Assemblywoman Cook
Vivian E.Cook
Reports to the People

Summer 2007

Dear Neighbors:

I am pleased to report that the New York State budget was adopted on April 1, 2007. This $120.9 billion spending plan provides significant funding for education and higher education, expands health insurance coverage for children, mental health care, senior services, tax relief, and many more programs and services that are important to the safety and well-being of residents of New York State.

For years I have fought along with my Assembly colleagues for a meaningful statewide solution to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) school aid decision. This year’s state budget accomplishes this goal. The budget makes significant investments in our education system by finally addressing the Court of Appeals ruling in the CFE case. I am pleased to inform you that NYC schools will receive $714 million more than last year, a 10 percent increase. This budget requires NYC to prepare a Contract for Excellence that must include, among other initiatives, a plan to reduce average class sizes within five years in the specified grade ranges and class size reduction for low performing and over-crowded schools. This is great news for our children.

I am also pleased to report that for a second year in a row I was appointed by Speaker Sheldon Silver to serve on the Joint Legislative Budget Conference Committee for Higher Education. As a member of this important committee, I am pleased to inform you that the final state budget makes a significant investment in New York’s higher education system and provides college students with the resources they need to succeed.

I have received a number of telephone calls and thousands of letters regarding funding for higher education and health care cuts. I appreciate hearing your thoughts regarding these issues as they are important to me as well. Serving as a member of the Higher Education Budget Conference Committee and the Ways and Means Committee gave me a greater opportunity to voice your concerns in the final passage of the state budget. As your representative it is my goal to make sure that my district receives its fair share of funding. Please take a moment to read this news report as it contains information on the highlights of the 2007-08 state budget, student lending accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act; primary election date change, and much more.

In closing, I have been working throughout the district with residents, business owners, and a number of organizations to help keep our communities safe and clean. In an effort to continue this goal I would ask that you please refer to the sanitation collection schedule to avoid any future fines or violations. Keeping our streets clean and maintaining our property will help beautify our community and make it a desirable place to live. Let’s continue working together to reach this goal. Thank you for your support of this effort. If you have any questions, concerns or need any assistance - please feel free to contact me at (718) 322-3975.

Congratulations to the Class of 2007!

Vivian E. Cook

Assemblymember Cook Delivers To The District
photo Assemblymember Cook met with Elder Dr. Michael A. Baston, Pastor of St. Luke Cathedral Church of Laurelton on his recent visit to Albany.
For over 17 years I am pleased to have secured funding for a number of community based organizations and programs that serve the district I represent. This funding is vital to these organizations; without these special efforts these services may have been jeopardized. I have also been able to secure thousands of dollars in funding for capital projects that help to maintain and revitalize Southeast Queens. The following groups will receive funding in the 2007-08 state budget.
  • AMS Post - Baccalaureate Match Program
  • Association of Community Organizations for Reform NOW (ACORN)
  • August Martin High School
  • Brooks Senior Center
  • Community Baptist Church
  • CUNY - Heywood Burns
  • CUNY Law CLRN - Community Legal Resource Network
  • Evelyn Douglin Center for Serving People in Need
  • Family Planning Services
  • Friends of Rochdale Village Adult Learning Center
  • Jamaica Chamber of Commerce
  • Jamaica YMCA
  • LP Family Youth Organization, Inc.
  • Movement of the Dancenter, Inc.
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica, Inc.
  • New York AIDS Coalition
  • Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York
  • Queens Child Guidance Center, Inc.
  • Queens Educational Opportunity Center (EOC)
  • Queens Health Center
  • Queens Legal Services Corporation
  • Rochdale Village Social Services (NORC)

Cook Reports the 2007-08 NYS Budget Highlights

The state budget makes a significant investment in New York’s higher education system and provides college students with the resources they need to succeed. The budget increases operating aid for SUNY/CUNY and community colleges, does not raise tuition at these institutions, and continues to fund the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and higher education opportunity programs. The budget provides $62 million more than the governor proposed for higher education, and $278.5 million more than last year. To help these institutions maintain high standards and attract the best faculty, this budget increases operating aid over the governor’s budget by $10 million for SUNY and $6 million for CUNY, for a total of $1.34 billion and $1.06 billion respectively.

The state budget adds $7 million more than last year for Educational Opportunity Centers and Attain Labs to help students of all ages acquire new skills and succeed in the workforce.

To help ward off tuition increases or local property tax hikes the budget increases state support for community colleges by $150 per full-time equivalent student over last year. Statewide, SUNY community colleges will receive $8.16 million over the governor’s budget and $24.4 million over last year. CUNY community colleges will receive $3 million over the executive proposal and $9.4 million over last year.

To help working families afford a college education the budget provides a 3 percent, or $3.1 million, increase over last year in programs such as EOP, HEOP, SEEK, and Liberty Partnerships. The College Discovery program increased 5 percent.

The state budget reflects our commitment to our public colleges and universities and the future of our college students. This funding will help our academic institutions run more efficiently so that they can continue to prepare our students to be our leaders of tomorrow.


The final state budget makes a historic investment in New York’s education system, providing an unprecedented $1.7 billion increase to help students succeed in an ever-changing global economy.

The Assembly has long championed an educational approach that stresses three Rs - Reform + Resources = Results, and this year’s budget is certainly the right equation for our children.

A historic investment in our schools
Under the largest education investment in New York State history, New York City School Districts will receive over $7.5 billion.

The final state budget continues our effort in the Assembly to help provide every single one of our children with not just a sound, basic education - but a first-class, quality education that will help them be successful in life.

Included in the budget is the governor’s new foundation education formula for predictable, stable and transparent funding - something the Assembly has insisted on for over a decade.

Reducing class sizes
The budget requires New York City to prepare a Contract for Excellence that must include, among other initiatives, a plan to reduce average class sizes within five years in the specified grade ranges and class size reduction for low performing and overcrowded schools.

Comparing the average class size in New York City to the rest of the state reveals an overwhelming disparity - a disparity we must end. The spending plan steers state aid coming to the city to comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling toward this important goal.

No matter how experienced and dedicated the teacher, when there are too many children in a classroom, it’s inevitable that some children will slip through the cracks. This is something that we can prevent. All the research indicates that smaller classes improve student performance, and the bipartisan budget addresses this issue.

Expanding early education
The budget provides $60.3 million more to advance the Assembly’s plan to provide statewide universal pre-K and ensure that every 4-year-old in the state has the opportunity to get a head start on school. New York City Local District will receive over $249 million for pre-K.

This expansion will allow more New York children to reap the lasting benefits of attending pre-K, which studies show again and again give our children an advantage in student achievement, college enrollment and future earnings.

Charter Schools
The state budget authorizes 100 more charter schools while instituting reforms to ease the financial impact on local school districts, increase accountability, and ensure communities have a voice in where they are located.

This budget plan will help ensure charter schools open in communities where they make sense, while protecting the students who attend our traditional public schools.

Reforms include:

  • Providing $22.5 million in transitional aid to school districts that host charter schools;
  • Increasing public notification and input during the application process for the approval or renewal of a charter school;
  • Improving the charter school approval process and a public hearing in communities potentially receiving new charter schools; and
  • Requiring notice and a public hearing when a charter school seeks to share space with the traditional school.

Raising standards in our schools
The Assembly supported the governor’s Contract for Excellence between the state and school districts receiving significant funding, and with schools requiring academic progress, as determined by existing benchmarks, to use proven strategies to improve the standards and success of our schools.

There will be no more excuses for failure. Education is the key to success, and that’s why the Assembly supports raising the bar in our schools.

The Assembly worked hard to come together with the governor and Senate to pass a state budget that makes a historic investment in New York State’s educational system. This support will undoubtedly better prepare our children for higher education and to compete in a changing world.

photo Assemblymember Cook greets colleagues at the Annual Good Joe’s Day Event. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol is the host of the event and Chairman of the Codes Committee along with colleague Assemblymember Francine DelMonte who represents Niagara County and serves on a number of important Assembly Committees. photo Assemblymember Cook takes a moment to congratulate Peter Newell, accompanied by his son, on his last day as counsel to the NYS Assembly Insurance Committee. He is leaving to start a new position with the United Hospital Fund.


The final budget creates jobs, improves New York’s business climate, and strengthens regional economies - an important jumpstart to our stagnant economy.

The budget includes several economic development initiatives that will revitalize our state’s businesses and strengthen its workforce. We’ve taken a comprehensive approach to economic development and taken an important step along a new path of stability and prosperity by utilizing New York’s many resources and strengths.

Investing in New York’s future
The budget provides a wide range of resources for economic revitalization, focusing on key initiatives including tourism, high-tech programs and affordable housing, as well as support for research and development, including stem cell research.

Specifically, the budget includes:

  • $500 million for stem cell research, which will create high-paying, high-tech jobs for the state;

  • More than $3.4 million in additional funding for the Urban and Community Development Program in Economically Distressed Areas;

  • $1.8 million for the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program, which helps entrepreneurs - including women, minorities and dislocated workers - create businesses;

  • Business tax relief through a reduction in the corporate tax rate and through targeted tax reductions for manufacturers to help strengthen the upstate economy, and

  • $30 million for a new Dairy Assistance Program to help strengthen the state’s dairy industry.

The budget also allocates $16 million - an almost 50 percent increase - for the"I Love New York" program to draw more visitors from around the globe, a measure the Assembly has consistently called for. In addition, the plan includes nearly $5.3 million for tourism matching grants - an increase of $500,000 from last year.

Community Development
The budget also allocates $100 million in continuing support for the Restore NY Communities Initiative, which the Assembly created last year. The Assembly has long pushed for a sweeping initiative to clean-up and revitalize blighted, aging neighborhoods, and restore hope in New York’s distressed communities. There are roughly 387,000 vacant dwellings in New York, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Along with countless buildings in various states of disrepair, these vacant dwellings drive down property values, erode the tax base, hinder commercial development and provide cover for criminal activity in the neighborhoods where they are located. This budget looks beyond the boarded-up windows and burned-out buildings in these neighborhoods and invests in the real potential of the communities, and of our entire state.


The final state budget provides relief for New York taxpayers and targeted tax relief for certain businesses and manufacturers to strengthen New York’s economic competitiveness.

Middle Class STAR - Under Middle Class STAR, New Yorkers will see a STAR tax rebate based on a sliding scale tied to income. In New York City, the average STAR rebate for eligible homeowners will be a maximum of $127 and a minimum of $64, depending on income. Under this new reform, a greater number of middle class homeowners will receive the highest benefit. This will ensure we put more money in the pockets of working families and help reduce the tax burden.

Enhanced STAR For NYC Seniors - New York City seniors who qualify for Enhanced STAR, the average savings will be an additional $95 rebate.

NYC STAR Personal Income Tax Credit - In addition to the rebate checks, the NYC STAR Personal Income Tax Credit will be increased by $60 to $290 for married taxpayers who file joint returns. Single taxpayers and heads-of-households will receive a $30 increase to $145.

The budget also provides tax relief for businesses through a reduction in the state’s corporate tax rate.

I will continue to push for the expansion of the Empire State Tax Credit, which currently reduces taxes by as much as $330 per child between the ages of 4 and 17.

Instead of providing the tax credit to only school-aged children, I support expanding that tax credit to all children - something the Senate and previous governor rejected in the past.

Over the last 12 years, the Assembly Majority has cut 19 different taxes a total of 81 times - saving taxpayers more than $140 billion cumulatively when fully phased in.

This year’s state budget builds on that impressive record. Working families will save $1.3 billion in property taxes and business owners will also see much-needed tax relief.

Reforming Workers’ Compensation
The budget also builds on a new law that reforms the workers’ compensation system and reduces workers’ compensation premiums by 10 to 15 percent - an important step toward making New York’s economy stronger and more competitive (Ch. 6 of 2007).

"For the first time in more than a decade, workers coming into the system will see benefits raised and businesses will be able to keep insurance costs down," Assemblymember Cook said, "This budget continues in that effort by helping everyone, including taxpayers and businesses. The future of economic development in New York is bright"

Assemblymember Cook Sponsors the Student Lending
Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act (SLATE)
photo Assemblymember Cook greets Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on the day his bill modeled after his College Loan Code of Conduct Act was considered by the Legislature.
I am pleased to have sponsored SLATE legislation. The Student Lending, Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act is modeled after the Attorney General’s College Loan Code of Conduct, which is the basis for settlements with lenders and schools across the country.

Specifically, the Student Lending, Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act:

  • prohibits gift-giving from lenders to colleges and universities in exchange for any advantage in loan activities and bans colleges and universities from accepting such gifts as well;
  • imposes a complete ban on gifts from lenders to college employees;
  • bars college and university employees from receiving any compensation for serving on a lender’s advisory board;
  • prohibits lender employees and agents from posing as college or university employees;
  • bans lenders and schools from agreeing to certain quid-pro-quo, high-risk loans;
  • provides for civil penalties of up to $50,000 for lending institutions and colleges and $7,500 for employees; and
  • requires colleges to tell inquiring students about public loans - which may be a better option - before talking to them about private loans.

Lenders and colleges must not manipulate a student’s decision about which company to borrow from. After all, it’s an $85-billion-a-year industry. It’s time for scrutiny and accountability. The Assembly’s SLATE legislation targets deceptive and illegal tactics, while protecting New York’s students and higher-education system.

Assemblymember Cook Encourages Children, Families and Friends to Read More This Summer

Assemblymember Cook endorses the Assembly’s 2007 Summer Reading Challenge as a great way to spend your free time.

The New York State Assembly helps children and parents pick up the reading habit through its annual Summer Reading Challenge program. To earn a New York State Assembly Excellence in Reading Certificate, children must read with a parent for 15 minutes a day, for at least 40 days during July and August.

"It probably amounts to less time than a youngster spends getting dressed in the morning," Assemblymember Cook said. "It’s a great opportunity for kids to get away from their televisions, video games, computers and iPods. They can learn just about anything by reading and have a lot of fun doing it. Reading improves speech, vocabulary, pronunciation and listening. It’s a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends."

Assemblymember Cook said the initiative is part of the Assembly’s commitment to offering young people a quality education. The state budget passed recently makes a historic investment in New York’s education system, providing an unprecedented $1.7 billion increase to help students gain valuable knowledge and succeed in an ever-changing global economy.

"Books connect students to knowledge," Assemblymember Cook said. "Reading matters. Children who read have a better command of language, do better in other subjects, and can better analyze, think and cope in our increasingly complex world."

For information about the Assembly’s 2007 Summer Reading Challenge, write Assemblymember Cook at 142-15 Rockaway Blvd., Jamaica, NY 11436; send an e-mail to; or call Assemblymember Cook’s district office at (718) 322-3975.

image of nurse The budget increases access to health care, protects the most vulnerable patients, and reforms a system that needs adjustment in a measured, prudent way.

Expanding access to health care
Improving the system starts with expanding health care coverage to New York’s 400,000 uninsured children. In order to provide all of New York’s children with access to affordable health care, our final budget expands eligibility for the Child Health Plus insurance program. This health care budget places the focus where it should be - keeping our families healthy. This means the income threshold for the program will increase from 250 to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $82,650 for a family of four. This is based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2007 Poverty Guidelines.

Assemblymember Cook stated, "We’re dedicated to ensuring the health of all New Yorkers. Protecting children is our primary concern. That’s why this budget also streamlines enrollment for Medicaid and Family Health Plus, eliminating unnecessary red tape and helping 900,000 uninsured adults."

Restructuring Medicaid and eliminating waste
Medicaid dollars should be spent on Medicaid recipients, not on fraudulent claims for unnecessary services - or services never rendered. The budget will eliminate wasteful spending and fraud by identifying the problem areas and committing to new solutions that work.

The budget creates a New York State False Claims Act, which provides whistleblowers with an incentive to help root out fraud. In addition, the plan strengthens the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General by adding 157 new positions - including 100 auditors - and providing new powers to the State Attorney General. These actions will save New York taxpayers billions of dollars and help restore the program to the efficient safety net it was once designed to be.

Helping hospitals, nursing homes and health care workers
Hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers, including local facilities, are important allies in fighting sickness and disease. That’s why the Assembly fought to provide an additional $355.7 million ($561.6 million all funds) over the governor’s budget for hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies.

Everyone at these facilities wants to work together to make sure New Yorkers have access to the best care in the nation. The state budget continues a significant portion of hospital and nursing home ’trend factor,’ an important inflation adjustment that helps hospitals and nursing homes cover rising medical costs. This will provide $68.5 million ($137 million all funds) to hospitals and $54.5 million ($109 million all funds) to nursing homes statewide so they can continue helping patients. In addition, the final budget eliminates the "sick tax" - a burdensome 0.35 percent tax on hospital gross receipts which amounts to $136.9 million per year.

It’s important to note that the health care reforms in this budget will shift Medicaid dollars to hospitals and nursing homes with a higher proportion of Medicaid patients - ensuring help goes to those patients who need it most.

The final budget also provides additional pharmacy reimbursements by restoring $17.3 million under Medicaid and $11.6 million under EPIC, a move that will help local pharmacies ensure ready access to needed medications. In addition, the final budget preserves the exemption for antidepressants in the Preferred Drug Program to ensure access to these necessary mental health medications.

Cook Helps Secure Library Construction Funding for Rochdale Village Community Library and South Jamaica Community Library

I am pleased to announce that Rochdale Village Community Library will receive a grant of $191,248 and the South Jamaica Community Library will receive a grant of $149,422. These libraries will receive funding from a one-time allocation of $14 million in capital funds for public library construction provided by the New York State Legislature in the 2006-2007 state budget.

New York’s public libraries are in urgent need of renovation and upgrading. A recent survey showed a documented need for public library construction and renovation projects totaling $1.7 billion. More than 40% of the over 1,000 public library buildings in communities across New York are over 60 years old. Another 30% are more than three decades old. Many of New York’s local public libraries are unable to accommodate users with disabilities, cannot provide Internet and computer and other electronic technologies to users because of outdated and inadequate electrical wiring, do not have sufficient space to house the library’s collection, and lack sufficient space for public access computers. Public library construction grants help local libraries and library systems to update electrical wiring to accommodate computer technology, renovate facilities to provide wheelchair accessible entrances and lavatories and to become fully accessible to library users with disabilities, and provide meeting rooms to accommodate community needs. These grants are separate from the ongoing annual appropriation.

September 11th Remains A Day Of Mourning
Measure Changes Date of Primary Election to September 18th

I am pleased to support the passage of legislation signed into law that would reschedule the state’s 2007 primary election for Tuesday, September 18, 2007. The Primary day was originally scheduled to be held on the traditional second Tuesday of September, which this year falls on September 11.

The memories of the tragic and horrific events of September 11, 2001, are always with us. It’s important that on the anniversary of that terrible day we take the time to pay tribute to those who so unfairly and so brutally had their lives taken from them.

I believe that moving the primary date from September 11 recognizes the significance of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, which occurred six years ago this year, and marks the state’s respect for the victims.

September 11 is a day of national remembrance as we continue to grieve the loss of our loved ones and fellow Americans. It is important that the day be reserved for reflection.

Albany Office: L.O.B. - Room 331, Albany, NY 12248
(office) 518-455-4203  (fax) 518-455-3606
District Office: 142-15 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11436
(office) 718-322-3975  (fax) 718-322-4085
E-mail: • 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
For assistance you are welcome to call or stop by Assemblymember Cook’s Office