-term solutions.” Timbs continued to advocate for the abolishing of the Gap Elimination Adjustment and reforming of the state aid formula.
“The additional funds will be put to good use by schools as they will help maintain important programs and save jobs. In this spirit, our organization wants to offer special thanks to the efforts of Senator Patrick Gallivan for his leadership in working to get expanded funds into this Budget, as well as Senator Patty Ritchie and Assembly Member Addie Russell for their efforts in lowering the income wealth index (IWI) floor and ceiling, which plays a central role in affecting the level of state-determined eligibility for funding.
“That said, while there are some extremely valuable stop-gap measures in this Budget, this is yet another year that has not provided schools with any genuine long-term solutions. Therefore, we still have a long way to go – particularly in abolishing the Gap Elimination Adjustment and reforming the existing Foundation Aid formula.
“Even with the welcome attention given to GEA reform in this Budget, this especially onerous program still takes back $1.639 billion in promised school aid in 2013-14. And the Foundation Aid formula remains highly inequitable in terms directing state aid to the low-to-moderate wealth districts that need it the most.”
The New York Farm Bureau, in a statement, said it was “very pleased with the commitment lawmakers have shown to a number of important agricultural programs in the final budget.”
These initiatives include target promotion for local farm products, such as maple, apple and berries; funding of agricultural research, including animal and plant health programs; and money for environmental and educational efforts.
“ The end result is an agricultural budget that will offer many opportunities for the state’s farmers to build upon. For it’s been shown that when you grow farms, you grow the economy,” the Farm Bureau statement said.
Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, wrote:
“While there is much to be thankful for in regards to agriculture spending, some aspects of the budget still raise concerns amongst our farmer members. With the hike of the minimum wage and the continuation for the next few years of the 18-a assessment fee on electric bills, production costs are still on the rise for family farmers who must survive in what is an expensive and volatile business. We ask lawmakers to continue to work with New York Farm Bureau to reduce this burden that puts New York farmers at a competitive disadvantage. On average, New York farmers pay $20 more per acre in property taxes than the national farm average. We are hopeful a 2 percent cap on agricultural land assessments can pass this legislative session to contain rising property taxes and provide some needed relief. In addition, extending the estate tax to mirror the federal $5 million threshold will go a long way to helping keep family farms around for the next generation.
“Each one of us has a stake in preserving farming as a way of life in New York. From conserving open spaces to having a safe, local food supply, we all benefit when our farms and farm economy are healthy.”