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2015-04-13 / Opinion

Guest Commentary

State Senator James Seward

SewardSewardIn last week’s column I focused on several significant elements from the new state budget — property tax relief, record school aid, and help to repair our local roads and bridges. This week I want to touch on a few other components of the spending plan that will have a positive impact statewide and here locally.

Supporting New York Agriculture

The final budget adds more than $12 million to the governor’s proposal, restores budget cuts to 33 different programs that support farmers, agricultural technology, research, and includes funding for key components of the Senate’s “Grown in New York” plan to strengthen connections between farmers and consumers who are increasingly looking to buy locally produced foods.

Grown in New York: The budget supports new programs to connect consumers with locally produced products. It includes more than $1 million to develop a series of new farm-to-market hubs to help farmers from our part of the state move their products more easily to markets in New York City and other urban centers across the state, new programs to bring more locally produced fruits and vegetables to low-income seniors ($2.3 million) and schools ($250,000), and $600,000 to support the expansion of the successful “Harvest NY” program.

Young Farmers: This Senate program is expanded with increased funding for college loan forgiveness and $1 million to fund grants (up to $50,000 each), and a new business planning program, administered through Cornell’s FarmNet program, to help beginning farmers get on their feet and ensure success. There is also increased support for public school agriculture education, including Future Farmers of America, to encourage the next generation of farmers.

Protecting the Environment

Environmental Protection Fund (EPF): The budget includes an increase in funding for our local parks, and $177 million for the EPF. This is an increase of $15 million over last year and will help ensure clean air and water in communities across the state.

New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act: The budget provides $200 million over the next three years in Environmental Facilities Corp. grants to municipalities to repair and replace existing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.

Environmental Infrastructure: $152.5 million in new funding is provided for additional improvements to flood control, clean-ups, and environmental restoration projects.

Creating Healthier Communities

The budget restored $21.3 million — 15 percent — in reductions proposed in the governor’s budget to support 41 critical public health programs, and funding included:

• $25.3 million for Cancer Services Programs;

• $26.3 million for Nutritional Information for Women, Infants, and Children;

• $9 million for chronic disease prevention (including diabetes, asthma and hypertension);

• $2.3 million for the Prenatal Care Program;

• $628,000 for Maternal and Child Health, including the Safe Motherhood Initiative;

• $1.8 million for the Prenatal and Postpartum Home Visitation Program;

• $10.6 million for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention; and

• $283,300 for the Adelphi Breast Cancer Support Program.

The budget also included additional funding for the following critical programs:

• $1.4 million for Women’s Health Services;

• $600,000 to implement recommendations of the senate’s Lyme Disease Task Force;

• $4.6 million in increased funding for Rape Crisis Centers, bringing total funding to $6.5 million;

• $1.5 million in additional funding for the Spinal Cord Injury Research Board to bring funding up to a total of $8.5 million; and

• $2 million in additional funding for the Doctors Across New York Program.

Rural Health Care: In addition to the Doctors Across New York funding, $400 million in bank settlement funds will support health care capital projects in rural communities and encourage mergers between small and large hospitals.

Overdose Prevention: The budget included funding and authorizations to help save lives by allowing Narcan to be administered by trained school employees if an emergency overdose situation takes place at a school.

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