E-Mail Newsletter – March 28, 2015

Passage of the state budget is expected to be on time next week though work continues this weekend on numerous unresolved and contentious issues. Some of these unresolved issues include ethics, education, public transit, the minimum wage and upstate economic revitalization.

Investing in Upstate transportation. This week, I joined other members in continuing to push for a $25 million increase in upstate transit funding in the budget. As ridership continues to reach record levels, it is critically important to increase funding to public transportation as more and more people rely on transit than ever before. Transit operations, such as the Capital District Transportation Authority, are drivers for regional economic growth.

Education policy and funding continue to be among the most contentious issues in the budget. Teacher evaluations and APPR remain among some of the key outstanding issues

The amount of education funding also remains unresolved though the overall funding is expected to be more than $1.4 billion over last year’s funding. I will continue to advocate in favor of increased funding, for limiting high-stakes testing and privatization, and for fair evaluations for our educators.

Receivership Proposal for Low Performing Schools. I remain concerned about the Governor's proposed receivership to takeover low-performing or "failing" public schools and will share more on this as the budget is finalized. I have repeatedly advocated that any intervention or restructuring of these schools - including at least one in Albany - be both driven and developed locally (and not by the State Education Department). At this point the lowest performing schools will be subject to restructuring and possibly to receivership, but planning funds will be provided by the state and the plan will be locally developed by the school district and local stakeholders.

Discussion continues on minimum wage increases and no agreement has been reached. Governor Cuomo is proposing a $10.50 per hour minimum wage increase statewide and $11.50 in New York City by the end of 2016. The Assembly Majority is calling a higher increase statewide but no agreement has been reached as of this writing.

Increased funding for environmental programs. Funding increases are proposed for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) with disagreement over using Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) monies to fund it since these monies are used to fund valuable clean energy programs used for energy audits, energy efficiency measures and cleaner energy sources for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. The Assembly one house budget resolution does not include the use of RGGI funds and I will continue to speak out against the use of these funds. The Environmental Protection Fund now stands at $177 million, about $5 million more than Cuomo proposed but RGGI is a carbon cap-and-trade program, which auctions pollution permits to industry in New York.

Education Tax Credit. At this point, the proposed tax credits associated with the Education Investment Tax Credit Act are not included in the budget. I remain strongly opposed to this $100 million proposal due to a number of profound policy and financial implications. This unprecedented tax credit of up to $1 million allows for tax diversions in the form of a near dollar-for-dollar tax credit (not deduction), which is a serious departure from current tax credit policy generally geared toward low and middle income households. The lack of an income cap for eligibility to claim the up to $1 million credit may result in only benefitting wealthy individuals and businesses. Further, only one-fourth of the funding would have to be designated for scholarships for low income students, though no direct funds are targeted to poor schools - creating a concern that the majority of the funds will go to high wealth schools and districts.

Assembly Passes Women’s Reproductive Health Act. The Reproductive Health Act updates New York’s 40-year old law and treats the regulation of abortion as a public health issue, rather than part of the state’s criminal code to ensure that a woman will be able to seek abortion care if her health is endangered later in pregnancy. This update reflects current federal law in reference to providing access to abortion care when the health of the woman is at stake (but not go beyond what is lawful under Roe v. Wade).

Downtown Albany Revitalization. More good news on the revitalization of downtown Albany due in part to the progress of the Albany Capital Center. According to the Business Review, plans are underway to put a national chain family friendly restaurant and market rate apartments across from the Times Union Center.

Local Updates and Upcoming Events:

Town of Bethlehem Library Career Zone. Find information and assistance in your job search on upcoming dates in April through the Bethlehem Library’s CareerZone programs.

Albany Police Chief Krokoff’s retirement. This week, Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff retired after serving the City of Albany for more than twenty years, five of which as chief. Chief Krokoff's extraordinary leadership drove the police department to take a community-based approach to policing and forged relationships with residents and neighborhood associations across the city. Our loss is Georgia’s gain and we wish him only the best in the next chapter of his career! 

WNYT Top Teacher. Congratulations to Albany High School teacher Ward Dales on being named WNYT News Channel 13's Top Teacher. Ward recently directed the spring production of “Annie” at the high school and continues to open students’ minds to the world of the performing arts. Congrats, Ward!

Women’s History Month. As Women's History Month comes to a close, I am truly honored to be a part of the display noting that I was the first woman elected to represent the 109th Assembly District, among the many women who are currently serving here in the Assembly or the Senate.

Volunteer at Pine Hollow Arboretum. The Pine Hollow Arboretum will host a volunteer information day on Sunday, March 29 at the Pine Hollow Arboretum Visitor Center (16 Maple Avenue, Slingerlands) at 3 p.m. The orientation session will give you an overview of the various types of tasks that volunteers can be involved in. In addition, the Arboretum will be asking for their potential volunteers to share what they would like to learn on-site at the arboretum so that they can provide an enriching, educational volunteer experience.

Capital Hills Golf Course opens in April. The City of Albany’s 18-hour golf course is expected to open the second week of April, according to the City of Albany. Capital Hills at Albany Golf Course encourages anxious golfers to schedule tee time at least 48 hours in advance by calling (518) 438-2208.

Job Opportunities: New York State has set up a new job portal entitled Jobs Express, where thousands of private and public sector jobs are listed. Visit jobs.ny.gov for more information on how to apply for these opportunities.

As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---