Assemblywoman Buttenschon Passes State Budget That Invests in a Brighter Future, Vows to Keep Fighting for Mohawk Valley Families

The New York State Legislature has approved a $212 billion budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. While the budget provides much-needed support for Mohawk Valley schools, funds road and bridge improvement, and makes critical investments to help communities and aid economic recovery, the budget agreement is far from ideal. Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Utica/Rome) voted against portions of the budget that did not meet the needs of the people in the Mohawk Valley.

“I’m committed to helping the Mohawk Valley not only recover but build back stronger than before,” Buttenschon said. “From securing crucial funding for our schools to boosting public safety, I fought to pass a budget that delivers for our families and provides hope for a better future. With that being said, I don’t support many of the revenue-raisers that were included in the budget and am disappointed in the final mobile sports betting agreement, among other policies, that will unnecessarily hurt our region. Moving forward, I’ll work hard to mitigate the damage these burdens could have on our state’s economic growth and continue to put our communities’ interests and needs first.”

In addition to increased school aid and a commitment towards the full funding of the foundation aid formula, the state budget includes many proposals to support Mohawk Valley communities. These proposals include: $50 million in funding for Nourish NY and $32 million in funds to support the treatment and prevention of opioid use. Additionally, the budget establishes the Community Violence Intervention Act, which declares gun violence a public health crisis and creates a funding source for community and hospital-based violence intervention programs. 

To repair and replace aging infrastructure, the 2021-22 budget includes $538.1 million in funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) and $150 million for PAVE-NY, a $50 million increase. Further, it restores $100 million in funding for the Extreme Winter Recovery program, which helps communities rebuild after harsh winters and severe weather events by covering the costs of storm-related damages.

 As a member of the Economic Development Committee, Buttenschon worked to ensure that the budget supported Buy American principles in manufacturing of renewable energy components and enacted the New York Medical Supplies Act which would prioritize the purchase of PPE and other medical supplies made in the United States. This would benefit the nation and the state, as well as, the Mohawk Valley which is home to several local businesses involved in the production of these critical materials. This new law would build off the passage of last year’s “New York Buy American” Act that requires all structural steel and structural iron used in all state road and bridge construction projects to be made in American construction materials.

 The budget includes $800 million in funding for a Small Business Recovery Grant Program to help small businesses across the state that have struggled to keep their doors open over the last year. It also includes $25 million for the NY Restaurant Resiliency Grant program, as well as, extensions of the Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit and the Hire-a-Vet Tax Credit.

Additionally, the Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Credit has been extended and increased for productions held in regions outside of New York City. This will benefit our local economy by ensuring Broadway productions have an incentive to continue bringing their shows Upstate, including to the historic Stanley Theatre. The budget also includes $43.1 million in total support for the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) operating budget and $1 million for arts stabilization grants to aid in the recovery of this industry.

 Particularly important to Assemblywoman Buttenschon was the allocation of nearly $3 billion in combined federal and state dollars that will be used for rent and homeowner relief, including: $100 million for a hardship fund for those who cannot access funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, $100 million to reduce homelessness, and $575 million in federal homeowner relief, including a three year, $60 million commitment to fund the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) to provide legal assistance to homeowners.

 “The release of funding for rent and homeowner relief is long overdue. During the pandemic, measures were put in place to prevent evictions and homelessness at the cost of landlords and property owners. Our representatives in Congress recognized the reality that landlords and tenants across the state were suffering economic hardship during the pandemic. Without proper financial assistance for housing, our municipalities will face a grave decline in property taxes, while landlords and tenants would further fall behind in mortgage and rental payments. I am pleased that the budget recognizes the suffering of New Yorkers related to housing and has acted to provide Emergency Rental Assistance.”

The state budget also includes a measure legalizing mobile sports wagering in New York State, which will raise $99 million in the first year and generate much-needed revenue to support the state’s economic recovery plan. Unfortunately, the Executive rejected the mobile sports betting proposal agreed to by the Senate and Assembly which was supported by the tribal and commercial casinos. That proposal would have allowed licensed casinos and Native American nations to have up to two mobile sports wagering platforms each. The Oneida Nation has already expressed concerns that the current proposal could be a breach of the historic 2013 settlement agreement which would put $70 million in gaming payments to counties in its exclusivity zone, including Oneida and Herkimer counties, at risk. Assemblywoman Buttenschon plans to continue advocating for changes to this proposal to ensure that the Mohawk Valley will be able to participate in and benefit from mobile sports betting legalization to the fullest extent.

 The final agreement also authorizes the Governor to close correctional facilities without legislative approval while providing only 90 days’ notice. “It makes no sense to give the Governor the authority to drastically alter the lives of staff, their families, and the families of incarcerated individuals during a pandemic and at a time when social distancing is still needed and many are still struggling to regain stability and security in their lives. 90 days is not enough time to completely restructure your entire life,” Buttenschon said. The proposal permits the Governor to close facilities he determines to be necessary for the cost-effective and efficient operation of the correctional system.

 The budget will also cut another 200 beds used for inpatient mental health treatment services through the Office of Mental Health resulting in a reduction of nearly 25% of adult beds and 32% of children and youth beds over the past seven years. “It is unconscionable that during a time when there are increased needs for mental health treatment and supports, the state has instead chosen to eliminate 200 inpatient mental health treatment beds,” Buttenschon noted. “This action will only lead to more New Yorkers lacking access to much needed mental health treatments and services in their most vulnerable moments.”

Buttenschon will continue working hard to improve the lives of Mohawk Valley families and offset the financial challenges of this pandemic, including pushing for the passage of her early retirement incentive bill. This legislation would help prevent layoffs and provide cost savings for public employers by creating a temporary retirement incentive for certain individuals who are 50 years of age with 25 years of creditable service or individuals who are 55 years of age with 10 years of credible service (A.5884). The early retirement incentive passed as part of the budget only applies to certain public employees in New York City, leaving employees and public employers across the rest of the state at a disadvantage.