State to Unleash Uber

Increased school aid and free tuition in budget

As anticipated, the New York State budget for the fiscal year 2018, passed on Monday, will remove ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, from local regulation and place them instead under the control of the State Department of Motor Vehicles.

The state will require mandatory background checks for drivers, have a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy, and ongoing monitoring for traffic safety compliance.

The move will make it possible for Uber and others to re-establish themselves in East Hampton Town after being effectively forced out by a taxi-licensing law that required companies to have offices in the town, and for the vehicles used by drivers-for-hire to be owned by the licensed cab company. The law also is expected to make required Southampton Town permits for ride-hailing companies moot.

Of particular significance, the budget provides increased state aid for local schools, money for construction at the State University’s Stony Brook Southampton campus, and also makes state and city two and four-year universities and colleges free for certain students.

  The increased state aid to public schools provides an additional 3 percent, or $100,673, to the East Hampton School District; 3.8 percent more, or an additional $65,166 to Springs; a 4.8-percent increase for Bridgehampton, totaling $34,452, and an increase of 4.2 percent, or $35,149, for Montauk. Funding is also included for prekindergarten, after-school, cyber-bullying prevention, adult literacy, and career training programs, among others.

Local schools will also receive $175,000 to continue a partnership with the state, local governments, Southampton Hospital, and the Family Service League to continue mental health services for youth.

  In addition to establishing Excelsior Scholarships, which will provide free tuition at State University of New York schools for students whose families earn less than $125,000 annually, the budget provides $6,000 scholarships for students from eligible families to attend private colleges. Students would be required to enroll full time, to maintain successful grade-point averages, and to live and work in the state after completing college for the number of years during which they received educational scholarships.

Capital improvements to the buildings on the State University’s Stony Brook Southampton campus, which will create new academic space, were funded at $5 million. The SUNY capital plan also includes $2 million in state funds for a health and sports center at the eastern campus of Suffolk Community College.

The Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center will be among 15 Long Island agencies to receive $30,000 each in state funds this year to provide services to children and families. 

Environmental funding of interest on the South Fork includes, among $2.5 billion earmarked for clean water projects, $1 billion to help municipalities upgrade drinking and wastewater infra structure, $245 million for water quality improvement projects, $110 million for land purchases to protect water, and $75 million for septic system and cesspool upgrades and replacement. Also in the budget is $300 million for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

The budget provides for a drinking water quality council to be established under the State Health Department, along with an “emerging contaminant” monitoring program to regularly test drinking water for pollutants.

Other allocations for environmental initiatives include $1 million for the Stony Brook University Water Technology Center’s research, development, and pilot projects to remove 1,4 dioxane from the water supply, $3 million for Suffolk County to address nitrogen pollution caused by septic waste, $250,000 to the Long Island Regional Planning Council for the Long Island Nitrogen Reduction Plan, $200,000 for the Peconic Estuary Program, and $6 million to eradicate invasive species, including the southern pine beetle.