The New York State Senate has approved the 2005-06 public protection and general government budget legislation (S.550E, S.3666) that includes a $57 million increase in aid to localities and would continue the operation of several correctional facilities, including Camp Pharsalia in Chenango County and the Greene Correctional Special Housing Unit in Coxsackie.
"This legislation will restore and add funding to areas of the budget that are critically important to the safety and well-being of every New Yorker, including funds for law enforcement, corrections, and homeland security," said Senator Seward. "In addition, this legislation provides much needed aid to local governments and government agencies throughout the state, including new aid for Little Falls and Ithaca."
PUBLIC PROTECTION AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT HIGHLIGHTS
The 2005-06 public protection and general government legislation provides the following:
> Local Assistance -- The budget increases aid to local governments by $57 million over last year. The Senate successfully fought for a 3.75 percent aid increase for towns and villages along with a minimum increase of $500 to ensure each locality receives a reasonable hike in aid. The budget combines all the existing revenue sharing programs into one, so there is no longer a separate category for supplemental municipal aid (a.k.a. distressed aid). The budget increases aid to all cities aid by 12.75 percent. Included in the base aid amount is $100,000 to each of the seven cities (Glens Falls, Little Falls, Watervliet, Saratoga Springs, Sherrill, Rye, and Ithaca) that do not currently receive the additional funding (Supplemental Municipal AID) that all other cities receive.
"This year’s budget responds to local governments’ need to control property tax growth," said Senator Betty Little (R,C,I-Queensbury), chair of the Local Government Committee. "Increased aid to cities, towns and villages, combined with speeding up the state takeover of Family Health Plus and capping the growth of local Medicaid costs, provides substantial relief for counties and local municipalities. I’m also very pleased that we’ve been able to increase from $1.9 million last year to $3.3 million this year the reimbursement for lost property taxes due to the 480, 480-a forest tax program."
> Department of Correctional Services -- Provides $1.8 million for the proposed closure of the Groveland Annex Correctional Facility and $500,000 for the proposed closure of the Greene Special Housing Unit (SHU). In addition, the legislature provides $7 million for Camp Pharsalia, $6 million for Camp Mt. McGregor, $6.7 million for Fulton, and $400,000 for the Watertown SHU. These facilities were scheduled to close 90 days after the enactment of the 2005-06 state budget, but these funds will allow them to remain open.
The budget also requires the commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services to provide an annual report containing detailed information related to the staffing of correctional facilities, and would require one year prior of any closure of a correctional facility and calls for the Department to undertake certain actions prior to the closure.
> Division of Criminal Justice Services -- The legislature denies the executive's proposal to merge the Department of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (DPCA) with the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). The legislature also denies the $3 million proposed funding for the Automated Speed Enforcement Program. This rejection is in line with the legislature's rejection of the proposal to implement automated photo monitoring at work zones, dangerous stretches of highways and a local authorization for additional red light cameras.
The legislature amends the executive's proposal which authorized the DCJS to post information regarding all registered sex offenders on the Internet and to annually update photos for all registered sex offenders. The Legislature proposes to annually update photos for level three offenders, and to update photos for level one and two offenders every three years. This proposal, and other proposed revisions to Megan's Law, will be discussed between the respective houses after the enactment of the state budget.
> Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence -- The legislature concurs with the executive's All Funds request of $2.4 million and restores $210,000 in funding for Battering Prevention Programs.