What's New

Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

April 6, 2000

Budget Conference Subcommittee Meetings

Education Subcommittee

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:

Article 7 language issues:

The subcommittee:

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.

Agriculture/Housing/Environment/Transportation Subcommittee

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:

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.

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.

Health Subcommittee

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