New York State Civil Service Commission President Jerry Boone presented Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal at Herkimer County Community College on Friday afternoon.
According to Boone, the core elements of the budget are to attract jobs and encourage economic growth, continue fiscal integrity and discipline, create a world class educational system and better prepare the new generation, restore the NY Progressive Program and rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.
“There seems to be a shortage of primary health care providers needed for care in schools. As a nurse practitioner I believe we need to think more about providing health care, as well as exercise, and practicing a healthy lifestyle by choosing healthier foods in school,” said Bridget McKinley, of Ilion. “Right now it seems as if there aren’t enough physicians to take care of people, especially with Obama Care, and it could make a difference by taking advantage of health care at a younger age.”
Boone said early education helps students academically and it makes sense that it could also benefit their lifestyle choices. As part of the 2013 - 2014 budget proposal, pre-kindergarten is a component that is thought to be important to education. “Research findings showed that students who attended pre-kindergarten programs were 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school,” said Boone.
“With the new Obama Care reform I receive assistance and I have to travel an hour away to get the health benefits my family needs, and the quality received is very minimal,” said Sarah Johnston, a mother of four from Ilion with two children in elementary school and two in high school. “Yes, I have health care, but it’s not quality care.” To address the issue Johnston suggested the state re-consider the type of care offered through the Obama Care reform.
“People have to recognize that Obama Care is a federal law. The law is not perfect and through feedback from the so-called average citizen the plan could be improved in the future to better meet the needs of the public,” said Boone.
He recommended Johnston talk to her county legislator to better address the issue.
Herkimer County Administrator Jim Wallace spoke to Johnston and said he would try to find her a solution. Wallace also had some suggestions regarding the budget proposal.
“When it comes to the voting process there is no reason why the state and the federal government can’t get together for the primaries,” said Wallace. “Last year we had three elections and it cost the county money. If someone can’t vote on election day in this area it’s not a problem, they just fill out an absentee ballot and send it in. By having one big vote we could see an increase of five to 10 percent more voters. It’s just easier for everyone.”
Page 2 of 2 - Wallace also said the minimum wage increase should be done federally. Currently minimum wage is $7.75 an hour and the new budget proposes to raise minimum wage to $8.75 an hour.
“The last time minimum wage changed the Lasalle Lamps factory in Little Falls went out of business. This could give one more reason for other factories to leave, causing harm to other local businesses,” he said. “We have to keep Remington Arms and when we have to fight costs it becomes another issue.”
Boone said the new budget hopes to bring in new businesses, not push the current ones out of the area. “The governor is sensitive to concerns regarding Remington Arms and his administration has been in touch and had dialogue with factory,” he said.
Herkimer County Community College President Dr. Ann Marie Murray brought up the recent lack in state aid from the state for community colleges. HCCC is part of the Association of SUNY and CUNY community colleges that were created on a model of one-third funding each from the state, local sponsors and students. “For the past 18 years the state has fallen below the original one-third commitment,” she said. “For the 2012 - 2013 college fiscal year the budgeted average state share for community colleges is 25.6 percent, or $2,382 per full-time equivalent student, including all categorical aids. Currently the state-wide average student share is budgeted at 43.9 percent, or $4,086 per full-time equivalent student, with a range of 25.3 percent to 55.7 percent for SUNY.”
“To get the state back to the statutory one-third share and further reduce the reliance on student tuition, SUNY is proposing a $260 increase for 2013 - 2014 and then $205 for each of the next three years,” she added. “We can solve this problem, but we need help stepping up to the plate.”