Monthly Column: State Budget: New initiatives to help strengthen our community
By: Michael H. Ranzenhofer
As I outlined in my column last month, the new State Budget gives all Western New Yorkers the opportunity to succeed. However, it does more than just that. The 2014-15 State Budget also implements a new fraud prevention measure to prevent welfare fraud, includes more funding for local road repairs, and delivers real results for seniors.
New fraud prevention measure
New Yorkers have always been willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, but we don’t like seeing taxpayer money being wasted. That is why I am pleased to report that a new fraud prevention measure will help to ensure that public assistance dollars are being used for their intended purpose, instead of being abused and misused.
Under the new rules, Electronic Benefit Transfer cards can no longer be used at:
• Liquor stores and Beverage Centers;
• Casinos and Racetracks; and
• Video Lottery Terminals and Off-Track Betting locations.
More funding for potholes, road damage
The new State Budget allocated an additional $40 million in Extreme Winter Weather Assistance Capital to local municipalities to help repair potholes and road surface damage caused by the harsh winter weather.
While spring is finally here, the aftermath of a brutal winter remains. There are still a significant number of potholes and surface damage all over the roadways. At the same time, the harsh winter has depleted municipalities’ budgets to repair roads. This investment will benefit towns and villages so that new infrastructure repair projects can be undertaken.
In addition, the State Budget provides ways to keep roads and drivers safe. More funding has been allocated towards curtailing dangerous texting-while-driving. Young and new drivers convicted of texting-while-driving will have their license suspended for 120 days for a first-time offense and one year for s second offense.
Delivering real results for seniors
Western New York’s seniors have spent a lifetime in our community, saving for their retirement and preparing for their golden years. Throughout the budget process, I have worked to ensure that programs for the elderly are preserved and improved– for current seniors and retirees of the future.
The new State Budget reflects that commitment by expanding EPIC, New York’s low-prescription drug plan, to cover an additional 25,000 senior citizens. Income eligibility for the program is increased from $35,000 to $75,000 for singles, $50,000 to $100,000 for couples.
The new State Budget also fully funds the Enhanced STAR program, and provides an additional $5 million for the Community Services for the Elderly Program.
Each one of these initiatives will help to improve quality of life for residents. As your State Senator, I will remain committed to ensuring that the decisions made in the State Capital go a long way to help strengthen our community.
Senator Ranzenhofer's Monthly Column appeared in the Amherst and Clarence Bee on May 21st.