A number of important issues are under discussion in Albany and development of the state budget is at the top of the list. With just over a month to go before the April first deadline to complete work on the 2014-2015 New York State budget, the pace in Albany has started to quicken.
My goal is to adopt an on-time spending plan that meets the real needs of those who live and work in my district and across New York. The plan needs to keep state spending in check, encourage economic growth, deliver broad-based tax cuts, and drive education aid to our neediest schools. While no budget bills have been passed yet, a great deal of work is taking place behind the scenes that I believe will lead to a fiscally responsible final product.
Senate subcommittees are now meeting on a regular basis. Essentially, the committees take a specific portion of the governor’s budget proposal, dissect it line by line, place it under a microscope, and fine tune the plan to make sure it is fiscally sound and in line with public priorities.
I have been named to four of the senate budget subcommittees - education, health, higher education, and general government/local assistance. By serving on these committees I am able to have direct influence on state aid to local school districts, funding for SUNY schools and community colleges, and programs that play a role in the health and well-being of all New Yorkers.
The education sub-committee is one of the most meaningful groups. Last year, my advocacy on this committee helped direct most of the new state aid provided through the budget to our neediest schools. This year, as I meet with my colleagues and discuss the education budget I will continue to point to the need for aid formula changes that will ensure every student, regardless of demographics, receives a quality education. I am also working to eliminate the gap elimination adjustment (GEA) which has plagued so many area school districts.
The higher education portion of the budget has become even more vital with the advent of START-UP NY and the new role our SUNY schools are playing in our state’s economic development future. It is also imperative that our on-campus facilities and programs are top-notch so our graduates are equipped to succeed in an increasingly challenging job market.
Under a schedule agreed to by the senate and the assembly, both houses will adopt their own budget resolutions by March 12th. Then joint senate/assembly budget conference committees will begin their work of reconciling differences between the two plans. The process provides for a bipartisan budget discussion with a proven track record of success. We have utilized this open, transparent process quite successfully the last three years – adopting on-time budgets that achieved our critically important goals of controlling spending, avoiding tax increases and helping to create new private sector jobs.
A couple of weeks ago, I called attention to the special budget section on my website, “Get the facts – 2014-2015 Executive Budget Proposal”. A number of individuals have already visited the one-stop-shop filled with in-depth budget information and emailed me their thoughts on the spending plan. Not everyone can travel to the state Capitol and speak at a budget hearing, but through my website, everyone can have a voice in the financial future of our state. The web page is updated on a regular basis and will include links to senate budget bills and other related items as the review and approval process moves forward.
I encourage everyone to log on to my website at, www.senatorjimseward.com, stay informed, and add your voice to the debate.