Brooklyn, NY – Calling it “historic” and “a bold first step to reform New York” State Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) has come out in praise of this year 2007-2008 State budget passed by state legislators last week. In particular, the Brooklyn Senator pointed out “the record investments in education, health care and affordable housing and targeted tax relief for middle class families and businesses” as welcomed opportunities for all New Yorkers to make a better life for themselves.

“What we did this year was make sure our dollars were spent wisely and continue a reform agenda that will make our government more efficient and accountable to the people,” said Senator Parker. “That means record education aid increases that are tied to academic performance, Medicaid reform that will improve patient care, tax relief for middle class families and businesses, and investments in affordable housing, the environment and transportation that will improve our quality of life.”

Looking at the education component of the budget which was passed overwhelmingly, Senator Parker it was by every measure historic as it provides record school aid increases for underfunded and over-taxed school districts while ensuring that dollars go directly to classrooms for proven, results-driven student achievement strategies.

As a whole, New York State's school aid increases by $1.7 billion over last year’s mark, raising the total to $19.2 billion for 2007-08, including $5.5 billion in fair and sufficient funding for New York City schools. Senator Parker said these numbers more than meet the New York Court of Appeals ruling in the Campaign For Fiscal Equity (CFE) case in which the state's highest court ordered that the state ensure a “sound basic education” for New York City schools.

“High-needs schools, which have been shortchanged for years because of insider political dealing during past budget negotiations, will now get the resources needed to provide the best education possible,” said Senator Parker. This package is good for city schools desperately in need of resources as well as suburban and rural districts where homeowners have been subjected to punishing local tax burdens.

“We have finally begun the process of moving to funding schools based on student needs, not political power,” Senator Parker added. “This year, we created a new Foundation aid formula, limiting the role of politics from the equation and targeting high-needs school districts as the fundamental consideration in funding decisions. This budget is the beginning of a transforming process in how we fund our schools,” he said.

Senator Parker also supported raising the cap on charter schools from 100 to 200, half of which will be in New York City.

On the issue of healthcare, the Senator was particular pleased with the way our health care reforms were included in the final budget. This included restoring $355 million in cuts to local hospitals and nursing homes. “We have begun a slow process of reducing the rate of growth of Medicaid, adding the False Claims Act to root out fraud, and redirecting our resources to primary and preventive care where it is most needed.

According to Senator Parker, to him, one of the most exciting aspects of the healthcare reform package was the passage of a False Claims Act. “This initiative lets citizens with evidence of Medicaid fraud go after perpetrators suing to recover stolen funds. Citizens would then be rewarded a portion of the claims recovered. This legislation, which has been adopted in 17 other states as well as New York City and Chicago, has proved to be hugely effective in fighting Medicaid fraud.”

Saying “New York State is making a down payment on its future,” State Senator Parker also praised a series of individual and business tax cuts enacted by the Legislature, including a $1.3 billion property tax rebate, that will make the State a more affordable place to live and do business.

“For far too long, New York’s residents and businesses have been saddled with the highest combined taxes in the country. With these tax cuts, we have begun the process of turning this state around,” Senator Parker said.