April 6, 2000
Budget Conference Subcommittee Meetings
Overview: The Education Subcommittee met for the second time on Thursday morning, April 6, and reported closure on several issues and progress on others.
Funding agreements: The subcommittee reported agreement on the following:
- Full funding of BOCES programs (a restoration of $97.3 million in school-year funding that the Governor had proposed cutting)
- A full restoration of teacher support aid that the Governor had proposed eliminating ($67.4 million).
- An elimination of the Governor's proposed caps on funding for aid for special education for students that need to go to private schools to get appropriate programming (a restoration of $56 million).
- A rejection of the Governor's proposal to freeze public excess cost aid.
- A rejection of the Governor's proposal to freeze "extraordinary needs aid" (a restoration of $11.9 million).
- Continuing current funding levels for full-day kindergarten incentives ($6 million).
- Rejection of the Governor's proposal to cut small cities aid, and agreement to sustain the current funding.
- Continuing at last year's funding levels support for the Attendance Dropout Prevention Program (a restoration of $950,000), with the potential of additional funds to be added later
- Restoration of funding to "teacher centers" ($20 million) with the potential of additional funds to be added later.
Article 7 language issues:
- Rejected the Governor's proposal to freeze per pupil spending.
- Rejected the Governor's tax cap and proposal to require a two-third "supermajority" among local school-district voters to raise local school taxes.
- Rejected the Governor's Reading for Results Program and agreed to keep Improve Reading Performance Aid instead.
- Rejected transferring cultural education programs, including libraries, out of SED.
- Rejected assigning fiscal responsibility for some special education pre-k costs to school district that don't meet de-classification targets of a certain percentage.
Other issues:The subcommittee is still working on major issues, including general operating aid, the LADDER program, and building-aid aid changes. Senator Kuhl indicated that he thinks there should be more flexibility with LADDER money and more general operating aid. There was also a long discussion on various aspects of building aid, ratios, incentives, and interest deductibility.
There was some agreement that, once these major issues are resolved, there will be additional money for the state Education Department, summer-school support, programs for disabled individuals, and libraries. Kuhl said he also would like to see funding for adult literacy, programs for at-risk youths, and AIDS education.
The subcommittee said it plans to meet again at 3 p.m. Monday.
Overview: The Agriculture/Housing/Environment/ Subcommittee met Thursday, April 6, and discussed a range of programs for which funding is desired. Many subcommittee members said they want the General Conference Committee to allocated more money to this subcommittee.
Agriculture: Assemblywoman Magee said the subcommittee has $3.5 million to spend on agriculture and wants more. Senator Hoffman agreed, and said the subcommittee would work to free money from other programs to increase this amount. She said the subcommittee would discuss at its Monday meeting its efforts to free more money for consideration.
Housing: Assemblyman Lopez and Senator Bonacic agreed that they need more funds allocated to their program, but they said they would try to have a new allocation plan prepared by the end of Friday, April 7.
Environment: Assemblyman Brodsky said the Assembly wants $1.5 more taken from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for secondary material (i.e., recycling) markets, and he presented to Senators on the subcommittee a comparison of the Governor's and the Assembly's proposed disbursements from the EPF. He also said the Assembly wants to increase spending of funds from the Clean Water/Clean Air bond-act funds, from $10 million to $75 million, on municipal brownfield programs, and to make this money available to municipalities for site identification and assessment. He said some estimates on the number of brownfield sites are exaggerated as a way to promote relaxed cleanup standards.
Transportation: Assemblyman Gantt and Senator Trunzo reported that the subcommittee is well on its way to resolving differences over funding recommendations related to transportation. Assemblyman Gantt reiterated the Assembly's concern for 2nd Avenue subway and clean-fuel buses in NYC. (The latter issue was also discussed by Assemblymen Vann and Brodsky.)
The next meeting of this subcommittee is scheduled for noon Monday, April 10.
Higher Education Subcommittee
Overview: The Higher Education Subcommittee met for the second time on Thursday morning, April 6, to continue its wide-ranging discussion of funding priorities related to higher education.
For much of the meeting, the co-chairmen of the subcommittee, Senator Lavalle and Assemblyman Sullivan, described by turns their houses' views on specific issues, including the following:
- Community college aid: The two houses agree on a proposal to increase basic aid to $150 for both SUNY and CUNY campuses. The Assembly also said that the Legislature should take steps to ensure that local partners of community colleges not be allowed to decrease their aid to the community colleges by the amount of any increase from the state.
- Tuition Assistance Program (TAP): The Senate would like the maximum TAP award to students increased to $5000, beginning with the freshmen class entering college next fall and applying only to those students and succeeding generations of freshmen. The Assembly said it preferred that the increase apply next fall not only to incoming receptions but also to recipients in other class years. The Senate said it would like to increase the minimum TAP award to $400 in the first fiscal year, and to $500 thereafter. The Assembly said it would prefer to hike the maximum to $700, but this could be negotiated. The Senate said it preferred to raise the income eligibility ceiling for TAP awards to $80,000 of net taxable income; the Assembly said it prefers an increase to only $60,000, and again said this could be negotiated. The Assembly said it would like to eliminate the cap on TAP awards which now limits awards to 90 percent of tuition; the Senate has taken no position on this proposal. The Senate said it would support elimination of current award reductions for upperclass students based for students who maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher and/or perform community service. The Assembly said it took no stand on this specific proposal but was reluctant to inject such merit-based considerations into funding in a program it considers need-based.
The Assembly also said it would like to change TAP rules so that students who are emancipated from their families can get full TAP awards. It also said it would like to make TAP available for students in a ninth semester because of changes in major or the need for remedial education. The Senate has taken no stand on these proposals.
The Assembly also proposed a study of the feasibility of expanding TAP to parttime students in the SUNY, which has already been done at CUNY.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension: The Senate proposed funding of $500,000.
- Bundy Aid: The Senate said it favored a $3 million increase in this aid to private colleges and universities. The Assembly took no position on this proposal.
- "Opportunity" programs: Assemblyman Sullivan said the Assembly wants to return to 1994-level funding for programs it calls "opportunity" programs including the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), SEEK, and the STEP and CSTEP programs (which encourage youths to study science and technology). The Senate took no position on this proposal.
- SUNY and CUNY faculty lines: The Senate wants to invest $3.5 million and $2.5 million, respectively, in support for faculty lines at SUNY and CUNY campuses. The Senate also said it would like to consider linking support for CUNY and SUNY faculty to full-time equivalent (FTE) students in those systems. The Assembly said it supported increasing funding for faculty lines, but at higher levels.
- Other Assembly programs: The Assembly proposed unspecified increases in funding for several programs: Liberty scholarships; Business Assistance Teams at community colleges; summer opportunity programs; endowed chairs; corporate internships.
- Child-care for SUNY and CUNY students: The Assembly said it supports an unspecified increase in funding for childcare services for students of CUNY and SUNY. Senate said it favored a $3 million increase in this aid to private colleges and universities. The Assembly took no position on this proposal.
- Tuition differentials: Both the Senate and the Assembly said they reject the Governor's proposal for tuition differentials for SUNY and CUNY students.
- State oversight of higher education: The Senate said it favors creating a separate entity for oversight of colleges and universities, as opposed to the state Education Department (SED). The Assembly said it prefers to keep this responsibility within SED.
It was emphasized that these ideas are reflections of budget resolutions already passed in both houses, that the total funds on both wish lists far exceeds the funds the subcommittee has been asked to divvy up, and that negotiations in the days ahead will be necessary to resolve differences and reach compromises.
Overview: The second meeting of the Health Subcommittee on Thursday, April 6, produced some spirited discussions but no conclusions.
Assemblyman Gottfried, co-chair of the committee, reviewed the Assembly health priorities, including:
A proposal to restore$4.1 million cut from the Governor's proposal for HIV services. The Assembly wants to see increases in across-the-board funding for community-based organizations such as the AIDS Institute.
A proposal to extend Medicaid "buy-in" for low-income disabled people, and a proposal to allocate $3.2 million to encourage low-income disabled persons to enter the world of work.
A proposal to fund health-coverage for immigrants through another expansion of Medicaid.
Both houses have proposed support for cancer services, but there is not yet agreement on funding levels.
Senator Hannon noted that there are federal requirements affecting some of these issues, and that those requirements would have to be investigated.
Medicaid managed care: There was some debate on how to encourage Medicaid recipients to transition from traditional Medicaid coverage to managed care. Senator Hannon argued that the Quality Assurance Report Requirements (QARR) report and others like it can help people make the right choice. Assemblyman Grannis contended that the state needs to do more to help Medicaid recipients move into managed care.
The meeting adjourned, and then another spirited discussion began. Assemblyman Gottfried claimed that it would be premature to extend the Medicaid managed care program, which sunsets in June. Senator Hannon argued that an ongoing discussion of these issues should not preclude extension of the program.
As this discussion ended, Senator Hannon remarked that he hadn't realized how far apart the members of this subcommittee are on some of these issues. He said that the subcommittee first should settle on recommended funding for EPIC, the state-funded program that lets seniors buy prescription drugs at reduced costs, and then debate other issues.
General Government/Local Assistance Subcommittee
Overview: The General Government and Local Assistance Subcommittee conducted two meetings Thursday, April 6, at which members continued wide-ranging discussions that included spirited debate about the merits of aid to counties as opposed to aid to upstate cities.
Senate priorities: Senator Lack, co-chairman of the subcommittee, said that local assistance will be a key focus of the subcommittee. He then suggested that the $90 million that this subcommittee is charged with discussing might be allocated as follows: $10 million for general government and state agency funding; $80 million for local government assistance. He said that keeping counties whole and viable is a priority of the Senate, and that the Senate would commit a portion of its share of the funds on the table to shouldering the counties' full first-year responsibility ($22 million) of costs created by the expansion of the state's Medicaid program. The counties, he said, should not have to pick up the costs of this mandate. He added that Senate Minority Leader Martin Connor, who is not a member of this subcommittee, said late yesterday that he does not wish to see the counties and local governments hit with unfunded mandates.
Assembly priorities: Assemblyman Eve, cochairman of the subcommittee, said he hopes to see a significant portion of this money used to aid to upstate cities, and that counties should not get such a large benefit unless they can show a need. In response, Senator Lack repeated that the Senate is committed to helping the counties, and that the Assembly can commit its portion of funds to aiding cities if it wishes. During the second meeting, Assemblyman Morelle, replacing Assemblyman Abbate in this meeting, described challenges facing cities like Rochester that are increasingly hard pressed to maintain traditional levels of services. He said that, without aid increases, services would likely need to be cut.
Also during the afternoon meeting, Senator Lack reported that he had received at midday a faxed request from a county executive urging lawmakers to relieve counties of their new burden caused by the expansion of Medicaid under HCRA.
Miscellany: Assemblyman Eve raised the possibility of asking the General Conference Committee for more money to allocate. Senator Lack said that he would not ask the general conference committee for more money to be allocated by this subcommittee.
Senator Farley again indicated that the state Banking Department is preparing information on its office in Tokyo that the subcommittee requested.
The next meeting of this subcommittee will take place at 3 p.m. Monday, April 10, with the goal of wrapping up proceedings and issuing a report by the end of that day.
Human Services/Labor Subcommittee
Overview: The Human Services/Labor Subcommittee met at 10:35 a.m. Thursday, April 6, to discuss how it would allocate the $25 million it has been asked by the General Conference Committee to consider. Both the Senate and the Assembly also advanced proposals for spending surplus funds in the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Senator Saland said the subcommittee would do what it did last year: split its $25 million even between the two houses, with each house's members working to develop proposals for spending. Those proposals re to be done by the subcommittee's next meeting Friday, April 7.
Assemblyman Green noted that the subcommittee has requested additional funds from the General Conference Committee. She did not say how much.
Assemblyman Ramirez then proposed $1.7 billion in allocations for surplus funds in the TANF. Senator Saland outlined Senate ideas for the same funds totaling $1.66 billion.
The co-chairs of the subcommittee said that their staffs would work on reconciling differences within both the subcommittee's allocation and the TANF surplus, and that they would try to report on their progress at the next subcommittee meeting on Friday. A specific time for that meeting was not set.
Economic Development Subcommittee
The Economic Development Subcommittee met at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 6 to briefly review what the subcommittee would do and how. Assemblyman Schimminger, CO-chair of the subcommittee, suggested that both houses development ideas for spending the entire allotment that the subcommittee is debating, and then meet Monday to explore, and try to resolve, differences. Senator Goodman agreed, and the meeting adjourned.
This subcommittee was charged with debating the allocation of $20 million, but has decided to discuss the fate of $31.7 million. Subcommittee members have identified $10 million in the budget of Empire State Development (described only as for "biotechnology" purposes) and an additional $1.7 million in an "employee incentive funding program") that they believe the subcommittee should also discuss.
Mental Hygiene Subcommittee
This subcommittee met at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 6, for a brief discussion. Assembly members of the subcommittee expressed interest in re-prioritizing some spending in the areas of HCRA and Kendra's law. The Senate disagreed, arguing that those very laws would have to be changed in order to do it. Both houses agreed to have specific proposals ready for the next meeting, which is scheduled for Friday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m. in Capitol Room 306