FINCH REACTS TO THE 2014-15 NEW YORK STATE BUDGET Statement from Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport)
While compromise is axiomatic to negotiation, I am pleased with some of the most crucial appropriations in the New York State budget. I voted in favor of nine of the component bills yesterday on the Assembly Floor. I voted against the Public Safety bill because it would effectuate double bunking. This would create a major public safety issue for corrections officers, civilian employees and inmates.
One of the budget’s most critical sections restores $602 million of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) for school districts in desperate need of those funds. Ideally, both houses of the legislature and the governor would prioritize the full restoration of the GEA over new, expensive programs such as universal pre-K. This funding, however, is an excellent start. It represents a tangible fiscal improvement for our Central New York school districts. I am also pleased with the increase in Foundation Aid for New York State’s school districts.
Additionally, I am glad that our advocacy for our friends in the agricultural sector bore fruit. Two provisions should be particularly helpful for young farmers. One is the Beginning Farmers NY fund, which allows new farmers to secure grants up to $50,000 to catalyze their burgeoning businesses. The other is a student loan forgiveness program for SUNY Alumni who are full-time operators of farms. Farmers young and old should benefit from the $27 million allocated for Agricultural Local Assistance programs, a sizable $6.1 million increase from last year.
This budget is not without its shortcomings, however. Unfunded mandates are the primary cost drivers for our municipalities, and this budget does little to mitigate their stinging burden. That the governor and the Assembly Majority expect towns, villages and school districts to continue to implement these egregious, unfunded mandates while providing existing services without raising new revenues in the midst of a property tax freeze makes no sense: mathematical, common or otherwise.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this release stated that Assemblyman Finch voted in the affirmative on all of the budget bills. In fact, he voted in favor of nine of the ten. Assemblyman Finch voted against the Public Protection and General Government bill.