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State Approves $237B With Focus on Restoring Education Aid, Housing

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Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins had a positive reaction to the new state budget despite a trying three months.

The state legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul agreed on a $237 billion budget last Saturday for Fiscal Year 2024-25 that restores education aid and invests in building more affordable housing and various health services.

After a protracted and often contentious budget process, both chambers of the legislature rejected Hochul’s proposal to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in Foundation Aid and restored the hold harmless provision that guarantees a district’s aid will not be reduced based on factors such as enrollment or wealth of the district.

State officials also agreed to reevaluate the Foundation Aid formula next year.

Included in the budget was $150 million for a new program to encourage the construction of new affordable homes and rentals across the state, along with various protections for renters.

Another $350 million was appropriated for a new tax credit for working families and the restoration of the full $500 million for clean water infrastructure projects.

“I am proud of this state budget, which prioritizes the needs of working families and invests in critical areas such as affordability, education, housing, healthcare and the environment,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “Together, we have enacted a budget which delivers real progress for New Yorkers.”

In addition to Foundation Aid, which will increase from $34.5 million to $35.9 million, the new budget provides an additional $100 million for Universal Pre-K and more than $120 million for SUNY colleges and universities, Stewart-Cousins said.

It will also expand the Tuition Assistance Program by more than $50 million while increasing the household income threshold for the first time in 25 years, she said.

Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) said he was pleased that commitment to education as well as the lowest state income tax rate for middle class families in 70 years has prioritized communities and hardworking people.

“This year, it was important to make prudent investments for today and tomorrow that will help children succeed in school, keep our roadways as safe as possible and protect our environment,” Harckham said. “Additionally, these investments and policies address concerns residents have regarding affordability and public safety.”

Investments included solid funding for transportation initiatives, he said. There is $598 million for the Consolidated Local Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS); a $2.6 billion contribution into the $32.9 billion five-year DOT Capital Plan; $7.9 billion in operating aid for the MTA; $333 million for upstate transit systems; $551 million for non-MTA downstate systems; and a $50 million increase in Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM).

State Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers), chair of the Senate Education Committee, said she was proud that lawmakers held firm on not only restoring Foundation Aid, but ensuring an increase from what the governor proposed.

“Under the (Fisal Year) 2024-2025 budget, every district will receive at least as much money as they did last year,” Mayer said. “We also fought for – and won – a higher inflationary factor than the governor proposed, which will result in more school aid flowing to many districts.”

One of the most severely impacted districts in the region would have been the Bedford School District had the Foundation Aid failed to be restored. Carol DeGeorge, president of the Bedford Teachers’ Association, thanked state legislators and various constituencies for pulling together.

“It is critical for the future of the district that the state upholds its promise to fully fund Foundation Aid,” DeGeorge said. “The potential loss in programs, clubs, music, art and support for students would have been catastrophic if the cuts in state funding that were initially proposed went through.”

While some of the local Democratic state lawmakers were quite positive on the results even if it had been a difficult process, Assemblyman Matt Slater (R-Yorktown) was critical that there wasn’t more money to fix state roads, which in many areas have deteriorated to alarming levels of disrepair.

Slater said the Senate and the Assembly approved one-house budgets that earmarked $400 million for Department of Transportation core capital improvement projects. However, not a single increase made it into the final budget.

Local highway superintendents have pointed to a significant increase in asphalt prices over the past five years, but Hochul and the Democratic majority have neglected to adequately invest in infrastructure, Slater said.

He and other lawmakers and highway officials urged the governor for an additional $200 million but the restoration of last year’s $60 million to the CHIPS budget, he said.

“Damaged, undrivable and dangerous conditioned roads of the Hudson Valley region, that our constituents and highway workers have begged to be fixed, wasn’t convincing enough to receive the proper funding they deserve,” Slater said. “Investing in our state roads is critical to the safety and quality of life in our communities, and has been sidelined and disregarded” in this budget.







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