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From The Desk Of Senator Jack Martins: April 17, 2014

The Budget Top 10

Alas, after 21 years of keeping us in good spirits and good company with his “Late Show” humor, David Letterman announced his retirement this past week.  In his honor, I’ll share highlights from our state’s new budget in Letterman style with a “Top 10” countdown entitled: Top 10 — I mean 12 — reasons to like the new, New York State budget

12. This year’s budget is the fourth, consecutive, on-time budget we’ve delivered. That hasn’t happened in nearly four decades. For a little historical perspective, that’s further back than the Knicks’ last championship. (Sorry. I couldn’t help it.)

11. Moody’s Investors Service wasn’t so moody after all. They rated the new budget a “credit positive.”

10. Knowing full well that our local hospitals are about to get pummeled by the federal government’s health care policies, we dedicated $1 billion to help them maintain their infrastructures.

9. We took over county Medicaid payments, saving Nassau County taxpayers $80.6 million over the next four years.

8. A record $162 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund will help ensure clean air and water and protect our open spaces.

7. We added new “Extreme Winter Weather Assistance” funding to fill those extreme potholes Mother Nature left us this past winter. Overall, Nassau County and her towns, cities, and villages will receive over $20.6 million through this funding and the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program to repair our local roads.

6. Our Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) will cover the prescription drugs of more seniors. Income eligibility is expanded from $35,000 to $75,000 for singles and from $50,000 to $100,000 for married seniors. “Epic” is a pretty accurate description.

5. Taxpayers won’t be forced to pay college tuition for inmates. Governor Cuomo’s “Attica University” plan will receive funding from interested nonprofits and foundations instead.

4. We enacted a $1.5 billion real property tax rebate to provide homeowners with direct property tax relief.

3. We established a record setting $3.4 billion in funding for the STAR property tax relief program.

2. We provided more school aid — a 5.3 percent increase over last year. That means a total of $2.6 billion in assistance to our Long Island children! And for those of us fighting the Common Core, we extracted some reforms before the budget could go forward:

• No standardized tests for students in Pre-K through grade two.

• The state assessment test scores for grades three through eight will not be recorded on a student’s permanent record through 2018.

• School districts cannot make any student promotion or placement decision based solely on the assessment tests for grades three through eight.

• New limits on the amount of time spent on state assessment tests, locally developed standardized testing, and test preparation.

• Privacy protection for personally identifiable information and a parents bill of rights for privacy and security.

• A halt to the state’s relationship with inBloom.

And last but not least...

 1. For four years running, we kept spending increases to less than two percent and delivered a fiscally responsible budget with absolutely no new taxes or fees.

To be sure, no one got everything they wanted and there’s unquestionably more work to be done. The good news is that balanced government, Democrats in the Assembly and Republicans in the Senate, negotiated to produce tangible results for you, our constituents.

One of my favorite Letterman bits, besides Stupid Pet Tricks, was his infamous Will it Float? in which random objects were dropped by two models into a tank of water in pursuit of scientific enlightenment. With all of the great things included, there is no question that this budget “floats.”

News

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com