Advocacy Report: April 2014 from Mike Neppl, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy
Budget season in Albany officially ended on March 31st, as Governor Cuomo signed the Article VIIs and Appropriations bills into law. The state budget represents a vast improvement over Governor Cuomo's proposed Executive Budget, but also a failure on the part of our elected leaders to adequately address several inequitable realities faced by the library community. The budget includes a hard-won $5 million increase in library system aid. This far outpaces proposed library funding form both the Governor and Assembly, and not only restores the Governor's $4 million cut, but continues to move state library aid along the path to full funding under the law. Also included, is $14 million for the state library construction aid program, and $1.3 million offset for library systems subject to the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax.
Library System Aid
Library aid for FY 2014-15 will be $86.627 million after the $5 million legislative add restored the Governor's $4 million cut. The $5 million dollar appropriation is the largest since 2007, and the second largest in well over a decade. Unfortunately, this still leaves state library system aid more than 15% less than what is required by law and close to 1997 levels. In a year where Governor Cuomo touts a 5.3% increase in state education funding, state library funding increased 1.2%. Our state's libraries are core pieces of our state's educational infrastructure and must be included in annual education funding increases. Through the long-overdue move towards universal Pre-K, the Governor and Legislature acknowledge the importance of exposing children to educational opportunities early in life. Our state's libraries have long served this role, and will continue to provide these opportunities to all children, particularly those still too young for Pre-K.
Library Construction Aid
State construction aid continues to be $14 million. Libraries throughout New York State have undertaken crucial construction and maintenance projects through this fund, particularly in areas devastated by storms over the last several years. Currently, the program requires that eligible projects will be funded with only a 75%-25% match from the local qualifying library. However, this program will revert to a 50%-50% match in March 2015 unless the legislature acts to extend the program. Many small libraries that serve as the core of their community have difficulty even managing the 25% match for critical infrastructure projects. This program extension was not contained in the budget, but the Senate has already passed this extension. We expect the Assembly to pass this bill and for the Governor to sign it during the remainder of the legislative session.
MTA Payroll Tax
The budget contains a $1.3 million offset for those library systems that are subject to the MTA Payroll Tax. Inexplicably, a proposal in the Senate budget resolution to put libraries on equal footing with other educational institutions by exempting them from the tax did not make it into the enacted budget. This is simply unacceptable. The current reimbursement is based on years-old numbers, and actual taxes paid have outpaced the reimbursement for several years. In light of repeated pronouncements on tax policy, the Governor has apparently decided that taxing public libraries is a justifiable source of state revenue. We call for immediate passage of a bill that exempts public libraries and library systems from this inequitable tax.