CHEEKTOWAGA – Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul spent Wednesday morning in Cheektowaga celebrating new air routes at the airport, speaking of the Governor’s budget at town hall, and glad-handing seniors at the town’s senior center.
Ms. Hochul’s busy morning started at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at 9 am to celebrate Frontier Airlines’ inaugural flights to Austin, Denver, and Raleigh-Durham.
Frontier Airlines began service to four destinations this past December and quickly expanded their routes making them the only carrier to service the Austin and Raleigh-Durham routes.
Later in the morning, she stopped by town hall to present the state’s 2019 budget to town leaders and community stakeholders. Highlights of the budget include an additional $1 billion investment in education bringing the total investment to $26.7 billion; calls for a reduction in taxes on the middle class; and the establishment of a first-in-the-nation $100 million Opioid stewardship fund which will be paid by the pharmaceutical industry.
“We’re going after the pharmaceuticals saying you need to help us pay because we now have a generation of people who may take a long time to get through recovery and when they get through we’re going to be there to help them, and we’ll continue to support them, but this is a very costly proposition for the taxpayers of New York. You have to own up because you made obscene profits on peddling these addicted drugs, said Ms. Hochul.
The state budget also continues a multi-year $2.5 billion investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure – money critical to assist the town with the DEC consent order regarding wastewater entering Scajaquada Creek.
“This is an old part of the country. The infrastructure is decrepit. We have to make the investments now because we cannot afford a Flint Michigan or anything else because we did not have the political willpower to make the investments now,” added Ms. Hochul.
Following the budget presentation, Ms. Hocul joined Assemblymember Monica Wallace and Supervisor Diane Benczkowski at the town’s seniors center to announce state funding for senior programs and the establishment of the Secure Choice Savings Retirement Program.
“I think overall seniors did well in our 2018-2019 budget,” said Assemblymember Monica Wallace.
She is a member of the Assembly Committee on Aging and advocates for Western New York seniors.
“We allocated $31.2 million for the Community Services for the Elderly program which supports personal care, home-delivered meals like Meals-on-Wheels, transportation, and senior centers like this one here,” added Ms. Wallace.
Other state funding for seniors includes $250,000 for the Older Adult Technology Center; $100,000 for a statewide senior patient rights hotline; and $86,000 for the Foundations for Senior Citizens Home Sharing and Respite Program.
“Cheektowaga has a very high population of seniors. This is where my in-laws live. My husband is from here. It’s a community I know very well so their needs continue to be significant,” said Ms. Hochul.
The Secure Choice Savings Retirement Program would create a voluntary payroll deduction to help New Yorkers save for retirement who might not be able to otherwise. Employee contributions would be managed by a professional investment firm overseen by the state, and each employee would own their IRA — and could take it to any new job. Businesses wouldn’t have any responsibility outside of setting up the automatic payroll deduction and would not match employees’ contributions.
“Women have to work an extra four months a year in order to obtain the same salary that men do because of the wage gap,” said Ms. Hochul. “That is significant and when a woman age 65 she has over her lifetime earned 44% less than a man and has less for retirement.”
Following the announcement Mesdames Hochul, Wallace, and Benczkowski toured the senior center greeting residents attending a luncheon.