State Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference and co-leader of the state Senate, called the Editorial Board to tout the passage of the 2013-2014 state budget (on time, or early even, for the third straight year) and talk about what’s to come when the Legislature returns April 15. Here’s a few tidbits:
On the budget, and the choices made, Klein said, “It’s always difficult when you’re making choices on a budget. … like a family around a kitchen table.”
The senator, whose district includes parts of the Bronx and a bit of Yonkers, said he stands by the $350 middle-class family rebate, which will be issued to families with children under 18. He said that 65,00 Westchester families would quality, putting “$22.8 million right back into” the economy; 20,210 families in Rockland would get a share of $7.1 million, Klein said. He said that it’s in part to make up for the other hits families have taken — the MTA payroll tax, for example, to help supplement the rising costs of daycare, or for higher medical bills.
Klein said he wasn’t happy with the $90 million in cuts to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, which will likely lower reimbursements to nonprofits that provide services to people with developmental disabilities. Klein noted that the Senate got the cuts down from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget plan, which had $120 million in cuts. He called the OPWDD cuts “one of the downsides of this budget.” He added: “I don’t think this issue is over yet, I think we should get creative.”
Klein also highlighted tax credits for businesses hiring veterans, and the minimum wage increase, that will be phased in from the current $7.25 a hour to $9 an hour by 2016.
As for the next steps, Klein, agreed that campaign finance reform needed quick attention. He said he supports a system similar to New York City’s, which offers matches for small contributions, but that the state will have different issues to wade through.
Klein’s IDC includes five members who now share power in the Senate with the Republicans, in a “coalition” government. The other breakaway Democratic senators who make up the IDC are David Carlucci of New City, whose district includes most of Rockland County then jumps over the river to encompass Ossining; Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Valesky of Oneida and Malcolm Smith of Queens.
Above: Republican Frank Vernuccio Jr., left, and Democratic state Sen. Jeffrey Klein during an editorial board interview in 2010. (File photo by The Journal News)