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Governor’s budget reforms Medicaid, pension system, boosts education aid some

— Education

I was pleased to hear the plan to increase school aid. School districts are still reeling from the two previous budgets, which significantly cut state aid. The Governor’s budget proposes an overall 4 percent increase in state aid. Some districts have stated this increase will not help in their overall operating aid and they'll still be finding ways to trim their budgets. To find a report on how the Governor's proposed budget will affect local districts, visit stateaid.nysed.gov/output_reports.htm. Type in your district's name on the left hand side of the page for this report. This report breaks the budget categories down so taxpayers can see how dollars are spent. According to superintendents, a percentage of the increase in aid will go to pay for state mandates associated with transportation, students with disabilities and BOCES.

Pension Reform

A new Tier VI is being proposed. This is a big step toward real budget reform and is expected to save the state billions of dollars over a period of time. The Governor estimates a savings of $83 billion over the next 30 years. New York City estimates a savings of $30 billion over the same time period.

With the proposed Tier VI, those hired after April 1, 2012 would have the choice to (a.) opt into a defined benefit system with a retirement option or (b.) opt into a defined contribution option, which would offer public employees a 401(k) style retirement benefit, similar to plans found in the private sector. Employees who opt for the 401(k) style contribution plan would be able to transfer their benefits, even after being employed just one year. This is a big change in the way government employees are currently managed. With this new proposal, we're enabling public employees to take their pensions with them if they choose another career or another employer.

This budget sets the tone for negotiations going forward. While more work needs to be done, I'm hopeful the process will be transparent and that the full Legislature will be involved in negotiations rather than just three men in a room.

Assemblyman Will Barclay represents residents of Assembly District 124, which includes Lysander. He can be reached by mail at 200 North Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by phone (598-5185).

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