The Narrowing... On Budgets & Holidays
So a new state budget's arrived just in time for Passover and Easter. Sing hallelujah!
Okay, it was almost a week late. We'd grouch but remember, quite clearly, when the process ran months late regularly. Also, we recall when the process was much more opaque than it is now, and much more brutal in terms of the bullying involved in ensuring certain matters got covered... or not.
What's the big takeaway so far? The added funds for school aid seems to be getting applause from all quarters. So are new efforts being made to ensure clean water after a year when surprise difficulties arose in this most fundamental of expected rights. Taxes will drop some, especially for STAR-eligible property owners and care workers. There'll be more money for infrastructure and economic development projects, and further funding for our growing Upstate battles against heroin addiction and other forms of opioid abuse.
Ride sharing will move up into the Hudson Valley, for good or bad. It's hoped that a new "Farm-to-Food-Bank" allowing farmers to claim a tax credit for donations to food banks will pump up what's available to those going hungry. More will be available, through tax credits, for child care.
Where's the controversy? That hike in the age for trying young people as adults, from 16 to 18 like the rest of the nation, still has its opponents. But it's now the law. The so-called "millionaire's tax" irks some, too, although not as many elsewhere in the nation.
Biggest, on the still-battling side, is also the item drawing the most attention around the nation, and globe: The governor's usurpation of candidate Bernie Sanders' idea to make college education free for all who want it in state and city colleges and universities. Sure, that one comes with all sorts of caveats, from its $125,000 max income to grade levels and a GOP-required stipulation that those using the new Excelsior scholarships stay in the state for four years following their graduation (How's that going to be enforced, we wonder). But it draws wide attention to the quality inherent in our SUNY system, as well as the continuing need for secondary education for many of our best and brightest.
Is it a perfect budget? Of course not; there may not be such a thing. But it represents a strong step forward on many fronts, as well as a good bit of negotiation and compromise on many parts. We'll be looking more closely into its various parts in the coming weeks, but also glancing (as all in Albany are doing now) at what transpires with our President's loud budget proposal down in D.C. Fasten your seatbelts!
Being of a diverse family and background, we observe and revere both holidays taking place this week, albeit in our own way. We always look forward to Ellenville's awe-inspiring Good Friday Procession, previewed inside these pages, and will visit family for Easter Sunday, where we'll make my mom a feast after hiding some eggs and other goodies for our son, who's not yet ready to give up on Easter Bunny dreams.
On Monday we went to a friend's seder, where he read a number of his family's own individual takes on the haggadah and honored his father by handing him a beautiful description of the eternal meaning of Passover he'd written decades ago. All were touched.
Best of all, and most surprising, was my friend's analysis and questioning at the end of the discussion before our meal. What, he asked, was the meaning of "the narrowing," which he said was the translation of one of the Passover story's key concepts.
We pondered the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, and then the generation lost wandering a desert. The elders at the table spoke about how harsh the traditional God was. My wife spoke about how we need to sometimes wait a generation or two to overcome trauma and reach new understanding. My kid spoke about things being like tests.
My friend noted that the outcome of the Passover story, as with that involved in Easter, had to do with the acceptance of laws, of communal understandings to make life better. Such understanding took time, he said.
That, he added, was what a "narrowing" was about... just like a birth canal.
Have a great weekend!