E-Mail Newsletter – March 28, 2014

We’re close to the end of the budget process, which is on track to meet the April 1st deadline. This multi-billion package is a series of compromises and trade-offs, so while I am pleased overall, there are plenty of items where I had hoped for more, along with a number of items that remain open as we write.

Updates on the State Budget. As reported in the press, the budget is expected to include a two-year, $340 million property tax relief package to benefit Upstate New York and Long Island. While there are a number of serious concerns about how this relief will lead to further reductions in local services, public schools, school districts, and local governments who have a plan to share services should qualify for this relief. In an effort to stimulate job growth, significant tax cuts have been agreed to for manufacturers statewide, along with reductions in the "18A" utility tax for homeowners and businesses.

Further, the budget will have significant increases for education, with a proposed $1.1 billion increase overall, along with $340 million allocated for full-day Pre-K (though most of the Pre-K funds will go to New York City). Note that the K-12 funding is more than $300 million beyond what the Governor proposed, though it's not decided how much will go into the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) fund but expect most of it to be directed there.

Community colleges are expected to receive a needed increase in their base aid rate, which should provide some relief from the state. There are also a number of small increases expected in child care and environmental protection funding (EPF).

Additionally, Assemblymember McDonald and I have urged the inclusion of language to create a tier 4 in charter transition aid to provide funding relief for schools districts such as Albany with one of the highest saturation levels of charter schools (these schools serve about 20% of Albany's students but receive roughly 50% of Albany's state aid).

On a local note, the budget also looks to include funding to reopen the State Street entrance of the Legislative Office Building to the general public, an entrance that’s been closed for three years. The opening of this entrance will alleviate lines and improve access to the Capitol complex.

Casino proposal in Albany. Last year, voters approved a state-wide referendum to allow four Las Vegas-style casinos to be built across the state, including in this region. The City of Albany is currently considering a proposal to build a casino near Exit 23 off of Southern Boulevard in Albany. The project is expected to generate nearly 1,800 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs aimed at local residents. The City of Rensselaer is also considering a casino site.

The casino proposal in Albany would include new revenue to the city and some to the host county, while the project would exclude performing arts spaces in an effort to protect our region’s cultural institutions. That said, a number of questions remain as this proposal unfolds, and I am hearing from residents both for and against casino development generally. I am following these local developments closely and will continue to keep you updated.

Here are highlights from the 109th:

NYCOM’s Peter Baynes on ‘Capital District Assembly Update’. Assemblymember McDonald and I were joined by NYCOM Executive Director Peter Baynes on ‘Capital District Assembly Update.’ Here’s the episode via YouTube.

Summer Youth Employment Program. The City of Albany’s Program for Learning, Initiative, and Gaining Headway Together (LIGHT) Summer Youth Employment Program will run from Monday, July 7 through Thursday, August 7, 2014. Eligible participants must be between the ages of 14 and 18 and a City of Albany resident. For more information, please visit the City of Albany’s website.

Historic Albany Foundation holds open house. The Historic Albany Foundation (HAF) held its annual open house this month. I joined fellow supporters of this important local institution in celebrating forty years of HAF’s efforts in retaining our city’s historic architectural heritage.

Trustee positions up for election on Albany Public Library board. The Albany Public Library currently has two trustee positions up for election on May 20. Both trustee positions are for a full, five-year term each starting on July 1, 2014. For more information, please visit the Albany Public Library’s website.

Public access television. Did you know Albany has a public access channel? ChannelAlbany broadcasts from Channel 18 (or 116.3), presenting content made from residents and organizations within the City of Albany. The studio is located in the basement of the Albany Public Library’s main branch and is open to the public. For more information, you can e-mail channelalbany@gmail.com or visit channelalbany.tv.

Events in and around the 109th:

+ The Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Agents (CIREA) is hosting a forum on commercial real estate in the Capital Region at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center on April 1 at 5:30 p.m. Learn about the latest local trends and common practices from a panel of experienced real estate professions. The event will be moderated by Michael DeMasi from the Albany Business Review.

+ The Bethlehem Community Spelling Bee will be taking place on April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Bethlehem Central High School’s auditorium. Teams of teachers, students, and community members will participate in the “bee” in an effort to raise funds for Bethlehem Opportunities United (BOU).

+ Polka Dots consignment shop will be holding a ribbon cutting at their expanded location on March 29 at 10 a.m. (10 New Karner Road, Guilderland). Polka Dots is a consignment shop complete with clothes for the entire family, books, entertainment, toys, and much more.

+ The Affordable Housing Partnership will be conducting a series of workshops on home buying, financial education, credit usage, and property management over the course of the next few weeks. You can register for these workshops by visiting the AHP website here.

Job Opportunities: I’ve set up a page on my Assembly website for job announcements and listings that we’ll update periodically. If you know of any job listings, send my office a note.

Capital District Assembly Update: Tune in every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Channel 17 (for Time Warner Cable subscribers) for the next episode of Capital District Assembly Update, co-hosted by Assemblymember McDonald and me. You can also previous episodes and clips on my Assembly website.

As always, for the latest about my office’s happenings or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---