Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo announced that he helped pass a $175.5 billion 2019-20 state budget that builds on the historic progress that’s already been made this year and stays true to the Assembly Majority’s commitment to putting families first.
Here are the highlights by category:
Increasing Fairness in Our Criminal Justice System
The 2019-20 state budget includes sweeping criminal justice reforms to ensure New York treats all defendants fairly and equally.
Under the legislation, a cash bail option will be retained for sex offense misdemeanors and most violent felony offenses, excluding felonies classified as “violent” but which do not actually have a violent component, such as second-degree robbery or burglary.
Additionally, the legislation will require police officers to issue desk appearance tickets in lieu of making a custodial arrest for most misdemeanors and Class E felonies. Further, the court will be required to consider the defendant’s financial resources, ability to post bail without undue hardship and set at least three alternative bail or bond methods.
The budget also secures: reforming the discovery process, ensuring the right to a speedy trial and advocating for fairness and equality.
The budget also works to protect immigrants from automatic deportation by lowering the maximum sentence for those charged with Class A misdemeanors from 365 to 364 days. The one-day sentence reduction avoids triggering deportation proceedings, which happen with a sentence of one year or longer.
The 2019-20 state budget continues the Assembly’s commitment to expanding opportunity for our youngest New Yorkers by increasing funding for public schools by $1 billion over last year and putting a college degree within reach for more students.
The state budget provides a total of $27.8 billion in education funding, an increase of $1 billion – or 3.7 percent – over last year. This includes a $618 million increase in Foundation Aid for a total of $18.4 billion. The budget also rejects the executive’s proposal to require certain districts to distribute a percentage of their Foundation Aid increase to specific schools and instead requires those districts to report to the commissioner of education on how they are prioritizing underfunded high-need schools. Further, $30 million of uncollected lottery winnings is earmarked for public schools, and districts are authorized to create a reserve fund to finance contributions to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. And to help more kids get started on the right foot, the spending plan also includes a $15 million increase in funding for grants for prekindergarten, for a total of $822 million.
The plan also rejects the executive proposal to consolidate 11 expense-based aids, including BOCES aid, special services aid and transportation aid, and allows them to be reimbursed at their present levels.
To ensure local school districts can adopt teacher and principal evaluation systems best suited to their students’ needs, the budget includes legislation removing the mandate that state-created or administered assessments be used for evaluations.
Opening Doors to Higher Education
The budget continues the Excelsior Scholarship, which was established in 2017 and makes SUNY and CUNY schools tuition-free for eligible New Yorkers. The income eligibility threshold increases this year to $125,000. Students who attend a private college in New York and have a family income of less than $125,000 this year would also be eligible for a scholarship award of $6,000.
Strengthening Public and Community Colleges
The 2019-20 state budget also invests in SUNY and CUNY schools, as well as community colleges across the state.
The plan: allocates $12.1 million to SUNY, and $6.1 million to CUNY, to increasecommunity college base aid by $100 per full-time equivalent student, bringing the total rate to $2,947; provides $6 million more for Educational Opportunity Centers, for a total of $61 million; restores $2.5 million in funding for the CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs; provides $1.1 million to SUNY and $902,000 for CUNY for Child Care Centers; and restores $1 million to Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking labs for a total of $5.5 million.
The budget also allows SUNY and CUNY schools to reduce or waive tuition for high school students enrolled in college courses, supporting those who want to get a head start on the journey to a college degree.
Additionally, the budget: restores $4.5 million for the Foster Youth College Success Initiative to support foster students on their path to higher education; restores $1.5 million for the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, formerly known as the Joseph S. Murphy Institute; restores $700,000 for Small Business Development Centers, which offer business counseling and entrepreneurial training; restores $600,000 for Graduate Diversity Fellowships; restores $500,000 for mental health services and telecounseling at SUNY; provides $200,000 for the SUNY Institute for Leadership and Diversity and Inclusion; provides $150,000 for the Hispanic Leadership Institute at SUNY; and allocates $100,000 to the Center for Women in Government.
Supporting College Opportunity Programs
This year’s state budget restores $23.8 million to these programs, providing: $35.5 million for the Higher Education Opportunity Program; $32.2 million for the Educational Opportunity Program; $28.1 million for Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge; $18.4 million for Liberty Partnerships;
$15.8 million for the Science and Technology Entry Program; $11.9 million for the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program; and $1.3 million for College Discovery.
Ensuring Accurate Count in 2020 Census
The 2019-20 state budget includes $20 million to promote the census and to assist with funding for local outreach efforts. Neighborhood organizations not only know their communities best, but their members are trusted and will be better able to motivate people to participate.
The budget also ensures public libraries are getting the funding they need since they’re going to play a major role in the census, which is being offered online for the first time. The Census Bureau is aiming to receive half of its 2020 submissions online, but this can be a real problem for lower-income households and communities with limited internet access. Libraries bridge this divide. Not only are they the primary channel of internet access for many, but public libraries across the state are hosting programs and setting up census stations to inform communities about the importance of the census and how to participate.
Protecting Tenants and Ensuring Safe, Affordable Housing
The budget includes $402.14 million for housing, including restoring $12.83 million for Neighborhood Preservation Programs and $5.36 million for Rural Preservation Programs, which help community-based not-for-profits provide safe, healthy and affordable housing throughout the state.
To improve the administration of the STAR tax exemption/credit and make data collection more efficient in manufactured homes parks, the budget will allow park owners to report to the Commissioner of Tax and Finance instead of to Homes and Community Renewal. Tax and Finance must send the report to HCR within 30 days, and HCR must report annually to the public on data to increase transparency and maintain proper oversight of the parks, as well as determine the best steps to protect tenants.
The budget also includes an $8 million increase for HCR’s Office of Rent Administration – which helps enforce rent regulations and protect tenants from landlord harassment – as well as $5.5 million for its Tenant Protection Unit.
Supporting Homeowners and Seniors
To help more New Yorkers remain in their homes, the state budget provides $20 million for the Communities First program to fund foreclosure prevention assistance. It also requires lenders to provide 90 days’ notice to homeowners facing foreclosure and makes settlement conferences mandatory.
The budget includes a $15 million increase for Expanded In-home Services Program, which offers non-medical in-home services such as personal care and housekeeping, for a total of $65.1 million. To help more seniors remain in the communities they helped build, the budget increases the maximum amount the state can provide a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community from $200,000 to $300,000.
Expanding Access to Child Care, Protecting At-Risk Youth
To ensure more New Yorkers have access to quality child care they can afford, the budget allocates $832 million for child care subsidies – an increase of $26 million over last year’s final budget. The budget also includes $334,000 to support SUNY and CUNY child care. The budget also creates the New York State Employer-Provided Child Care Credit, which is equal to 100 percent of the federal credit, for employers who provide child and dependent care facilities to their employees.
Further, the budget restores funding for programs that help young people – regardless of family or financial background – achieve success, including: over $33 million for the Advantage After School Program, which provides structured activities for kids to help them succeed academically, including $10.8 million to support minimum wage increases and $5 million for additional services; million for Safe Harbour to help support victims of childhood sexual abuse overcome the unspeakable trauma they have suffered; $2.45 million for settlement houses, which provide educational, recreational and other social services to the community; million for Kinship Cares and $100,000 for Kinship Navigator, which provides a support system for relative and non-relative kinship caregivers; and $1.5 million for the Youth Development Program, which builds relationships between children and their communities.
To ensure continued eligibility for federal child care funding, the budget includes language to enact various provisions of law required to comply with the health, safety and training standards contained in the federal reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant of 2014. In addition to provisions related to compliance, language was also included to provide due process for individuals newly required to receive state and federal background checks under the federal reauthorization.
Further, the budget limits the circumstances under which detention and placement of youth alleged or adjudicated to be persons in need of supervision (PINS) in foster care agencies is allowed and restores state reimbursements to local social services districts for preventive services available to PINS.
To help address the ongoing opioid crisis that continues to devastate communities across the state, the budget allocates an additional $1 million to expand jail-based substance use disorder services in county jails for a total of $4.75 million. It also restores $2 million for NYC’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Specialists program, which provides a host of support services for school-aged children.
The budget also creates a new credit for employers of up to $2,000 for each person hired who is in recovery from a substance use disorder.
Supporting Working New Yorkers
The budget restores funding to several labor programs, including:
$1.62 million to the Displaced Homemakers Program, which provides career and job search assistance to unemployed and underemployed New Yorkers who previously provided unpaid services for their families; $350,000 for the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a coalition of labor groups and safety professionals dedicated to reducing workplace injury; $150,000 for the Sexual Harassment Prevention Program at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations; and $50,000 for the Criminal Records Discrimination Program at Cornell University.
To provide more workers with on-the-job experience and training, the budget expands the Employee Training Incentive Program Credit for New York businesses by including in-house training, software development and renewable or clean energy internships as part of eligible training activities. The budget also extends the Workers with Disabilities Tax Credit until 2023 for those employing individuals with developmental disabilities.
The Historic Rehabilitation Credit, which encourages job creation in the trades, is also expanded to qualified rehabilitation projects within state parks and historic sites and other state-owned land.
Investing in Job Creation Across the State
The budget provides over $900 million for economic development programs and approximately $750 million for the ninth round of REDC awards to fuel economic growth across the state. To better spur technological advancement and foster collaboration between institutions of higher learning and the private sector, the budget allocates $11 million for Centers of Excellence, an increase of $1.4 million over the executive budget proposal. It also provides $609,000 in additional support to Technology Development Organization Matching grants, for a total of $2 million.
Small businesses are the foundation of the state’s economy, providing jobs to approximately 4 million New Yorkers. To help these critical economic engines thrive, the budget allocates an additional $150,000 for Community Development Financial Institutions, for a total of $1.65 million. It also provides an additional $365,000 for the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Development and Lending Program, for a total of $1 million.
Making the Property Tax Cap Permanent
The 2019-20 state budget makes the 2 percent property tax cap permanent, limiting the annual growth of local property taxes to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Implemented in 2012, the tax cap has saved New York property taxpayers $24.4 billion statewide.
Extending the Millionaires Tax
The 2019-20 state budget extends the millionaires tax by five years to continue funding important programs that New Yorkers rely on and ensure everyone is paying their fair share. It also implements a progressive and supplemental mansion tax starting on properties valued at more than $2 million at an additional 0.25 percent and ending at a top rate of 2.9 percent for properties in excess of $25 million. The mansion tax is projected to raise $243 million. Additionally, the budget creates a supplemental Real Estate Transfer Tax of 0.25 percent for residences above $3 million and commercial properties over $2 million to raise $122 million. Together they will raise $365 million in financing for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital lockbox. The budget also allocates $232 million from internet sales tax revenues to the MTA.
Funding Early Voting
To help ensure every New Yorker has an opportunity to participate in our democracy, the Assembly passed a law establishing early voting during a nine-day period before any general, primary, run-off primary or special election to make voting more accessible (Ch. 6 of 2019). To offset the costs of additional poll hours for financially strained local governments, the final state budget earmarks $10 million for localities. The budget also makes primary voting hours consistent across the state, requiring all counties to have polling sites open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. This measure addresses a discrepancy that saw most upstate counties provide six fewer hours to vote on primary day than downstate. The budget also includes legislation ensuring that workers receive three hours of paid time off on Election Day.
Modernizing Our Voting System
The state budget enacts an electronic voter registration system through which voters can register and have their application submitted to the appropriate local board of elections online. The state budget also authorizes the use of electronic poll books to administer elections and provides $14.7 million in capital funding for counties to purchase e-poll books and on-demand ballot printers to support the implementation of early voting.
Making Progress Toward Public Financing
The state budget also establishes a commission that will examine, evaluate and make recommendations regarding a public campaign financing system in New York. The commission’s findings are to be reported by Dec. 1, 2019, and will be binding unless modified by law within 20 days. The budget also prohibits lobbyists, political action committees, labor unions and independent expenditure committees from making loans to candidates for political office.
Getting the Subways Back on Track and Clearing the Roads
To raise funds for the MTA and make critical improvements to public transportation, the budget creates the first congestion tolling program in the country. The congestion pricing zone includes 60th Street and south in Manhattan – excluding FDR Drive and West Side Highway – and spans NYC’s Central Business District. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority will oversee the program’s creation and operation, working closely with the NYC Department of Transportation. The Assembly fought to ensure that the TBTA would oversee the program – pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the City of New York – rejecting an executive proposal that would have bypassed local input. Electronic tolling devices would be installed on the perimeter of the Central Business District, with dynamic pricing for tolls. Passenger vehicles would be charged only once per day.
The TBTA will establish a six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board to recommend the price of the tolls and the value of any exemptions or credits. To allow ample time for installation and public input – including public hearings – the program would not go into effect before Dec. 31, 2020. This tolling program is expected to raise $15 billion, which the budget ensures goes entirely toward the MTA capital budget and is prohibited from being used for non-capital spending.
To determine the needs of the MTA and see that the funding is used strategically, the budget takes several steps to improve oversight. This includes requiring the MTA to develop a reorganization plan by June and undergo an independent forensic audit and efficiency review. The budget also modifies MTA Board appointments to align with the appointing authority, creates a unit made up of independent experts to review major projects, increases the competitive procurement threshold from $100,000 to $1 million and establishes a 30-day review notice for comptroller contract approval. And, to increase transparency, the budget also requires public reporting on MTA performance metrics.
To supplement funding for the MTA and ensure the wealthy pay their fair share, the budget implements a progressive and supplemental mansion tax starting on properties valued at more than $2 million at an additional 0.25 percent and ending at a top rate of 2.9 percent for properties in excess of $25 million. The mansion tax is projected to raise $243 million. Additionally, the budget creates a supplemental Real Estate Transfer Tax of 0.25 percent for residences above $3 million and commercial properties over $2 million to raise $122 million. Together they will raise $365 million for the MTA capital lockbox. The budget also allocates $232 million from internet sales tax revenues to the MTA.
Helping our Veterans Get Ahead
The 2019-20 budget honors the immense sacrifices made by our veterans by restoring more than $1.6 million to various programs that will help these heroes begin new chapters of their lives. These vital programs help veterans use their diverse skills to find gainful employment, connect them to needed resources and provide legal and other services to low-income active-duty members so that veterans and their families are supported in their transition back to civilian life.
The funding includes: $500,000 for the NYS Defenders’ Association; $200,000 for Helmets to Hardhats; $200,000 for Clear Path for Veterans; $125,000 for Veterans of Foreign Wars; and $100,000 for the SAGE Veterans Project.
Additionally, the budget changes the name of the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs to the Division of Veterans’ Services to avoid confusion with the federal department and includes $1.38 million to allow it to fully fund county and city service agencies. It also earmarks $4 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project, a peer-to-peer program that helps veterans who have returned home and are facing the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Banning Plastic Bags
The widespread use of single-use plastic bags is wasteful, unnecessary and puts our marine life and our environment at risk. They also take decades to decompose. New York State has been a strong leader in fighting the very real and present threat of climate change, and tackling the scourge of plastic bags is another step the Assembly is taking in protecting our environment.
To clean up our neighborhoods and waterways, the 2019-20 state budget implements a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags given out by grocery stores and other retailers. The proposal also authorizes counties and cities to impose a 5-cent fee on paper carryout bags, with 40 percent of the fee going back to the municipalities to help distribute reusable bags and 60 percent going toward the Environmental Protection Fund. Low-income New Yorkers who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children services will be exempt from the paper bag surcharge.
Protecting the Environment
New York is not only home to some of the country’s most beautiful landmarks that we can explore and enjoy, but also natural resources that help our communities and boost our economy. To help keep our environment vibrant and healthy, the final budget renews a record $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), the highest level of funding in the program’s history.
Additionally, the final budget removes personal service language from the EPF that was included in the executive budget. This proposal would have resulted in the loss of $18.5 million for environmental projects in neighborhoods across the state in order to pay for state agency staff.
To ensure all New Yorkers have access to clean drinking water, the 2019-20 state budget builds on the state’s historic $2.5 billion investment in clean water, including an additional $500 million in funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act.
Among the water infrastructure initiatives funded in the 2019-20 state budget are: $200 million for the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) to address emerging contaminants; $50 million for the replacement of lead drinking water service lines; $40 million for Water Quality Improvement Projects; $25 million for the Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure grant program; $25 million for land acquisition for source water protection; and $10 million for upgrades and replacements of septic systems and cesspools.
Additionally, to cut down on food waste, the budget requires large-scale food scrap generators to separate as much edible food as possible for donation, and separate food scraps for organic recycling if they are within 25 miles of an organics recycler, exempting hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities and elementary and secondary schools. The budget also encourages the use of clean and alternative energy by providing $23 million for clean energy tax credits.