Little Says Budget Funds Issues Important to the North Country
From the Office of State Senator Betty Little
State Senator Betty Little today said the newly approved 2017-18 state budget provides funding for many programs and services identified as North Country priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Little said the new budget makes the largest investment in clean water infrastructure in state history, enacts workers’ compensation reform to reduce costs for businesses and brings ridesharing services to upstate.
“It took a little longer to reach an agreement than I wanted,” said Little. “The disagreements were substantial and the compromises reached in many areas reflect the challenges of governing in a diverse state. Overall, this budget accomplishes a lot of good.”
One key appropriation secured by Little in a budget bill approved today is $2 million for repairs to the Whispering Maples Memorial Gardens mausoleums in the towns of Plattsburgh and Ellenburg. After the funeral business failed, care and operation of the mausoleums, which are in a state
of disrepair, was turned over to the towns as required under state law. Little said the towns lack resources to address this serious issue.
“What has happened at Whispering Maples is disgraceful,” said Little. “Those interred and their families deserved much better than a business being run into the ground and the mausoleums being neglected as they have. I am really grateful for the support of my colleagues, including Majority Leader Flanagan, to get this money in the budget.”
Little said the new budget includes $2.5 billion for clean water projects and a $1.1 billion increase in education funding. It also increases local highway funding, known as CHIPS, by $65 million for a total of $503 million this year.
The budget enacts the most comprehensive workers’ compensation reform since 2007, which is projected to save businesses $700 million annually, and will enable ridesharing services like Uber and Lfyt to upstate, which Little said will boost tourism and create new jobs.
The budget advances $3 billion in STAR property tax relief, including $500 million for another round of rebate checks, and changes were made to ensure the state’s STAR payments to taxpayers are made on time.
The state budget also provides funding for programs and services addressing the heroin and opioid crisis and provides an increase in funds for direct care workers who treat and care for individuals with developmental disabilities.