Governor, once again, I commend you on behalf of the Assembly Majority first, for giving the Legislature an excellent template from which to commence our work and second, for your steady leadership in guiding us to another early budget.
You began this year with a message which focused on jobs and economic growth.
With this agreement, we continue, as promised, our support for the Regional Economic Development Councils, make the necessary investments in our statewide infrastructure, and provide critical funding for mass transit.
We began the year by calling upon the state to help us rebuild the ladder to financial security long relied on by our working families.
In this agreement, I am pleased to say, we keep that promise by increasing our investment in public education, the cornerstone of our economy; providing the greatest assistance to the neediest school districts, while at the same time, encouraging innovation and better performance.
We keep the promise to increase our investments in health-care, including a restoration of EPIC and funding for family planning services.
Acknowledging the value of our community colleges as gateways to higher education and job training, we increase by seven percent, our support for these vital institutions. This marks the first community college base-aid increase in five years.
We are providing more than $93 million for higher education opportunity programs and for the first time ever, we are establishing three "DREAM Act clinics" which will help young immigrants and their families overcome the barriers to education, employment and economic stability.
Of course, affordable housing has always been a problem in New York State, so we are increasing our investment in the state's Neighborhood and Rural Preservation Programs, as well as funding the mortgage foreclosure prevention program to help those who are in danger of losing their homes.
Let me just indicate that the members of the Assembly who served on the conference committees that produced these agreements are here in the audience and others are working as we speak, to conclude this budget.
We began passing budget bills on Wednesday and I am confident we will finish them very shortly.
The men and women who serve in the Assembly were sent to Albany by their constituents, the citizens of their districts, with a mandate to make things better; to make a difference.
Together, we engaged in a deliberative process and we put forth our concerns in our Assembly budget proposal.
Working with Senator Skelos and with you, Governor, we have been able to mesh our respective thoughts and produce what I think is a great document.
I want to thank the Chair of our Ways and Means Committee, Assemblyman Denny Farrell, who is certainly doing the work today in debating the budget, for all of his guidance.
Likewise, let me thank Minority Leader Brian Kolb for his input and influence in the process.
Governor, we commend you and your Administration for listening to us, for recognizing the importance of the issues we raised, and for working with us in a spirit of compromise to craft a budget that truly reflects the needs of the people of the State of New York.
It is a breath of fresh air for all of us. Congratulations in advance on the second, consecutive on-time, if not early, budget for the Cuomo Administration and for the State of New York.