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April 6, 2000

Budget Conference Subcommittee Meetings April 5, 2000

Human Services/Labor Subcommittee

Overview: The first meeting of the Human Services/Labor Subcommittee at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, was a general discussion that focused to a large extent on how the subcommittee would operate.

After Assemblyman Green, CO-chair of the subcommittee, reviewed rules of subcommittee operation, different subcommittee members briefly outlined their priorities for funding.

The committee is debating how to use $25 million. Several members mentioned ideas for allocating an additional $1.2 billion in surplus funds in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which they said was a result of welfare reform.

The next meeting was set for 10 a.m. Thursday, April 6, when specific proposals were to be presented and discussed.

Education Subcommittee

Overview: The Education Subcommittee meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday produced a wide-ranging discussion of different priorities of the subcommittee members.

LADDER: Assembly Democrats on the subcommittee emphasized that they would strongly support the LADDER program, which focuses on increasing spending to reduce class size, improving school building maintenance, and enhancing pre-kindergarten education. They also said they intended not to use this program in "trading" during conference negotiations.

Other issues: Other issues that were discussed briefly include: the need to increase operating and transportation aid for summer school, because the state's demanding new academic standards may drive up summer-school enrollment; the need for more flexibility in operating aid to let schools decide where investments can best be made; the possibility of creating incentives to keep teachers in New York; and other steps designed to improve the selection, recruitment, and retention of teachers.

Also: the need for more "standards operating aid," which is intended to help schools meet higher standards; operating aid for libraries; "charter school relief;" block grants for books and equipment; relief from costly state mandates imposed on schools and school districts; and repeal of the Wicks Law, which inflates public construction costs (including schools' construction costs) by requiring the use of multiple contractors on projects with estimated costs of $50,000 or more.

This committee will meet Thursday at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room A of the Legislative Office Building.

Health Subcommittee

Overview: The Wednesday meeting of the Health Subcommittee was a broad discussion of different priorities that subcommittee members hope to address this year.

Assemblyman Gottfried outlined three issues he said need to be resolved:

Expansion of EPIC program, under which state revenues underwrite reduced-cost prescriptions for the elderly. Both houses have proposals on the table, and a three-way agreement is needed for the first-year allocation.

Possible expansion of eligibility for prenatal care.

Possible expansion of services provided under Family Health Plus.

Senator Hannon listed some of the Senate's health-related priorities, including:

Expansion of EPIC

Reinvigorating health-quality initiatives such as physician profiling and creation of hospital report cards.

Possible increases in the state's investment in biomedical research

The future of Medicaid managed care, and the possibility of extending it by four years.

This committee will meet again Thursday at 1 p.m. in Hearing Room A of the Legislative Office Building.

Higher Education Subcommittee

Overview: The first Higher Education Subcommittee meeting was a wide-ranging discussion of the higher-education priorities of the Senate and Assembly, with emphasis on programs that committee members deemed worthy of more funding.

Senate priorities: Higher-education priorities outlined by Senator Lavalle included: the Senate's "college bound" program, which includes increased aid available under the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and a college tuition tax deduction; community college aid; faculty funding; enhanced funding for the Cornell Cooperative Extension; a new emphasis, in the Senate-driven "Jobs 2000" program, on funding for incubator programs; funding for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP); support for regional advisory boards; and enhanced Bundy Aid to private colleges and universities.

Assembly priorities: Assemblyman Sullivan outlined Assembly priorities in five categories:

TAP: The Assembly wants to: increase the maximum award; eliminate reductions in awards for juniors and seniors; increase the minimum award; raise the eligibility ceiling; increase the award for independent students; and adopt a college-tuition tax deduction.

SUNY: The Assembly wants to: increase community-college base aid; increase funding for fulltime faculty positions; increase child-care services; and make unspecified improvements to the state's Educational Opportunity Program.

CUNY: The Assembly wants to: increase community college aid; increase funding for fulltime faculty positions; increase childcare services; fund "CUNY initiatives" (i.e., proposals put forth by CUNY); enhance the SEEK and College discovery programs; and increase funding for CUNY remedial programs.

Other statewide programs: The Assembly wants more funding for HEOP, Liberty Partnerships, the STEP and CSTEP programs (which are designed to encourage young students to study science and technology), the state's summer opportunity programs, and business assistance teams.

State Council on the Arts: No specific recommendations were advanced.

Public Protection Subcommittee

Overview: At its April 5 meeting, Committee co-chairs Assemblyman Lentol and Senator Volker exchanged lists of changes that their respective houses had made in their budget resolutions on the fiscal issues before the subcommittee. Those lists were not read aloud.

The co-chairs also announced that staff members would identify areas of agreement and disagreement, and then report the results of that process at the subcommittee's meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday in Hearing Room C.

Senator Volker indicated that the subcommittee would follow essentially the same process it used last year. First, allocations for areas of agreement would be totaled and then subtracted from the overall allocation the subcommittee is charged with considering. Then the remainder will be halved and each house will decide what to fund with its half of the remaining funds.

General Government and Local Assistance Subcommittee

Overview: In its first meeting Wednesday, April 5, this subcommittee engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of many different funding priorities with a particular focus on the upstate economy generally and aid to cities specifically.

Tokyo office of the state Banking Department: Much of the initial discussion focused on the Tokyo office of the state Banking Department. The Executive Budget proposed $1.5 million in funding to run this office. Senator Farley noted that the state Superintendent of Banking has addressed both the Senate and Assembly Banking Committees this year on this issue; he argued that ongoing fiscal uncertainty in Asia means that New York must have a presence in Tokyo to monitor those financial markets.

Assembly members of the subcommittee noted that last year's subcommittee had requested a report to the Legislature on the operations of this office, that no such report was received, and that such a report was important to ensure accountability. Senator Farley reported at the end of the meeting that the Banking Department would be getting information to the subcommittee.

Cuts suggested by the Assembly: The Assembly suggested the following cuts to the Executive Budget: $2.5 million for expenses for the Moreland Commission; $600,000 for risk management in the Office of General Services; $5 million from the Department of Motor Vehicles; $1.3 million from scholarships supported funded by the state lottery; and $20 million in advertising funds for the lottery.

The Assembly also said it opposed the Governor's request to let New York participate in the multistate lottery game Powerball.

Aid to local governments: Senator Rath said the last comprehensive review of local government assistance was 10 years ago, and that new local costs require a thorough new review. She also expressed concern with new local costs created by the recent expansion of Family Health Plus.

Senator Hoffman urged enhanced aid for upstate cities, to be allocated in a manner that ensure an equitable balance among recipient cities. All committee members appeared to support the allocation $115 million in unrestricted aid for cities other than New York City.

Senator Lack proposed allocating $4.5 Million as a payment in lieu of taxes to the city of Albany for the OGS parking garage in Albany.

Assemblyman Tedisco asked for $2.5 million for the New York Television Network (NYTV) for coverage of legislative proceedings. He also urged $3 Million for the Emergency Services Revolving Fund.