State Senate approves $153 billion budget

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NYS Budget

The New York State Senate has passed a $153 billion state budget more than a week after it was due.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the deal late Friday night and it was approved by the State Assembly on Saturday.

Though, a briefing from a senate spokesman says the budget alters the Governor’s original “free college tuition plan”.

According to the Governor’s initial plan, rollout would begin this fall for families who make up to $100,000 per year. Beginning in 2018, free tuition will apply to families that make $110,000 per year, and in 2019, it will apply to families who make $125,000 per year.

More TAP funding will be available.

$19 million was included for a new Enhanced Tuition Award for students at private colleges and universities.

Other measures apply pressure to students to keep up their grades and stay in New York after graduation.

The budget also includes a record level of $26-billion in school aid funding….a billion more than last year.

The Senate rejected a proposal to eliminate the Foundation Aid phase-in.

Ridesharing programs are also coming to Upstate New York. Service like Uber and Lyft will begin in about 90 days.

A recap from a Senate spokesperson says the spending plan stays within the state’s spending cap.

Employers could see millions in savings through changes to workers’ compensation benefits. The budget caps the number of years an injured worker could be eligible for permanent benefits.

Instead of several years of benefits, the budget adopts a 2.5-year plan for workers to claim temporary benefits, with some exceptions.

The idea is expected to significantly cut employer contributions.

New Medical Impairment Guidelines are expected to be issued by the end of the year. The idea behind that change, according to the senate briefing, is to update guidelines for the first time in years, reinterpreting how long it should take patients to heal with modern medicine.

A Prescription drug formulary is slated to give doctors a list of approved medications for injured workers.

Other sections of the budget invest $2.5 billion for clean water and infrastructure improvement programs.

More than $3.15 billion will be used to fund New York’s STAR and Enhanced STAR property tax program. Apparently, systems were put in place to make sure the payments are sent on time.

Another plan by the governor dubbed “raise the age” was reviewed to address concerns with sex crimes and other violent offenses, pushing for them to be handled in Criminal Court. Though, the exact language was unclear late Sunday.

The Governor’s proposal had always called for the age of criminality to be raised to 18 in cases of non-violent crimes. New York has been automatically processing 16 and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, leading critics to say it was setting them up for a life of crime rather than reform.

Stay tuned for more updates as details emerge in the coming weeks.

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