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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

State Sen. Rob Ortt
ALBANY — State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said the 2015-2016 New York State Budget passed Tuesday includes several of Ortt’s Western New York priorities.

Ortt pointed to key measures he said will strengthen education, economic development, and veterans’ services.

“This budget will help create jobs, fund education, and relieve local taxpayers,” Ortt said via a press release early this morning. “That’s what matters most to me – improving our ailing economy, upgrading our infrastructure, increasing aid to local schools that have been constrained by budget cuts, and helping our working class families, farms, and small businesses overburdened with taxes and regulations.”

Ortt pointed out that the budget was on time for the fifth consecutive year, which helps maintain the state’s high credit score. It was also held under the spending cap that applies to school districts and local governments. Ortt said that despite high-profile education negotiations, he was pleased with the finished product.

“This budget increases state education aid by over $1.4 billion across the state and approximately $25 million in my district,” Ortt said. “It eliminates most of the disastrous Gap Elimination Adjustment, which will save our local schools nearly $18 million. We’re helping our students by reducing over-testing and protecting our kids by kicking convicted, violent offenders out of the classroom.”

The compact wasn't perfect, though, Ortt said. “I also think it was important to take a stand against some of the Governor’s more extreme proposals base teacher performance evaluations 50 percent on testing or refuse necessary funding increases without dramatic overhauls of the system. It was also critical to fight back against a progressive agenda that wanted to provide tax-payer tuition assistance to illegal immigrants, while so many hard-working New York families struggle to put themselves or their children through college.”

The freshman senator said he prioritized Upstate infrastructure needs when entering budget negotiations. He was optimistic regarding the budget’s investments in Upstate transportation, including $50 million for CHIPS funding, $250 million for Department of Transportation needs, and $25 million for Upstate transit networks such as the NFTA.

He pointed to several additional measures that he believes will strengthen the Western New York economy, including extension of the Brownfield Tax Credit Program, agriculture assistance, infrastructure investments, as well as measures to help small businesses.

“The Western New York economy is unique from other areas of the state, so I fought hard to make sure our concerns were not only heard, but addressed,” said Ortt. “I would argue that most recent economic development projects we’ve seen across our region can be attributed to the brownfield tax credit, which is why its ten year extension is so important. With low property values and high cleanup costs, the tax credit helps revitalize properties that otherwise would generally remain contaminated and abandoned.

“The other key element of local economic development is assisting our small business community,” Ortt said. “These businesses operate on the margins and have been struggling to adjust to the state’s recent increase in the minimum wage. They simply cannot afford another New York City driven effort to raise the minimum wage without killing Western New York jobs.”

Ortt noted that he also worked to ensure that Niagara, Orleans, and Monroe County agriculture continues to thrive. The final budget includes millions in additional funding for growing apple, berry, dairy, hops and barley, Christmas tree, wine and grape, and maple producers.

“Key to this year’s budget is record funding and a market-driven approach to not only sustain, but to invigorate agriculture, Ortt said. “We provide key research, cost-cutting, and education programs to increase supply. Additionally, through dedicated advertising and expanding markets, we will also stimulate demand. These measures will help our family farms by helping to ensure that agricultural products are grown locally and demanded globally, for generations to come.”

A member of the Army National Guard who served in Afghanistan, Ortt also laid out veterans’ priorities and millions in additional funding for service members.

“My greatest honor was fighting for my country as a member of the Army National Guard,” he said. “It’s now my honor to fight for our heroic men and women who served our country as a State Senator.”

This year’s budget expands the Joseph P. Dywer program across the state and will provide peer-to-peer counseling services in Niagara County. It also invests significant research and development for post-traumatic stress treatment and support affecting soldiers who have returned from service. Due to the unique challenges many veterans face, the budget also sets aside important services to veterans needing legal support.

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1 comment:

  1. Please, people, wake up! These measures of giving money back to education are only meant to placate those who can not or will not look further. As a teacher, these provisions do not reduce testing of our kids. Rather, they place more emphasis on these tests as 50% of my evaluation. The assessments are flawed. They are not developmentally appropriate. Educational gurus have always referred to them as "snapshots", although they are continuing to be used to develop a comprehensive picture of a child's ability and a teacher's craft. As for more money being returned to the school districts? Those monies will have to fund previously unfunded mandates as well as the outside evaluators who must come in, uninformed about my classroom, my kids and the culture of a building and judge my worthiness as a teacher. These, people, do not come free and must be paid for the district, either to the evaluator himself or a subpay for a " highly effective" colleague who must be out of his or her classroom longer. Please, people, wake up! Those budget continues to hurt our children, their education, and their future.


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