President and CEO of the New York Power Authority Gil Quiniones presented the key initiatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2013-14 executive budget at the Huntington Yacht Club Thursday.
The presentation was part of a statewide campaign to disseminate Cuomo's State of the State agenda at ground level and was organized by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce.
Education is the top priority in the proposed budget, said Quiniones, emphasizing the value of investment. Education funding is increased by 4.4 percent statewide in the proposed budget, a roughly $300 increase per student.
Among the governor's educational initiatives:
- More classroom time, longer or additional school days
- Expansion of early education, full day pre-K starting with low income areas
- Overhaul of the teacher training and certification process, creation of admission standards
- Full incentivized implementation of teacher performance evaluation system
- Income incentives for high-performing teachers, mentoring programs
- Creation of "community schools" in distressed communities, make schools a hub of social services
Cuomo's Mandate Relief Task Force has also been addressing concerns over rising costs associated with state mandates, which present challenges for municipalities and school districts in light of the two percent cap law.
According to Cuomo's budget statement, his proposal builds on the significant mandate relief enacted in 2012-13 by providing a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option to allow local governments and school districts to immediately realize Tier VI savings.
"The Governor is trying to recommend giving local governments the ability to have a more fixed rate, rather than an unknown variable rate year after year, this way they can plan ahead," said Quiniones. "Also, the anticipated savings from the implementation of Tier IV, which won't be realized until later on, can be advanced to today."
A Financial Restructuring Assistance Task Force will also be created to tailor restructuring to the needs of individual communities and an option made for municipalities in financial distress to limit the payment coming out of binding local arbitration process.
New York can expect to receive about $30 billion of the Hurricane Sandy aid package recently passed by the Senate, according to Quiniones, some of which will also be applicable to damage sustained by Hurricanes Irene and Lee.
Cuomo's "build back, build better" campaign calls for enhanced mitigation as well as repairs to highways, coastlines, transit systems, sewer systems, healthcare, homes, fuel supply, and energy, taking a "top down, bottom up" cooperative approach between state and local government on projects.
Addressing Cuomo's recently passed gun control legislation, Quiniones said that there is "much misinformation" in its wake and recited the core points. Assemblyman Andrew Raia, R-East Northport, voted against the legislation, calling it "defective."
Among Cuomo's other State of the State recommendations incorporated into the budget:
- Minimum wage increase to $8.75 to better reflect cost of living
- Placing women's rights at the forefront of major new legislation
- Lessen certain criminal penalties for marijuana
- Nurture the creation of affordable housing
Quiniones addressed the future of LIPA separately from the budget presentation. There are three options are currently under consideration, he said: privatization, modifying the current structure of an outsourcing contract, and making LIPA a full publicly owned and operated municipal utility.
The Moreland Commission, charged with investigating LIPA's response to Hurricane Sandy, recommended reforms for the Public Service Commission, the entity that regulates and oversees all utilities across the state. As a result, the Commission would be granted more "muscle" in their regulatory oversight of utilities.
"When privatization [of LIPA] was proposed and put on the table you should think of it as in combination of the reforms and strengthening of the Public Service Commission," said Quiniones.