Education, infrastructure and climate change in Cuomo’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget

Around New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (via NEWS10) — Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his plan for the Fiscal Year 2021 New York State Budget on Tuesday.

Cuomo outlined an $826 million increase in school aid with the primary goal of creating equity in school funding throughout the state. The $826 million marks a three percent increase in school aid by the state, adding up to a total education budget of $28.5 billion.

Cuomo stressed that the focus of the education budget in fiscal year 2021 will not just be how much money is spent on education, but how that money is spent and which schools and districts receive the most state education aid.

According to the governor, a survey of 300 major school districts in the state found that wealthier schools spent $36,000 per student, compared to $16,000 per student at poorer schools. Cuomo said the state will begin making changes to the way the state distributes education funding in an attempt to close that gap.

The budget proposes a focus on Foundation Aid, rather than expense-based aid, with 85 percent of the budgeted Foundation Aid increase going to the highest-need schools. a previous focus on expense-based aid has resulted in wealthier schools getting more state funding simply because they were spending more money per student, Cuomo said. This only added to a gap in funding between wealthy and poorer schools.

Currently, state funding makes up just 40 percent of education funding in the states, but Cuomo proposed strategically distributing state funding aid to chip away at any disparities at the local or federal level.

Cuomo also announced a 3.4 percent, $257 million increase in higher education operating aid, making a total budget of $7.8 billion.

This increase will pay for a number of changes, including $1.5 billion in capital for SUNY/CUNY campuses and a proposal to raise the income eligibility cap for the Excelsior Scholarship to $150,000, a move which Cuomo said will allow an additional 230,000 students to go to college tuition-free.

His infrastructure plan adds $175 billion to a previously announced $100 billion, adding to a total investment of $275 billion, which Cuomo called the largest infrastructure program in the state’s history and the largest in the nation.

The plan includes funding for many new and continuing infrastructure projects and improvements around the state, including a number in upstate New York.

The budget includes funding for:

  • $11.9 billion for a two-year DOT Capital Plan, including $5.8 billion for Upstate roads and bridges
  • A five-year $52 billion capital plan for the MTA
  • $100 million for round 2 of Upstate Airport and Economic Development Initiative
  • $300 million to re imagine the Erie Canal
  • A $20 billion five-year investment in affordable housing, supportive housing and related services
  • $355 million to complete the transition to all electronic tolling on the New York State Thruway by the end of 2020
  • $900 million to fund capital rehabilitation and improvement of state parks and historic sites.
  • An additional $500 million in funding to clean water projects, bringing the states total investment over five years to $3.5 billion

Cuomo says the infrastructure projects included in the budget will support the creation of 450,000 jobs.

Cuomo also announced a $33 billion five-year plan to fight climate change that he called the biggest commitment in the nation.

Five of the hottest years in history have occurred since 2015, Cuomo said, and the past decade was the hottest ever recorded.

“The clock is ticking,” said Cuomo, D-New York. “It is ticking faster and faster.”

The plan includes:

Restore Mother Nature Bond Act$3 Billion
Resiliency and Environmental Conservation$740 Million
Offshore Wind$9.1 Billion
Land-based Renewables$6.6 Billion
Clean Energy Research$1.9 Billion
Green Bank$1.1 Billion
Electric Transit Buses & Charging Stations$1.5 Billion

The state currently faces a $6 billion deficit, something the governor plans to address with pulling back on handing out aid to local municipalities.

This would include Medicaid, which he attributes for much of the budget hole, and legalizing adult-use marijuana.

But even with this deficit looming over the proposed budget, Cuomo laid out ten different points on how the state plans to invest back into its people.

A number of local and state leaders have weighed in today on the governor’s budget presentation:

Andrew Cuomo has run New York’s budget into the red to the tune of at least $6 billion, but all we heard from him was dishonest rhetoric, obfuscation, and his fuzzy Albany math. While the Governor rattled off a laundry list of new spending items and inconsequential pet projects, like redesigning the state flag, he offered zero acknowledgement of our record-breaking population drain or the state’s precipitous economic decline. The Governor has no plan to reverse New York’s status as the highest taxed, least business friendly climate in the nation. His cursory mention of his disastrous bail reform laws offered no sense of urgency, while New Yorkers’ safety continues to be at risk. Three terms of Andrew Cuomo can be summed up with three words: colossal economic failure.” 

NYGOP Chairman Nick Langworthy

Today, I joined County Executives Steven Bellone of Suffolk, Laura Curran of Nassau, and George Latimer of Westchester counties on a conference call with State Budget Director Robert Mujica and Senior Advisor to the Governor John Maggiore to discuss the impact the Governor’s proposed changes to the Medicaid local-share cap would have on our counties. My fellow county executives and I are concerned about the impact the Governor’s FY2021 proposal will have on our budgets, and expressed those concerns to the governor’s team. While we all look forward to working with New York State to find additional ways to reduce costs without reducing eligibility for those who truly qualify for Medicaid, since New York State assumed responsibility for the administration of Medicaid, counties have reduced ability to find savings in the program. Furthermore, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, nearly 80,000 additional Erie County residents receive healthcare through Medicaid due the expansion of Medicaid eligibility. As such, we will be doing a further analysis of the budget proposals impact to Erie County.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

Faced with a $6.5 billion budget gap, I was hoping the Governor would outline some specifics on how he planned to address that shortfall, particularly as it relates to Medicaid. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the proposed budget the people of New York State heard today. Medicaid accounts for two-thirds of the projected budget shortfall, but the Governor was woefully short on specifics in how he plans to generate the $2.5 billion in savings needed to offset Medicaid spending. Similarly, and equally disappointing, the budget proposal fails to reform the cash bail law. Instead, public safety and judicial discretion are being compromised, and a misguided and dangerous policy remains in effect.” “I was pleased to see a focus on education, and I hope that there is adequate funding for our schools to meet their increased financial needs.” “However, any measure to address and strengthen our state’s business climate is mixed. On one hand, I was also pleased to see that middle class tax cuts are expected to generate $4.7 million in savings, and that small corporate business tax cuts will generate an estimated $35 million. This is the sort of approach we need to help spur job creation and retention, so that companies and workers can remain in our great Empire State, rather than continue to flee to other states. Unfortunately, the budget proposal also includes $51 million in tax and fee increases, which only serve to continue to shift the burden onto the backs of the hardworking people of New York.” “Overall, it seems that any attempt at a step forward in this budget is coupled with two steps backward or deafening silence on how our elected leaders plan to make New York stronger. The people of New York deserve more.”

Erie County Legislator Ed Rath

From our initial review of the proposed State budget, I am encouraged by funding increases in Infrastructure, Anti-Poverty Programs, and Education Aid”, said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “As a Great Lakes City, climate change is one of the biggest issues facing the City of Buffalo. The Governor’s $33 Billion 5-year Plan to combat climate change preserves the environment while creating resilient communities that are essential to the future of the City of Buffalo and the State of New York.”

Mayor Byron Brown

New York is already one of the highest-taxed states in the country, yet today, Gov. Cuomo promised to rely on increased tax revenue and decreased aid to our communities in order to close the $6.1 billion budget deficit that he created. He protects his pet projects like economic development programs tarnished by corruption and billions of tax dollars going to film studios in New York City and Hollywood. He’s doubling down on failed policies that ignore the reality that New York taxes and spends far too much.”

Senator Rob Ortt

Governor Cuomo presented his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021 earlier today and outlined a number of ambitious goals. The governor has promised more money for state programs and agencies, despite a massive $6.2 billion deficit.  As they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Given the financial shortfall facing our state, it is clear that we must do more to control spending and to ensure the state lives within its means.  We cannot add to the tax increases imposed on our residents last year and expect to close the deficit on the backs of taxpayers.  We must reject any proposal to increase taxes and fees and we should limit borrowing to avoid adding to our debt.

We need to examine how we manage Medicaid and figure out why our costs are the highest in the nation. However, any redesign of the program must control spending and prevent cost shifts to local governments and taxpayers.      

I was glad to hear the governor acknowledge problems created by the state’s new bail reform law, but the time to act is now.  The facts are the changes have resulted in the release of thousands of individuals, including too many repeat offenders who have victimized our communities yet again.  It is clear the new law is flawed and must be fixed immediately to ensure the safety of New York residents, which should be our top priority.  While the governor did not mention it, his proposal calls for the closing of more state prisons, which also raises concern about the security of our citizens.

Public health and safety must also be the main consideration in the discussion of the governor’s call for the legalization of recreational marijuana. 

While we must provide adequate support for education, more importantly, we must ensure that funding is distributed fairly among all of our schools. I look forward to learning more about the governor’s call for a new formula for distributing education aid.

I support the governor’s call to cut taxes on small businesses, to provide more support for agriculture and to continue economic investments that will create jobs. 

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am anxious to work with my colleagues to review the governor’s proposal and ensure a budget is adopted that is good for all New Yorkers.”

Senator Patrick Gallivan

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