Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County) announced several big wins for his Orange County constituents in the final state budget being approved this week.
As negotiations among legislative leaders and the Governor went into overtime, Skoufis successfully held the line on two key priorities:
Making a critical revision to the state’s bail reform laws that will give judges more discretion to assign detention for dangerous defendants; and
Blocking a controversial housing proposal that would have given the state an unfettered ability to override local zoning.
Other key highlights from the final budget that will meaningfully improve quality of life for Orange County residents include:
● Historic education and universal pre-kindergarten funding, including a state aid boost of approximately 19 percent (or $2,500 per student) across Orange County’s school districts, and an additional $125 million for full-day pre-kindergarten programming, marking New York’s swift adoption of truly universal UPK statewide.
● Providing free breakfast and lunch to all students in schools where at least 25 percent of the student population lives under the poverty line.
● Expanding eligibility for TAP recipients so middle-class families have greater access to financial aid, and defeating the Governor’s proposed tuition hikes at four-year SUNY and CUNY schools.
● Expanding the Empire State Child Tax Credit for kids under four years old, and allowing for retroactive enrollment in the Child Health Program to the first of the month.
● Restoring loan forgiveness for New York’s young farmers, providing $1 million for beginner farmers, and allowing farmers to claim a refund of excess Investment Tax Credits.
● Exempting Orange County businesses from having to pay an unjust increase to the MTA payroll mobility tax.
● Advancing a 4 percent cost-of-living increase for those in the human services sector, including mental health workers, and increasing the minimum wage for homecare workers.
● Creation of a state monitor to rein in wasteful corporate tax breaks offered by the Orange County IDA that have long deprived our communities and school districts of needed revenue – a primary reason why property taxes are sky-high.
● A $60 million increase in funding for local road repair, and an additional $40 million for Touring Routes, the program that provides funding to cities to maintain state roads in their communities.
The final budget also includes several pieces of Skoufis’ legislation, including:
● Authorizing the use of body imaging scanners in state correctional facilities to help protect officers, support staff, and inmates.
● Making domestic violence cases arrest-eligible to prevent dangerous partners from causing further harm. Under bail reform, these cases had not been eligible for arrest.
● Bringing the state’s definition of fentanyl and its analogues as schedule I opiates into alignment with federal policy.
‘A fair shake in Albany’
“Heading into this year’s budget negotiations, my single biggest priority was to protect our Orange County communities,” Skoufis said. “To that end, I fought hard to make common sense fixes to the state’s bail reform laws and ensure judges have enhanced discretion to keep dangerous defendants out of our neighborhoods. I also went to the mat to block the Governor’s ill-conceived housing proposal that would have overridden local zoning and local priorities.”