2008-04-18 / Top Stories

Smith Points To Gains In State Budget

State Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith recently announced that the Democratic Conference successfully secured millions to fund education, libraries and economic development. Substantial funding was allocated towards local organizations such as York College and the Southeast Queens Clergy for Community Empowerment. The budget also included a record amount of spending on education.

"We were able to secure millions of dollars in funding to address the needs of the community," said the St. Albans Democrat, Smith. Funding will help support and develop economic development initiatives as well as implement measures to assist the working 9-to-5 families."

With a looming recession, legislators focused on approving a budget that would be economically sound and would also address the needs of the state.

Investment in energy conservation, state colleges, and developing technology were key highlights.

"With Southeast Queens reporting the most sub-prime mortgages compared to any other part of the city, I am especially pleased that $25 million has been identified to assist homeowners affected by sub-prime loans, and for grants to non-profit organizations that will provide counseling, mediation, legal services, and negotiations," said Senator Smith.

There were several key statewide spending initiatives that will impact the 14th Senatorial district, including: - $5 million capital funding to the York College-City University of New York Student Services Building and Classrooms; - $44,000 to fund advocacy initiatives with the Southeast Queens Clergy for Community Empowerment; - More than $20 million dollars in capital funding earmarked for the Queens Museum of Art and the Queens Public Library;

Funding for lower, middle, and high schools throughout the state will benefit from a 3 percent increase in funding this year. "After months of rallying against the proposed education cuts, our students will receive a much needed increase in funding," said Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, the ranking member of the committee on Education. "In addition, the budget includes $622 million slated to be delivered through the foundation formula subject to Contract for Excellence standards."

As outlined in the budget, the Division of Minority and Womenowned Business Enterprise (MWBE) will receive $1.3 million to expand its initiatives. The budget includes full funding for a multi-million dollar upstate revitalization initiative.

Additional accomplishments in the budget include: - $6.5 million increase for local law enforcement, crime control and mental health treatment programs; - $100 million dollars more in funding for the City and State Universities of New York; - Restoration of $272 million in healthcare spending with a special emphasis on investing in programs to enhance access to healthcare for lowincome families. Budget provisions also included making prescription drugs more affordable.

Senator David J. Valesky (D-Syracuse) said, This year's budget includes discount pharmacy cards, which will reduce prescription drug costs for many New Yorkers; strong increases in state aid to municipalities and to school districts, which will take some pressure off of local property taxpayers; and capital funds for economic development. These measures are critical as we work to make it easier to live, work and do business in New York State."

Senator Smith concluded, "I commend the legislature for their leadership and determination in passing a budget that will help all New Yorkers."

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