government

Monday, March 27, 2017 at 6:03 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, announcements, government, mental health.

wnycpc_albany-1.jpg

Press release (photo submitted)

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) and Assemblyman Michael Kearns (D, West Seneca) are urging fellow lawmakers to prevent the Office of Mental Health from closing the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca and moving young patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Gallivan and Kearns say the move would jeopardize child and adolescent care and safety. They want to resolve the four-year old debate as part of the current state budget negotiations.    

“The Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca (WNYCPC) is rated among the best in the nation in the treatment of children and teens in need of behavioral health services,” Gallivan said.  “I don’t understand why the Office of Mental Health (OMH) insists on fixing something that is not broken. While the merger may save money, there appears to be no clinical reason to move these children to an adult facility and it isn’t fair to patients or their families.” 

Two recent attacks involving patients at the Buffalo facility have also raised concerns about safety.

“Hearing reports of a nurse at Buffalo Psychiatric Center being attacked is disturbing, especially as the governor and Office of Mental Health Commissioner Ann Sullivan continue to push to move the children at WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center in with the adults at Buffalo Psychiatric Center,” Kearns said.  “Why should we trust that the children from the Western New York Children Psychiatric Center will be safe at this facility, when employees at Buffalo Psychiatric Center aren’t even being kept safe? The evidence against this proposal to move these young, vulnerable patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center continues to mount and I urge Governor Cuomo, for the safety and well-being of these children, to put an end to this merger.”

Both Gallivan and Kearns have introduced legislation, which would require the OMH to maintain the WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center as a separate and distinct entity both organizationally and physically. Meanwhile, the Senate one house budget resolution and the Assembly one house budget resolution also include language that would keep the West Seneca facility open.

Over the past several years, former patients, family members of patients, workers, community activists and academics have pushed to keep the WNYCPC open. They argue the tranquil surrounding provided at the West Seneca campus is important for the children who are undergoing significant mental trauma and the families desperately trying to protect these children from danger.

Monday, March 27, 2017 at 5:07 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, government, announcements, Sen. Gallivan.

Press release

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) says the Senate has once again approved a bill that would require New York State to notify a local municipality when a sex offender is transferred from a state facility to a community program or residence. The Senate also passed the legislation (S.2132) in 2015 and 2016, but it failed in the Assembly.

The bill sponsored by Gallivan would amend the mental hygiene law to require the Commissioner of the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to notify the chief executive officer of any municipality where a sex offender is transferred. The superintendent of schools in which the facility is located would also have to be notified.

"The state has an obligation to notify local leaders whenever the transfer of a potentially dangerous sex offender into a residential or community program occurs,” Gallivan said.  “Too often, community leaders learn of the transfer after the fact and don’t have adequate time to properly address public concerns and potential security issues.”

The legislation would require the commissioner of OPWDD to notify local officials no later than 10 calendar days prior to the transfer taking place.    

In the past, the state has placed developmentally disabled sex offenders at state-owned group homes in Western New York and across the state, catching many communities off guard and raising concerns about public safety.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly. 

Monday, March 27, 2017 at 5:02 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, crime, government, news, announcements.

Press release

On a vote of 50-9, the Senate recently passed legislation which would heighten the punishment for anyone convicted of making a terroristic threat against a police officer. 

The bill (S-1984) would make it a class C felony to make such threats against a law enforcement officer. Under current law, it is a class D felony to make terroristic threats against any individual.    

“By the very nature of their work, police officers are frequently targets of these types of threats,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma).  “A police officer is a representative of the community which he or she serves and in order to deter these threats, a higher penalty for those who target law enforcement representatives is necessary.”

The legislation would amend the state’s penal law to create a new section establishing the crime of making a terroristic threat against a police officer.  The Senate passed similar legislation in 2015 and 2016, but it failed in the State Assembly.

Monday, March 27, 2017 at 4:46 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, government, news, health.

This information was provided by Congressman Chris Collins and Assemblyman David DiPietro’s offices

Wyoming County has the lowest Medicaid liability in Western New York for fiscal year 2016 – 25.7 percent ($5,321,747) of the property tax levy. Erie County – 82.8 percent ($203,699,556) of the property tax levy – has the highest liability. 

The Collins-Faso amendment would save county governments billions of dollars, Congressman Chris Collins says.

Currently, New York State raises $7 billion from counties to fund its $27 billion Medicaid liability. Of that, $2.3 billion comes from outside of New York City, and would be subject to the amendment. In total, New York spends $60 billion per year on Medicaid. This amount of spending is second in the nation only to California, which is home to almost twice as many people as New York.

The following outlines the FY16 Medicaid liability for NY-27 counties:

    • Niagara: $44,152,519 (59.0% of the property tax levy)

    • Orleans: $8,074,102 (49.8% of the property tax levy)

    •  Livingston: $9,064,064 (34.1% of the property tax levy)

    • Ontario: $16,033,295 (30.2% of the property tax levy)

    • Monroe: $175,851,749 (48.6% of the property tax levy)

    • Genesee: $9,403,509 (35% of the property tax levy)

    • NYS Total: $2.3 billion (44.3% of the county property tax levy)

"Governor (Andrew) Cuomo and his sidekick are using doomsday predictions to scare everyday New Yorkers into allowing Albany to continue taxing them to death,” Collins said. “It's absolutely disgusting the governor would threaten the middle class with a tax increase, while holding a $14 billion taxpayer funded slush fund in his back pocket. As I have said before, if this governor can't find 1.5 percent to save in his budget, I am more than willing to find it for him."

New York spends 44 percent more per Medicaid beneficiary than the national average ($10,426 vs. $7,236), second only to Massachusetts in highest spending per full beneficiary in the nation. Additionally, while the state is home to only 6.5 percent of the national population, it accounts for 11 percent of total Medicaid spending. By passing Medicaid costs onto counties, New York State is not realizing the financial impact of its out-of-control Medicaid policy, causing more spending on the program. 

Collins says, the difference between the governor's proposal and the one introduced by him is that instead of saving hardworking taxpayer money, Cuomo's sole intention in forcing New York City to foot the bill to fund the Medicaid program was to “increase the size of his taxpayer funded slush fund.”

“For this governor to threaten to raise taxes, in the highest-taxed state in the nation, with the biggest burden on small businesses, with families fleeing for greener pastures, is absurd,” said Assemblyman David DiPietro. “We’re about to pass a budget somewhere north of $150 billion. He can’t find money for Medicaid in $150 billion because he simply doesn’t want too. Threatening the taxpayers over an issue he controls to get the attention of Washington is sad, and we deserve better.”  

DiPietro represents the 147th Assembly District which covers all of Wyoming County and the southern portion of Erie County.

For more information visit: Medicaid Fact Sheet or NYS Medicaid Costs by County

Friday, March 17, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget includes $120 million to continue the NY Parks 2020 initiative. Since the launch of NY Parks 2020 in 2012, State Parks has advanced more than 383 separate projects within 130 parks and historic sites to enhance, restore and repair public facilities – helping reverse decades of decline and neglect in our parks. 

Last year, New York state parks hosted an estimated 69.3 million visitors – a 6-percent increase over 2015 and a hike of 21 percent since 2011. Park attendance was boosted by major improvements to park facilities, the Connect Kids to Parks program, extending the swimming season after Labor Day, favorable weather, and more.  

Connect Kids to Parks enhances educational and recreational opportunities for schoolchildren and help promote parks and historic places. New York partnered with the National Park Service in 2016, to begin an initiative to offer all fourth-grade students and their families free day-use entry passes to state parks. The program also created a grant program to help transport schoolchildren to outdoor recreation and environmental education programs, and historic sites.

The governor’s executive budget proposal will double the state’s investment in the Connect Kids program through the Environmental Protection Fund. The fund provides free or low-cost transportation to connect schools in underserved communities with state parks. 

Parks will also expand the free or low-cost Learn-to-Swim program to all state park swimming facilities, which serves up to 5,000 youth annually. Additionally, in a partnership with the Office of Children & Families, State Parks will also expand the free Foster Family New Camper program. Approximately, 300 foster families and at-risk youth benefit from this program. 

Funding is still available for Connect Kids field trip transportation grant for the 2016-17 school year. Visit www.nysparks.com for an application and more information.

In an effort to make visiting state parks, well, effortless, a new Empire Pass Card is now being offered. This wallet-sized plastic card can be shared among family member, caregivers and more. While the Empire Pass costs $80 and allows card holders to take any vehicle to the park, the original pass is still available for $65 and must be affixed to a single vehicle.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 7:03 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, announcements, government, Sen. Gallivan.

Press release:

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C- I, Elma) says the New York State Senate has passed a 2017-18 budget plan that creates more economic opportunity through targeted investments in infrastructure, tax reductions, and continued fiscal discipline. The Senate proposal continues a record of restrained state spending without new taxes. Additionally, it makes sensible and important changes to a number of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposals that should serve as a blueprint to a final, on-time budget.

“The Senate’s budget controls the size and cost of government while at the same time helping hardworking, middle class families and businesses,” Gallivan said. “The spending plan supports economic development, provides much needed tax relief, invests in education, promotes agriculture and provides more funding for roads and bridges. It also keeps the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca.”

Reducing property taxes

The Senate’s budget proposal advances several measures to protect the significant savings provided by the School Tax Relief (STAR) program and would help small businesses save on their property taxes. 

The measures include:

    • Making small businesses with less than $350,000 in net business income and less than 20 employees eligible to receive the STAR benefit on their primary business property, saving $370 million when fully phased in;

    • Rejecting the executive budget proposal to cap the growth of the STAR benefit, saving taxpayers an estimated $272 million over the next three years alone;

    • Reversing changes made last year to the STAR Personal Income Tax Credit Program from reimbursements back to an up-front exemption effective for the 2018 – 2019 school year;

    • Addressing the significant delays of STAR payments by the state to taxpayers that occurred this year by requiring the state to postmark all advance payment STAR checks by Sept. 15, requiring the state to pay interest if they are mailed late, and reimbursing taxpayers for penalties or interest due to late school tax bill payments; and

    • Making permanent the state’s property tax cap.

Promoting economic development

The Senate budget rejects a number of onerous tax and fee increases proposed by Cuomo, including new DMV fees, new taxes on Internet purchases and a new surcharge on prepaid cell phones. In addition, to help avoid future tax increases, the Senate’s resolution imposes a statutory cap on state spending.

The Senate requires more transparency in the operations of Regional Economic Development Councils to further ensure accountability and prevent conflicts of interest in the awarding of billions of dollars in statewide economic development funds. The resolution rejects the rebranding of START-Up NY and closes the door to new applicants as of April 1, 2018, followed by an assessment to measure the program’s effectiveness.

Tax relief for businesses

In addition to creating the STAR benefit for small businesses, the Senate proposal would:

    • Expand the existing Personal Income Tax exemption for small businesses and small farms and reduce the Corporate Franchise Tax business income tax rate from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent over a two-year period, saving a total of $466 million;

    • Increase the Manufacturer’s Real Property Tax Credit from 20 percent to 50 percent of any annual property taxes paid during the year for property owned or leased by the manufacturer and used during for manufacturing, saving businesses $150 million; and

    • Increase the MTA Payroll Tax exemption for sole proprietors from $50,000 to $250,000. 

Reforms to workers’ compensation 

The Senate has advanced a number of sensible workers’ compensation reforms, such as updates to duration caps and schedule loss of use awards. To improve the overall system, changes would be put into place to reduce frictional costs, streamline forms, improve independent medical examinations and require implementation of a prescription drug formulary by Dec. 31.

Expanding ride-sharing

The resolution provides ride-sharing companies with the ability to expand operations outside of New York City and enable new jobs to be created by offering more safe, reliable transportation options to communities and visitors Upstate and on Long Island.

Promoting workforce development

The Senate’s Task Force on Workforce Development is continuing to improve employee readiness; better meet the workforce needs of private sector employers; connect job seekers with potential employers; retrain those who have lost jobs; and help make New York State’s overall economy more robust, dynamic and resilient. 

This budget helps implement those goals by including:

    • $4 million for the Workforce Development Institute (WDI);

    • $3 million for the WDI Manufacturing Initiative;

    • $980,000 for the Chamber On-the-Job Training Program;

    • $600,000 for Statewide Youth Build programs; and

    • Increasing the current salary cap for BOCES to attract and retain qualified and skilled teachers for career and tech programs.

Keeps Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) in West Seneca

The Senate plan includes language advanced by Gallivan requiring WNYCPC be maintained in Erie County as a separate and distinct entity, both organizationally and physically. It also requires that $14 million be used to rehabilitate the existing West Seneca facility.

Supporting local infrastructure

Historic state investment of nearly $8 billion in clean water

The Senate makes an investment of nearly $8 billion to ensure all New Yorkers have access to clean, safe drinking water by addressing extensive water quality issues and infrastructure needs. 

The measures include:

    • Creation of a new $5 billion Clean Water Bond Act;

    • Support for the proposed $2 billion for clean water infrastructure;

    • Establishment of a new Drinking Water Quality Institute;

    • Creation of the Emerging Contamination Monitoring Act;

    • $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund;

    • $175 million in continued funding for the Water Quality Infrastructure Investment Program; and

    • $275 million in continued funding for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

Increased support for local roads and bridges

The budget proposal continues the Senate’s commitment to parity with the Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) capital plans, and ensures long-term regional balance in how transportation projects are funded. It helps local governments make necessary infrastructure improvements and create jobs by adding:

    • $91 million in non MTA capital, for a total $175.5 million;

    • $75 million for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPS), for a total $513 million;

    • $50 million for the Local BRIDGE NY program, for a total $150 million;

    • $11.5 million to increase the reimbursement rate to cities for maintaining State highways;

    • $11.3 million in non-MTA downstate and upstate transit systems, and $5 million – including a $4 million executive budget restoration – for rural transportation systems; and

    • $27.5 million for the Aviation Capital Grant Program, for a total $40 million, and $2 million to provide the full state match to federal funds for aviation, totaling $6 million.

Improving higher education access and affordability

Enhanced Tuition Assistance Program (E-TAP):

The Senate improves upon the higher education proposals in the executive budget by making more middle-class families eligible for more financial aid, and giving students greater flexibility in school choice to promotes success.

The Senate invests $109 million in a new E-TAP initiative that helps students in public and independent schools by increasing the minimum TAP award from $500 to $3,000 and the maximum to $5,500. Income thresholds would also be increased to $100,000 in 2017-18; $110,000 in 2018-19; and $125,000 in 2019- 20. To be eligible for E-TAP, students would need a 3.0 grade-point average by the start of their junior year and take 30 credits over each academic year – which is a more flexible option for students unable to take a 15-credit semester as required in the executive budget proposal. 

The Senate budget proposal also includes:

    • $10 million to expand TAP to include part-time community college students; and

    • $2 million in new funding for Graduate TAP, to help students who are in combined undergraduate/graduate degree programs.

College affordability:

The Senate budget establishes a new Task Force on College Affordability; requires private colleges to develop college affordability plans with the goal of lowering costs; and creates the New York State Tax Advantage Student Loan Repayment Program. This innovative measure acts like a 401K for student debt – enabling employees to put up to $2,500 pre-tax each year into an account specifically set up by an employer to help pay student loan debt. The employer would then match the employee’s contribution and receive a tax deduction. 

The Senate also:

    • expands the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) scholarship to include private institutions;

    • increases the tuition tax credit to a maximum of $2,500 and the deduction to a maximum of $50,000 of allowable college tuition expenses, over 10 years;

    • provides $2 million in funding to support child care on SUNY and CUNY campuses to give access to students in need of care while pursuing a degree; and

    • provides a maintenance of effort provision that requires the state to fund SUNY and CUNY (State University of and City University of) at no less than the prior year’s funding level.

Making New York more affordable

Supporting fair wages for direct care professionals

The Senate provides $45 million annually to compensate direct care professionals for the important work they do to support individuals with disabilities. It addresses a lack of funding in the executive budget to help appropriately adjust salaries at nonprofits that employ workers who provide state services for individuals with autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities.

Expanding the Child Care Tax Credit:

The Senate provides an additional $95 million on top of the executive budget’s child care proposals to help more low- and middle-income families qualify for the state’s child care tax credits. Families making less than $50,000 would have their credits increase by 50 percent over existing amounts. In addition, the current cap on child care expenses would rise from $6,000 to a maximum of $9,000 (depending on the number of children) for families with up to five children.

Increasing the safety and availability of child care

To help working parents find affordable child care, and give them peace of mind about their child’s safety, the Senate included several budget provisions to:

    •  Increase child care subsidy funding from traditional sources to maintain the current level of $806 million;

    • Add $5.3 million to restore child care facilitated enrollment programs that help increase access to child care financial assistance, especially for moderate income families, in Monroe, Erie, Onondaga and Oneida counties, the Capital District, and New York City;

    • Require the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to conduct a comprehensive study of the availability of child care for low-income working parents in the State; and

    •  Enhance the safety of child day care programs by giving OCFS greater ability to suspend or limit a license or registration to operate when public health or safety is at risk and to assess fines for violations.

This legislation also creates a comprehensive online registry of child care providers in the State that will include inspection and violation history for each.

Savings on Retirement Income:

To help more seniors save money and choose to stay in New York during retirement, the Senate increases the private pension and retirement income exclusion from $20,000 to $40,000 for single taxpayers and to $80,000 for married taxpayers, over three years. This would be the first increase to the exempt amount of private pensions and retirement since 1981 and save retirees approximately $315 million.

Supporting learning opportunities for all children

Significant education funding increases

The Senate’s education budget includes a five percent increase in school aid funding over last year, for a total of $1.2 billion, bringing the total investment in schools to a record level of $25.4 billion. 

Other highlights include:

    • Doubling the governor’s Foundation Aid proposal with $478 million in additional funding, for a total increase of more than $906 million since 2016-17;

    •  Rejecting the executive budget’s changes to the Foundation Aid formula and instead provides flexible operating aid to districts for operating expenses, which may include creation or expansion of dual language programs, after school programs, mental health services, and personnel within schools;

    • Removing a cap on charter schools and placing surrendered charters back into the pool of eligible charters;

    • Increasing facilities funding for New York City charter schools;

    • Providing statewide building aid for charters;

    • Including significant funding increases over the executive budget for non-public schools: an additional $34 million for reimbursable security costs; $15 million for non-public school safety grants;

    • increasing by $7 million above the executive budget proposal for mandated services aid; $25 million for non-public school STEM programs; $3 million to expand eligibility for STEM college scholarships to students at non-public schools; and $7.7 million for non-public school immunization compliance.

Protecting public health

Investments in battling substance abuse

The Senate’s budget proposal includes $206 million for the state’s heroin and opioid-related initiatives. This is an increase of $32 million over last year’s enacted budget, and above the approximately $200 million announced in the executive budget.

The Senate would also expand upon an initiative first proposed as a recommendation by the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction to help teens battling substance abuse. The measure increases the proposed number of Recovery High Schools from two to three – enabling more youth to find a secure learning environment to help them on their way to overcoming addiction.

Transforming health care delivery statewide

The Senate includes $300 million above the executive budget’s proposal for a total of $800 million for the Health Care Facility Transformation Program. The funding is included subject to additional details to be further outlined in the budget process to ensure appropriate regional disbursement, and appropriate disbursement among community based providers and all facilities. Further, before making the allocation, the remaining capital from last year’s budget of $195 million should be awarded.

Promoting agriculture

Restoring $12 million in agriculture support

The Senate commits significant resources to promoting and supporting agriculture in the state, including $12 million in restorations to more than 30 programs throughout the state that were cut in the executive budget. 

In addition, the budget resolution:

    • Makes the Investment Tax Credit refundable for farmers.

    • Enacts the Farm-to-Food Bank proposal that allows farmers to claim a tax credit to for produce and other farm product donations to food banks or other emergency food programs.

    • Modifies the executive proposal for state fair funding to include $10 million for local fair capital costs;

    • Adds $5 million for a competitive grant program for animal shelters; and

    • Doubles the Farm Workforce Retention Credit Upstate and further increase the credit for farms that are located in Nassau, Suffolk, or Westchester counties due to the accelerated minimum wage schedule in those counties.

Supporting veterans

The Senate budget includes a number of measures to provide valuable assistance and support to New York’s veterans, including:

    • $3.2 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer to Peer Program;

    • $1 million to implement a veterans treatment court peer-to-peer service grant program;

    • $700,000 for the New York State Defenders’ Association Veterans’ Defense Program;

    • $400,000 for the NLP Research and Recognition Project for PTSD research treatments;

    • $350,000 for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s Veterans and Military Families Advocacy project;

    • $100,000 to expand Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s Veterans and Military Families Advocacy project into Westchester County;

    • $250,000 for Nassau Suffolk Law Services Committee’s Veterans’ Rights Project;

    • $250,000 in additional funding for the Veterans Outreach Center in Monroe County; and

    • $300,000 for Warrior Salute.

Protecting seniors

The Senate restores cuts and adds additional resources to help seniors continue to receive long-term services and supports, such as home care, transportation and meals, and initiatives to prevent elder abuse.

Measures include:

    • Adding $5 million for the Community Services for the Elderly Program (CSE) for transportation, case management and other supports;

    • Restoring $3.35 million in the executive budget for the New York Connects program that provides free comprehensive services and supports for seniors and caregivers;

    • Providing $10 million to establish a statewide central register of elder abuse and maltreatment;

    • Restoring $700,000 for the establishment of multidisciplinary investigative teams for reports of suspected elder abuse or maltreatment, as well as including legislation that creates those teams; and

    • Adding $49,000 for a total of $951,000 for the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) and/or Neighborhood NORCs.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 6:00 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, announcements, government.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement after President Donald Trump unveiled his fiscal year 2018 budget request.

“President Trump’s budget delivered a clear vision for the role the federal government should play,” Collins said. “It demonstrates that president Trump is committed to keeping the promises he made to the American people. He will rebuild our military. The budget’s $54 billion increase in defense spending is much needed, and I fully support the increase in military funding. Additionally, president Trump promised to secure our borders, and this budget lays the groundwork for building a wall and taking the necessary steps to ensure our nation’s border security.

“However, I have several concerns about significant cuts to local programs, which I believe go too far. I worked for more than two years to help write and pass the 21st Century Cures Initiative, and I fully believe that the funding guidelines established in that legislation must be followed. The $5.8 billion cut to NIH (National Institute of Health) is drastic. I will do whatever I can to ensure that the Appropriations Committee recognizes how crucial medical research is to Western New York and the millions of Americans whose lives could be saved with better medical research.

“The Great Lakes are a crucial part of Western New York’s economy. I have always fought to protect them and have voted to increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at every opportunity. I will do the same this time around. Western New Yorkers can rest assured I will be fighting tooth and nail to restore the program’s funding.

“Agriculture plays a significant role in Western New York’s economy. This budget eliminates the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, which helps rural areas alleviate the financial burden of maintaining wastewater programs. I have always fought hard to support this program and this year will be no different.

“Over the next few months, I will continue to evaluate this budget. Ultimately, it is up to the Appropriations Committee to fund these programs and I will be strongly advocating for Western New York’s best interests.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 10:20 am

Press release:

Senate Republicans recently released a 2017-18 state budget proposal that provides $45 million annually to compensate direct care professionals for the important work they do to support individuals with disabilities. The proposal addresses a lack of funding in the executive budget to help appropriately adjust salaries at not-for-profits that employ workers who provide state services for individuals with autism, serious brain injury, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities.

"Direct care professionals deserve to be fairly compensated for the crucial services they provide to individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma). “Families rely on these highly trained workers to assist their loved ones on a daily basis and we must do all we can to reduce the high turnover rate within the profession and ensure that adequate staff is in place to provide proper care."  

Currently, many direct service professionals (DSPs) earn an average of $10-$13 per hour – just above the state’s minimum wage. Last year, the state implemented minimum wage increases that did not provide funding to account for the “compression factor.” The compression factor is the need to increase the salaries for more experienced DSPs and supervisors in order to maintain the current salary gap with minimum wage workers. Without new funding provided to the DSP employers providing services on behalf of the state, the salary gap will compound the existing high turnover rate among those providing these critical services. This may lead to significantly increased vacancies as qualified individuals seek less strenuous minimum wage work.  

The Senate’s proposal provides $11.25 million in funding to help implement wage increases in the current year’s budget. Starting in 2017-18, $45 million would be provided annually to further ensure fair wages for this sector and prevent negative impacts on developmentally disabled services.

The Senate’s one-house budget will be advanced and approved this week, followed by the start of open, public conference committees to iron out differences that exist between the Senate and Assembly plans.

A new state budget is scheduled to take effect April 1.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 10:03 am

The Wyoming County Government Center is “turning green” for the month of March to celebrate the Girl Scouts, the 4-H program and cookie sales, and Wyoming County’s biggest producer – agriculture.

While the color green is most often associated with Saint Patrick’s Day when March rolls around, these organizations allude to the “luck of the Irish” as well. Subsequently, the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors has proclaimed March 2017 to be Girl Scout and Agriculture month – March 21 is National Agriculture Day and March 12 signifies the inception of the first Girl Scout troop in the United States.

This month, the Girl Scouts celebrate not only 105 years as an organization but also 100 years of their most successful fundraising program – the annual cookie sale.

The Girl Scout program was founded by Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low, with the help of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement. Low believed in the power of every girl. 

Low had joined the Girl Guide movement while in Scotland and in 1911 formed a group of Girl Guides while there. When she returned to the United States in 1912, she established the first American Girl Guide troop in Savannah, Ga.

It wasn’t until 1915 that the United States’ Girl Guides became known as the Girl Scouts. 

Modeling the program after the Boy Scouts, she was inspired by its stress of military preparedness and having fun, she encouraged the girls to become self-sufficient. 

While in Scotland, the group learned how to spin wool and care for livestock. She also taught them knot tying, map reading, kitting cooking and first aid. With the help of her friends in the military the girls also learned drilling, signaling and camping.

When she brought the program to the United States, she spread the movement as a way to help girls learn practical skills and build character. 

Although Low died in Savannah on Jan. 17, 1927, her vision lives on in the 1.9 million girls and 800,000 volunteer that continue the Girl Scouts worldwide.

The 4-H programs are based in science, healthy living and citizenship. It is backed by a network of 100 public universities and a community of 4-H volunteers and professionals. 

Through hands-on learning, youth build not only confidence, creativity and curiosity, but also life skills such as leadership and resiliency.

Grounded in the belief that kids learn best by doing for more than 100 years, 4-H has become the nation’s largest youth development organization. 

In the late 1800s, researchers noticed that young people were more open to new thinking in agricultural practices than their adult counterparts. In this way, it was the younger generations that introduced new agriculture technology to communities.

Today, 4-H’ers tackle issues such as global food security, climate change, as well as animal sciences, robotics, environmental protection and computer science to take on the challenges of the 21st century.

The program empowers the youngsters to be well-informed citizens who are actively engaged in their communities.

The month of March also signifies the start of its annual cookie sale. From March 7 through 21, cookies will be on sale.

“This is Wyoming County’s annual fundraiser that helps support programming in the county,” said 4-H educator Holly Harwood. “Proceeds from the sale allow youth to earn camperships at Wyomoco supports educational opportunities throughout the year, supports supplemental project and teaching materials, scholarships and more.”

Harwood says its these opportunities allow the youth to travel outside the county and the state to see the different careers available to them in agriculture, as well as meet other kids who are of similar mindset. It also allows kids to “build friendships that last a lifetime.”

And of course, one cannot travel about in Wyoming County without taking note of the rolling hills dotted with cows, corn, and other crops. These crops make the county number one in the production of milk, potatoes, hay, honey, and corn silage in New York State.

The county boasts 1.1 billion pounds of milk produced annually – 129.5 million gallons, 713 farms and 230,000 acres of cultivated farmland. The greens and golds of the county’s landscape is in large part due to 60 percent of its land being dedicated to farming. 

The economic vitality of Wyoming County is dependent on the food and fiber products agriculture plays a role in. Additionally, the county’s strong agribusiness ensures the maintenance of a strong economy.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 5:10 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, Congressman Collins, government.

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) has released the following statement after President Donald Trump's address to Congress:

"Americans across the country tonight (Feb. 28) witnessed a leader committed to restoring American greatness," Collins said. "This past November, voters elected a change agent.

"In his first 40 days in office, President Trump is already delivering the results Americans, especially those in my district of Western New York, have demanded. Whether it's fighting to return American jobs stolen by countries like Mexico and China, or securing our porous borders, President Trump has shown the world he is a president of action.

"If we are going to restore the hope of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren, tough choices need to be made. Unlike our last president, President Trump acknowledged that reality, and outlined a clear vision for us to overcome the challenges we will face. We are going to fight for the American worker, respect the rule of law, and harness the endless potential all Americans possess.

"I look forward to President Trump implementing the change Western New Yorkers voted for, and will continue to fight here in Congress for policies that improve the lives of my constituents."

Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Press release:

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I, Elma) says $3 million in state funding will help eligible municipalities and rural electricity cooperatives purchase electric vehicles for their municipal use fleets. The program is part of the New York Power Authority’s Municipal Electric-Drive Vehicle Program, which provides financial assistance to facilitate the replacement of less fuel-efficient vehicles.

“This funding will help towns and villages purchase electric and hybrid vehicles that are more fuel efficient and promote a cleaner environment,” Gallivan said. “The state’s financial support allows municipalities to participate in this important initiative and makes the program affordable to more communities.”

In Senate District 59, the villages of Arcade, Castile, Churchville, Silver Springs, and Springville are eligible to participate in the Municipal Electric-Drive Vehicle Program.
Several types of electric and hybrid vehicles are offered for purchase under the program, including passenger cars, pickup trucks, off-road specialty vehicles and heavy-duty utility bucket trucks. 

Municipalities and rural electric cooperatives that currently receive low-cost hydropower from the New York Power Authority are eligible to participate in this program. The funding builds on $5 million previously distributed under this program that has helped put 61 clean vehicles into service in 24 towns and villages across the state.

New York Power Authority's Municipal Electric-Drive Vehicle program works by providing zero-interest financing. The funds made available for the purchase of these vehicles are recovered over the course of three years.

New York Power Authority serves 47 municipal and four rural electric cooperative utility systems around the state, providing them with low-cost hydropower to help meet the electricity needs of their residents and businesses.

Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 4:27 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, government, taxes, news.

Press release:

On Monday, the Senate approved legislation to compensate property taxpayers who are owed money by the state after last year’s changes to the School Tax Relief (STAR) program. The bill (S3505) cosponsored by Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I, Elma), enables taxpayers who have applied for STAR but who do not receive accurate reimbursement payments from the state in a timely fashion to be paid interest for each day their check is late.

“Delays in issuing checks through the STAR program are unacceptable and have left far too many homeowners frustrated,” Gallivan said. “The state and the Department of Taxation and Finance must work to correct these delays as soon as possible and ensure that hardworking taxpayers receive the rebate they are due.” 

Since its enactment, the original STAR program has provided almost $60 billion in property tax relief to eligible senior and non-senior homeowners. This year alone, total STAR benefits to eligible recipients are estimated to be almost $3.4 billion.

Last year’s budget changed the current STAR program by phasing out direct payments to school districts on behalf of eligible homeowners. It converted the exemptions into a refundable property-tax credit for new homeowners. The conversion applied to people who purchased their primary residence after the 2015 STAR application deadline or did not apply for the exemption by the 2015 STAR application deadline.

The credit was paid in the form of checks that were supposed to have arrived in the mail by Sept. 30. However, multiple reports and many constituent complaints indicate that numerous checks arrived late or with the wrong amount of money. The Senate estimates the average basic STAR benefit is $840 per eligible homeowner and the average senior STAR benefit is $1,555. Many property owners need that money to pay their taxes on time.

This legislation would require STAR checks to be postmarked by Sept. 15 to allow taxpayers adequate time to pay their school tax bills, and require added interest for any late payment penalty imposed by a school district plus interest of 3 percent annually for checks postmarked after Sept. 15.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.

Monday, February 6, 2017 at 5:40 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, announcements, government.

A comprehensive bill to bring ride-sharing to upstate New York communities has been approved by the Senate. The bill (S4159) provides the framework for ride-sharing companies to expand operations outside of New York City. It will also enable new jobs to be created by offering safe, reliable transportation options to upstate residents and visitors.

“It is simply unacceptable that ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft are not available in Western New York and other upstate communities,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I, Elma).

“This legislation will create jobs and provide more transportation options for residents and visitors while generating funds to improve our roads and bridges. I urge the Assembly and the governor to act on this bill and end the unfair treatment of Upstate New York when it comes to ride-sharing services.” 

This Senate bill differs from the executive budget proposal by significantly cutting the taxes to be paid by ride-share customers to make it more attractive for businesses to operate here. While the budget includes a tax of 5.5 percent on rides that begin outside of New York City, the Senate’s measure cuts that tax to 2 percent. Additionally, it does not subject rides to the 4-percent state sales tax. That new revenue would go directly toward infrastructure improvements for roads, bridges, and county transit needs.

The measure includes important protections for both drivers and consumers as part of the regulatory framework authorizing Transportation Network companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft to operate in Upstate communities. It requires criminal and driving history background checks, passenger notifications of driver information and trip charges, and the adoption of nondiscrimination and zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policies. 

The bill also creates a new TNC Accessibility Task Force to identify and address barriers to and opportunities for greater access for New Yorkers of all abilities. It also includes TNC drivers in workers’ compensation insurance offered through the existing Black Car Fund, among other provisions.

The bill will be sent to the Assembly.

Friday, February 3, 2017 at 12:42 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, announcements, news, Sen. Gallivan, government.

Press release

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I, Elma) issued the 2016 report of the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction.  

Gallivan serves as chairman of the committee, which has legislative oversight of proposals pertaining to Correction, Penal and Executive Laws. In 2016, the committee reviewed a total of 57 bills and approved the nomination of Lt. Col. George P. Beach II as superintendent of the New York State Police. 

“One of the most important responsibilities of government is to help ensure the safety of our citizens and our communities,” said Gallivan, a former State Trooper and Sheriff of Erie County.  “I want to thank the members of the committee for their work in reviewing legislation dealing with various aspects of our criminal justice system.” 

Of the 57 bills reported to the committee, 13 passed both the Senate and Assembly, and eight were signed into law.  

These include:

    • Legislation requiring the Division of Criminal Justice Services to notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of learning that a convicted sex offender has had a change of address;

    • Legislation allowing prior statements made by crime victims to be provided to the Board of Parole for consideration at each board appearance.  The law protects victims from reliving such a traumatic experience every time a parole hearing is held; and

    • Legislation ensuring due process of inmates who require a translator at parole board hearings. 

Also during the 2016 session, the committee approved the nomination of Beach as the 15th superintendent of the New York State Police. He now commands more than 5,000 troopers, investigators and civilian support staff who provide policing and public safety services to New Yorkers and other police agencies across the state. 

 A full copy of the committee report is available here

Friday, February 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) has sent correspondence to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly expressing a deep concern regarding the expedited implementation of the biometric exit-entry system.

"Western New Yorkers and our economy rely heavily on the timely movement between Canada and the United States via the Peace Bridge," Collins said. "While keeping our communities safe is my number one priority, I want to ensure that before any agency implements the biometric exit-entry system fully, we examine all possible transportation impacts and take steps to alleviate any disruptions that may be created. Our southern and northern borders have different security issues and I hope those differences are taken into account."

The biometric exit-entry program was requested by the 9/11 Commission to better track individuals traveling in and out of the country. However, its implementation has been delayed because of the significant logistical issues it could create. 

The issue has recently been raised because President Donald Trump in his executive order on immigration states: 

"The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States."

In the letter, Collins writes, "I strongly support increased national security measures across our nation and commend President Trump for his swift action. However, I am concerned that an expedited implementation of this system will not take into consideration the differences in security interests at our northern and southern borders."

Furthermore, he urges Kelly "to carefully consider the widespread impacts implementation of a biometric entry-exit system would have on our northern border."

Collins previously introduced an amendment in 2015 requiring a pilot program be implemented before a full-scale implementation of the biometric exit-entry program to avoid any major commerce and travel disruptions.

Full text of the letter can be seen here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, announcements, taxes, Sen. Gallivan, government.

Press release:

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) recently joined colleagues in the New York State Senate in passing legislation to make the property tax cap permanent. This would ensure the continuation of a measure that has already saved taxpayers more than $15.5 billion.  

The bill (S1207), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport), would make the property tax cap permanent statewide, except in New York City where no cap is currently in place.

“The property tax cap has been very successful in putting an end to skyrocketing taxes in communities across the state,” Gallivan said. “New York property owners pay some of the highest taxes in the country and the only way to limit spending and get property taxes under control is to make the tax cap permanent.”

Growth in property taxes soared by more than 73 percent for New York school districts between 2001 and 2011, and 53 percent in counties. The property tax cap was first enacted in 2011 due to Senate Republican efforts to reduce New Yorkers’ tax burden. When the cap was created, it included a commitment to increase support to school districts and has resulted in a total of $4.9 billion – 26 percent – in school aid increases over the last five years.

The cap limits the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. By keeping within the cap, taxpayers statewide – except in New York City – have saved $15.5 billion over the last five years, and will save more than $66.4 billion cumulatively over the first 10 years of its implementation.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 10:33 am

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement regarding President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court:

“President Trump showed America his commitment to conservative principles with tonight’s Supreme Court nomination. Judge Neil Gorsuch will be a strong voice on the court for years to come. I fully anticipate that he will continue interpreting laws as they are written and defend the constitutionally protected rights all Americans hold dear. I urge my Democrat colleagues in the Senate to recognize the clear message American voters sent on Election Day and quickly confirm Judge Gorsuch.”

Monday, January 30, 2017 at 5:35 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, Earned Income Tax Credit, government.

There are as many as 559 people in Wyoming County leaving as much as $8,150 on the table each year simply because they're not completing the right IRS or state forms when they file their tax returns.

The money is what's called an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the program is one many economists believe has helped lift millions of people over the past couple of decades out of poverty.

The EITC rewards work and economists say that is the right incentive to get people who can work into jobs that set them on a path toward better lives.

"One of the problems with redistribution of incomes is getting the money to the right people," said Michael Wolkoff, associate chair in the Department of Economics at the University of Rochester. "You want to do it in a way that encourages people to work if you can. ... The problem with general welfare is that it takes some people who can work and provides them with an incentive not to work and that's not what you want to do with welfare policy in general."

The first EITC was enacted in 1975 and the program was revised and expanded in both the Reagan and Clinton administrations. 

The program provides a lump-sum payment to qualifying people based on their income from work, even if self-employed, and the formula is designed to encourage poor people to earn more money, growing their income enough so eventually they earn enough and are no longer eligible for the EITC. 

As Wolkoff explained, it turns the value of a job that pays $10 an hour into one that might be worth $12 an hour for the wage earner. 

If there's one flaw with the program, Wolkoff suggested, it might be the nature of the lump-sum payment, which isn't an immediate payoff for the actual extra work at the time of the work, and social science tends to show that incentives work best when rewards are given in proximity to the goal behavior. 

To the degree that's an issue is hard to determine, but a program that allocated money over the course of the work year would be much more expensive to administer, Wolkoff said.

Even so, numerous studies over the years show that program is successful in making lives better for millions of people across the nation:

  • Children in families receiving the credit tend to do better in school and they are more likely to attend college;
  • More single mothers have transitioned from public assistance with the help of the program and tend to earn more money later in life than single mothers who don't enter the workforce through the program;
  • Recipients of all types tend to earn more money later in life;
  • In one year, 2013, 9.4 million people were lifted out of poverty, including 5 million children; and 22 million people were less poor. 

The ability of people earning more money after participating in the program is a result of those people gaining work experience, new skills and on-the-job training, Wolkoff noted.

The program is designed to provide the greatest benefit to workers with children. For example, a single adult won't receive more than $506 from the federal government, but a family with three or more qualifying children will receive $6,269. The worker with no children can get another $152 from the state and for the family with three children, the state kicks in another $1,881.

Those amounts are also scaled by the individual's amount of earned income each year.

In New York, nearly 1.9 million people received the state's EITC last year, for a total payout of state and federal credits of $5.4 million.

In Wyoming County, the IRS reports there were 2,710 people receiving state and federal credit. That led to an additional $7.09 million flowing into the local economy. The average payout for qualifying Wyoming County residents was $2,672 in state and federal credits.

But then there are still those 559 local residents who qualify for the credit but didn't apply last year, according to IRS. For New York as a whole, there are 383,000 residents who didn't apply.  

The state put out a press release on Friday to help raise awareness of the program because the program is such a proven success for lower-income people willing and able to work.

"I think looking at that last column of figures (the 383,000 not getting the credit), there are hundreds of thousands of people across the state who are not claiming that credit and that's reason enough for us to do all we can do to boost awareness," said James Gazzale, a spokesman for NYS Taxation and Finance. "This is cash that counts for families so they can go out and pay bills, put food on the table, pay for school supplies, pay for all the necessities we sometimes take for granted. All of these families that are eligible and not claiming it, it can be a big boost for them."

For more information

• Federal Earned Income Tax Credit
• New York State Earned Income Tax Credit
• Recordkeeping suggestions for self-employed persons
• Contact a NYS Tax Department representative at (518) 457-5181

Monday, January 30, 2017 at 2:35 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, government, Republican, Congressman Collins.

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement addressing President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration:

“Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our communities here in Western New York,” Collins said. “Temporarily suspending the admittance of refugees and individuals from high risk countries until we can guarantee they are properly vetted is a common sense measure focused on protecting Americans. President Trump promised to make America safe again and his executive order aims to ensure we know who is entering our country.”
 

Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 4:34 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, announcements, government, firefighters, health.

fire_dept._photo.jpg

Press release:

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I, Elma) says the New York State Senate has passed a measure to help further protect the health of volunteer firefighters. The bill (S1411) expands the benefits available to volunteer firefighters when they contract certain illnesses and cancers as a result of the hazards they encounter during their duties.

“The men and women who serve our communities as volunteer firefighters deserve our support,” Gallivan said. “These brave volunteers protect our homes and businesses and face numerous potential hazards in responding to fires and other emergencies. I am proud to support legislation that expands benefits for firefighters facing health issues related to their selfless service.” 

Overexposure to smoke increases the risk of contracting cancer of the lungs, but may also cause cancer in an individual's esophagus, stomach, blood, intestines, and even the brain. A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study suggests firefighters are at higher risk of cancers of the digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary systems when compared to the general population.

This legislation expands the existing coverage available under the Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law to include cancer of the digestive, hematological, lymphatic, urinary, prostate, neurological, breast and reproductive systems or melanoma.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.

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