The 2012 Legislative Session has come to a close with a flurry of accomplishments and activity that turned the old way of doing business in Albany upside down.
Economic development and job creation were top priorities for the majority of the work done in Albany this year. Thanks to strong, bipartisan support from our local legislative delegation, a heavy focus was placed on Western New York. The start of a $1 billion economic development package was commissioned for our area. This investment will set the stage for a litany of projects both now and in the future. Our goal is to increase local employment opportunities and give our future generations reasons to stay right here in Western New York. In addition, the NY Works program invested $121 million in job-creating local infrastructure projects to repair our crumbling roads and bridges.
This all was made possible because we closed a $3.5 billion budget deficit without using any budget gimmicks or by passing the buck to our children and grandchildren. Instead, by exercising fiscal discipline, we held the line on spending in areas that we just cannot afford. We also took a major step toward improving New York’s business climate by avoiding any new or increased taxes and fees. Responsible budgeting like this has been strikingly absent in Albany over the last several years. We are sending a clear signal to job creators worldwide that New York is once again open for business.
Our efforts, however, were not limited to economic development and job creation. We took our first, small step toward combating cyber bullying by taking a proactive approach to stamping out such harassment in our schools. As someone who has worked very hard to end this problem, I am confident that this measure will open the door for more meaningful reform. When we were kids, bullying was generally left behind on the playground, but these days, with all of the Web sites, texting, and social media available, the playground, and the bullies, follow our kids home. By clarifying that cyber bullying is included in the Dignity for All Students Act, we have taken another step toward addressing this important issue.
Several other measures were advanced with the aim of protecting those New Yorkers who cannot protect themselves. The creation of the Justice Center will help stamp out abuse and neglect in our human services facilities where our most vulnerable citizens are cared for. The state Legislature also closed a loophole in the penal law that allowed vile individuals who view child pornography to escape criminal penalty. These measures were long overdue, and I am proud to be a part of the process that will help put an end to these forms of abuse.
A number of local facilities and initiatives received the state’s backing during the legislative session as well. Funding was preserved for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which was in serious jeopardy of losing critical state support. I teamed with Senator Michael Ranzenhofer to sponsor bills passed in both houses of the Legislature with direct local impact. One of these measures was to expand Fetto Park, which will not only improve this treasured green space, but will ensure that the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo continues to have a home in Amherst. Senator Ranzenhofer and I also passed a bill that will help establish the Main-Transit Volunteer Exempt Firefighter's Benevolent Association. This will give relief, aid and assistance to volunteer firemen and their families who are disabled or indigent, and also will aid the promotion of the welfare of the volunteer fire service. I was happy to partner with Main-Transit VFD and our Senator on behalf of our courageous volunteers who risk life and limb to protect the communities that they love.
Of course, even with all of this success, there is plenty of work left to be done. We cannot let our foot off the gas pedal when it comes to economic development and job creation, and we still have a long way to go if we’re going to make New York truly competitive in the global economy. Our local governments are still starving for meaningful mandate relief, which will allow them to provide the critical services we rely on while driving down our local taxes. There is still an uphill battle in front of us to truly address problems like cyber bullying, with much room to expand on the modest improvements that have been made. All in all, however, it is great to see just how much was accomplished for Western New York during the 2012 session.
If you have any questions on this year’s session or any issue regarding state government, please contact my office at 634-1895, or email me at email@example.com.