PLATTSBURGH — State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) says this year's state budget process was the most arduous and frustrating since he was first elected to the Assembly.
"With that aside, I am pleased that the approved budget will invest in the North Country’s recovery, including assistance for our hardworking agricultural community, increased money for schools and funding to tackle broadband accessibility and transportation infrastructure, along with support for our veterans," he said in a statement.
Assemblyman Matt Simpson (R-Horicon) characterized the final $212 billion deal — a nearly 10 percent increase over last year's budget — as a "slap in the face to hard-working New Yorkers."
"The governor, Senate and Assembly Majorities are adding taxes to the already highest-taxed state in the country," he stated, referencing new taxes on millionaires and corporations.
The budget includes $1 billion in direct support for small businesses in the form of grants and tax credits.
Simpson took issue with how double that amount will be put toward the Excluded Workers Fund, a $2.1 billion program that will offer assistance to undocumented immigrants and others not eligible for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
"That is totally outrageous," he said in a statement. “I know I am new to Albany, but this is a new low and I will continue to fight for North Country workers and those being left behind by the Democrat majorities and governor."
Prior to when the budget deal was announced Tuesday, Jones voiced vehement opposition to the Excluded Workers Fund, later reiterating his plans to vote against it Wednesday.
Jones described the program as irresponsible and ineffective, positing it would do nothing to help struggling New Yorkers as a whole.
He argued that, if his colleagues wanted to tax the richest New Yorkers, there were other initiatives they could fund.
"Such alternatives include education, property tax relief, infrastructure, health care, workforce development and job placement programs which would seek to get everyone back to work."
In a press release, Jones noted that the approved budget will increase Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding by $100 million to $538.1 million.
The assemblyman said he worked to include a $1 million appropriation for a broadband study in order to help tackle broadband infrastructure deserts.
Jones added that there will be an additional $50 million for PAVE NY, $100 million for the Extreme Winter Recovery program and $39.7 million for the Marchiselli program for local road and bridge projects.
Education-related highlights, according to Jones' office, include $3.1 billion more in state education funding over last year and a $1.4 billion increase in Foundation Aid.
That breaks down to about $335 million in total funding and $9.9 million more in Foundation Aid for Jones' district, the release said.
Jones said the budget is set to provide almost $36 million for agricultural aid, including $500,000 for the Farmland for the New Generation program, $400,000 for the Cornell Equitable Farm Futures Initiative and $300,000 for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.
The Nourish New York program, which allows for the purchase of surplus food from farmers in order to help families in need, is set to receive $50 million. Additionally, the Farm Workforce Retention Credit will be extended for three years.
Jones advocated to restore $4.5 million in funding for veterans, including an additional $495,000 for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, for a total of $5 million, the release said.
The budget will also re-establish the state Division of Veterans’ Services call-in line that helps connect veterans to benefits advisors, restore funding for the North Country Veterans’ Association and extend the Hire-a-Vet tax credit by two years.
The spending plan includes $656 million for the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) program, the release said.
COUNCIL WEIGHS IN
The Adirondack Council lauded new funding in the budget for wilderness preservation, clean water projects and community enhancement.
“We are excited to see that legislative leaders took Adirondack community needs seriously and worked to address them while keeping environmental protection at the forefront of Adirondack policy," Executive Director Willie Janeway said in a statement.
The council highlighted the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act that will appear on the ballot in November 2022.
Additionally noted were $800,000 for Essex County communities to cope with overuse in the Adirondacks, $250,000 for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, water infrastructure money and funding for mapping broadband internet service in the state.
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