by Mike Neppl, NYLA Director of Government Relations & Advocacy
Early on the morning of April 1st, the New York State Legislature voted on the final pieces of this year’s state budget. Heading into this year, we devised a carefully-targeted strategy to approach the formidable task of increasing funding for both of our primary programs – State Library Aid and State Library Construction Aid. While that presented its own challenges, a confluence of controversial issues emerged in the final days and hours of negotiations to dramatically heighten the degree of difficulty. The pitched, protracted public policy battles of prior years were abandoned in favor of quiet, clandestine negotiations on the minimum wage, paid family leave, tax cuts, and cost-shifting measures which remained fluid until the bitter end. Despite the hushed negotiations and opaque process, I am happy to report that the aggressive, resourceful advocacy of our members once again achieved several significant successes.
This year’s budget includes a hard-won $4 million increase in State Library Aid, for total funding of $95.6M - the largest allocation of state aid since FY2008-09. Also included is a $5M increase in the State Library Construction Aid Program, for total funding of $19M. Once again, the budget also includes a $1.3 million offset for public libraries and public library systems subject to the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax (MTA Payroll Tax), and $1M in additional funding, for a total of $7.3M, in adult literacy grants for which public libraries and other educational and community organizations may apply.
Library System Aid
State Library Aid for FY2016-17 will be $95.6M, a $4 million increase over what Governor Cuomo proposed in his Executive Budget. The $4 million dollar appropriation places total State Library Aid at its highest level since FY2008-09. Though this still leaves state library aid $6M less than what NYS Education Law mandates, this third consecutive year of increased aid is evidence that our messaging is being heard in Albany. Since Governor Cuomo’s introduced his January 2014 Executive Budget proposal, we have worked with the state legislature to secure $14M in additional aid - a nearly 20% increase. Over the last two years, it is clear that our partners in the state legislature are hearing our message that libraries are at the core of our state’s educational infrastructure. This year’s 4.3% increase in State Library Aid is in direct proportion to the increase in State School Foundation Aid, and is the second consecutive year library funding was put on par with increases in education funding. Though we certainly will not be satisfied with anything less than full funding under the law – at a minimum -- our ability to better tell the story of what libraries bring to each community has placed us on a clear path to full funding.
Library Construction Aid
State Library Construction Aid for FY2016-17 will be $19M, a $5M increase over the Governor’s budget proposal. This phenomenal victory reverses a decade of stagnant funding and places funding for the program at an historic high. Your advocacy efforts resulted in a truly rare feat in Albany – securing additional funding in the first year it was sought. We have placed this issue squarely on the radar of policymakers statewide, and we will continue to fight for funding increases next year.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Payroll Tax
As you know, last year we were able to secure a permanent exemption for public libraries and public library systems from imposition of the MTA Payroll Tax, effective the First Quarter of 2016. However, because this tax was remitted to NYS in FY2015-16, these libraries required reimbursement for those payments. As such, beginning in FY2017-18, this reimbursement will no longer be included in the state budget.
This year's state budget, an election year budget, produced many challenges. The cumulative effect of your advocacy efforts - letters, phone calls, meetings with legislators, participation in Advocacy Day - made the difference! The success of these efforts ultimately rests with our valued partners in the state legislature who consistently fight on our behalf. I strongly encourage you to send a message of appreciation. Did you know NYLA also has an Advocacy Fund? Your support allows NYLA to amplify our message and be heard in Albany. Donations to NYLA are tax-deductible. To make a donation to NYLA's Advocacy Fund, please click here.
Congratulations to all! On to 2017…