In an effort to prevent drastic cuts in bus service in Nassau County for more than 100,000 seniors, commuters, residents and disabled riders, New York State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., who represents Farmingdale and Massapequa in the Senate announced on March 30 that he and his colleagues in the Nassau County State Senate delegation have allocated $2.3 million in the State Senate Budget resolution to help close the MTA LI Bus budget gap. This funding will come in addition to the $700,000 proposed by Governor Pataki. The Nassau senators are confident that their funding will be incorporated into the 2000-01 New York State Budget.
Senator Fuschillo is joined by (left to right) Dr. James Shuart, president, Hofstra University; Dr. Valerie Collins, acting president, Molloy College; Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos; and Dr. Sean Fannelli, president, Nassau Community College.
"In cooperation with Governor Pataki, the Nassau County State Senate delegation has pulled together in a teamed effort to restore funding for the 100,000 daily riders who utilize Long Island Bus Service," Fuschillo said. "Long Island Bus provides a great benefit to all Nassau residents and for many is the only means of transportation to get to grocery stores, doctor appointments, pharmacies, school, work or visit loved ones."
Because of the devastating effect of this service reduction on seniors and working families throughout Nassau county, Fuschillo and the Nassau County State Senate Delegation met on numerous occasions with Neil Yellin, president, MTA LI Bus to discuss the budget shortfall. Recently, Mr. Yellin developed a $9 million deficit reduction plan that requested a $3 million contribution each from Nassau County, the MTA, and New York State. Pursuant to the plan, it is hoped the remaining $6 million budget deficit will be jointly absorbed by Nassau County and the MTA.
In 1999, Nassau County provided 25 percent of Long Island Bus' budget, while 25 percent was derived from New York State transportation funds, 41 percent from fare box revenues, and 5 percent from the federal government. The 1973 agreement between Nassau County and the MTA that created Long Island bus does not require MTA funding.
Although Long Island Bus has operated with a budget deficit since the beginning of the year, Nassau County recently announced that it would reduce its contribution to the system by an additional $7 million in the current fiscal year, impacting approximately 40 of the 53 routes currently served. As a result, it has been estimated that total service would be reduced by approximately 40 percent. This includes the complete elimination of 23 routes, or the loss of service for 20 percent of the system's riders, amounting to approximately 20,000 people daily.
Currently, ridership on Long Island Bus is at a 10 year high averaging 103,000 riders on a daily basis. This is an increase of about 20 percent since early 1998. MTA Long Island Bus serves 96 communities, 47 Long Island Rail Road stations, five Queens subway stations, most colleges and universities, employment centers and major shopping malls across Long Island.
"With over 70 percent of its passengers using Long Island Bus for transportation to and from school and work, the importance of comprehensive bus service to Nassau County residents and our local economy cannot be questioned," Fuschillo said. "In addition, any reduction in the Able-Ride program would be devastating to disabled riders that have no other means of transportation."
Senator Fuschillo also announced that he has been appointed to the Senate Transportation Committee by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
"Senator Fuschillo is a rising star in the Senate because he has worked hard to represent his constituents in Nassau and Suffolk Counties," Senator Bruno said. "I value his input on a broad range of issues and feel that he is an excellent choice to serve on the Transportation Committee."
"I sought an appointment to the committee because transportation is a major concern to the people of Long Island," Senator Fuschillo said. "Whether it's commuters on the Long Island Expressway or the Long Island Rail Road, families going shopping or people driving to our beaches, everyday the quality of our highways and mass transit affects people's lives.
"As a member of the Transportation Committee, I look forward to working with Committee Chairman Senator Caesar Trunzo (Brentwood) to improve the state's transportation infrastructure, not only on Long Island, but throughout the state."
"Senator Fuschillo will be a tremendous addition to the Transportation Committee," Senator Trunzo said. "There is a lot happening in terms of transportation projects and funding, especially as we negotiate the new budget, and I'm excited to have him aboard."
Senator Fuschillo recently hosted a press conference at Molloy College and outlined his plan to make college tuition 100 percent tax deductible. Senator Fuschillo was joined by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (9th Senate District - Rockville Centre); Dr. Valerie Collins, acting president, Molloy College; Dr. James Shuart, president, Hofstra University; and Dr. Sean Fannelli, president, Nassau Community College.
Senator Fuschillo's plan is a comprehensive package designed to make college more affordable to more families throughout Long Island and New York State and includes making college tuition 100 percent tax deductible. It also increases the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award, expands the current TAP income eligibility limit, and establishes financial incentives that encourage public service and academic excellence. When fully implemented, his plan will benefit over 800,000 students and their families.
According to Senator Fuschillo, the cost of a college education has risen to five times that of 20 years ago. However, wages and college aid have not kept pace. This has imposed undue financial pressure on thousands of students and their parents and, in too many cases, has precluded children from receiving the tools necessary to compete in the modern workplace. Through the Fuschillo plan, the typical New York State family earning $35,000 with a child in private college will receive a combined tax and tuition savings of $4,469 a year. The same family with a child attending SUNY will save $3,050.
"Passage of this proposal to make college tuition 100 percent tax deductible and increase TAP will open doors of opportunity for thousand of students throughout Long Island and the state," Senator Fuschillo said. "By making college tuition more affordable, we will further build upon the state's leading reputation of enrolling students in higher education and in producing future leaders of our nation."
As contained in his plan, New York would become the first state in the nation to allow families to deduct 100 percent of college tuition costs. Further, this deduction will apply to all New York State residents, as it includes families with children attending both in and out-of-state schools.
The Fuschillo proposal revolutionizes the state's Tuition Assistance Program by increasing the maximum grant amount from $4,125 to $5,000 a year and extends eligibility to more families by increasing the current income limit from $50,000 to $80,000 of net income (after deductions). His plan will also strengthen the TAP program by increasing award amounts for the first time since 1990 and broaden program eligibility by 20 percent - adjusting the current income standards to account for inflation and, ultimately, increase TAP participation from 250,000 to 300,000 students.
The final component of the Fuschillo package established financial reward incentives for high school juniors and seniors that maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and for those who engage in public service activities. These incentives, with a maximum of $340 can be received in addition to the maximum TAP award.
"I applaud the Fuschillo plan for taking bold action to help students and their families meet the financial demands of receiving a college education," said Dr. James Shuart, president, Hofstra University. "The Senators' plan will help thousands of students across New York State prepare themselves to meet the demands and challenges of life."
The Fuschillo plan further builds upon the Senate's continuing commitment to make a college education more affordable. As initiated in September of 1998, New York's College Choice Tuition Savings Program has already assisted 84,000 New York State families to save over $360 million. In addition the Senate has also worked to eliminate the sales tax assessed on text books and restore millions of dollars in budget cuts to the TAP program and in Bundy aid.