Advocacy Report: April 2015 from Mike Neppl, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy
Early on the morning of April 1st, the New York State Senate and Assembly finished voting on the final pieces of this year’s state budget. Despite an atypical process, beginning with the Governor’s combined State of the State and Executive Budget presentation, through the arrest and resignation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, installation of a new Speaker in Carl Heastie, and a pitched battle of education funding and reforms, New York’s library community can claim a very successful budget outcome. Though library funding is still short of what the law mandates, we achieved several victories, and made tremendous progress in visibility and messaging strategy. The budget includes a hard-won $5 million increase in library system aid – the largest year-to-year increase in seven years. Also included are $14 million for the library construction aid program, a $1.3 million offset for library systems subject to the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax (MTA Payroll Tax), and a permanent exemption from the MTA Payroll Tax going forward.
Library System Aid
Library aid for FY 2015-16 will be $91.6M, a $5 million increase over what the Governor proposed in his Executive Budget. The $5 million dollar appropriation is the largest since 2007, and the largest year-to-year increase in seven years. Though this still leaves state library aid $10M less than the funding mandated in state education law, the aid increase we received this year is evidence that our messaging is being heard in Albany. Our state’s libraries and library systems are at the core of our state’s education infrastructure, and thanks to your dedicated advocacy efforts, our partners in the state legislature increasingly recognize the role our libraries play. This year, library aid increased in proportion to the increase in education aid. Though we certainly will not be satisfied with anything less than full funding under the law, our ability to better tell the story of what libraries bring to each community has put us on a clear path to full funding.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Payroll Tax
The budget contains a $1.3 million offset for those library systems that are subject to the MTA Payroll Tax. More importantly, after fruitlessly fighting for several years for a permanent exemption, thereby placing libraries on equal footing with other educational institutions, we were finally able to win the exemption in this year’s budget. This ends a needless administrative headache for libraries and library systems in the MTA service area; no longer will public libraries and systems in the MTA service area have to worry that the tax will increase, the timing of the reimbursement, or whether the reimbursement will remain a part of the annual budget. The exemption further recognizes that our partners in the legislature increasingly see libraries and library systems as part of our state’s educational infrastructure.
Library Construction Aid
State construction aid continues to be $14M. Heading into this year’s budget, the Board of Regents recommended a 20% increase in construction aid, or $2.8M. We recognize that even this increase in available funding is inadequate to address the capital needs of our state’s libraries. We will continue to work with the Board of Regents and our elected officials to address how we can better fund this program.