Calls on Legislature and Governor to use Funds Currently Allocated for Public Funding of Political Campaigns
(Goshen, NY – July 29, 2020) – With schools already facing the prospect of mid-year double digit budget cuts, State Senate candidate Mike Martucci is calling on his opponent and the state to immediately take funds in the state budget allocated for political campaigns and use them to help schools pay for COVID-19 health and safety protocols to protect students.
Martucci’s proposal calls on the state to provide school districts with the necessary funding to address a critical shortage of school bus drivers who are licensed, trained and ready to safely deliver children to school in the fall.
Specifically, Martucci is calling on state lawmakers to provide $100 million in funding for a variety of initiatives designed to help students get back to school safely. The proposal includes funding to help the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) increase its capacity to conduct CDL testing for school bus drivers as well as cover the cost of the CDL test for school bus drivers, increased resources to help the State Education Department (SED) process school bus driver certifications and school bus health and safety programs, and funding so SED can create new grant programs to enable school districts and private school transportation companies to better recruit new drivers and provide new and existing school bus drivers with necessary education and training.
In addition, Martucci is calling on the state to provide $50 million in funding to school districts to pay for the increase in costs in school transportation associated with the added COVID-19 cleaning, health protocols, and equipment required to transport the more than 2.3 million children who ride a school bus each day.
Martucci says the state can easily take the $100 million currently allocated for taxpayer-funded political campaigns and repurpose it for our school districts to use for the increased demands on their school transportation operations – including those schools that use private school transportation companies.
“Prior to the pandemic the state was already facing a school bus driver shortage, and COVID-19 has only made the situation worse,” Martucci said. “As someone who was responsible for safely transporting more than 12,000 children to and from school each day, I understand the challenges facing our local school districts and that’s why I am calling on our elected leaders to take bold action to make it easier for people who want to become school bus drivers to get licensed and certified, and former drivers get back on the road quickly.”
Martucci is also calling on the legislature to back a school bus driver signing bonus program that will provide a $1,000 refundable tax credit to people who become New York certified school bus drivers and are hired by a school district or a private school transportation company before the end of 2021 ($7 mil.). The tax credit only applies to first-time school bus drivers and they must not have been previously certified or employed as a school bus driver in New York State. For those drivers who are seeking to be recertified, Martucci is calling for a $500 refundable tax credit ($3.5 mil.)
With many drivers being retirees, it is anticipated that the state’s school bus driver shortage will grow significantly. To further address the issue Martucci is calling on the state to take the following steps:
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- Provide priority road tests for new school bus drivers. Due to the pandemic, road tests for drivers are backed up in some places by eight to 10 weeks. The state needs to dedicate new resources to state and local DMVs to allow new school bus drivers to take road tests as soon as they are ready. ($5 million)
- Create a grant program for drivers to get commercial licenses: Getting a commercial driver’s license can cost hundreds of dollars. New York should create a new program to provide grants to people who want to become bus drivers to open the recruitment pool. ($5 million)
State Education Department (SED)
- Increased funding for school bus driver certification: The New York State Education Department must certify and license every new school bus driver before they can take the road. New York State needs to provide increased funding to the SED to complete background checks and certify new drivers have met training requirements so they can get on the road as soon as possible. This will also help former drivers who want to return to work, but need to be recertified, get back on the road quicker. Funding would go toward staff and technology. (See next bullet)
- Increased funding for managing school bus safety and new health protocols: SED has been underfunded for years, now is the time to provide the funding necessary to allow SED to add staff and purchase technology to help them manage the increased workload caused by school districts and private school transportation companies complying with COVID-19 health protocols and ongoing safety requirements. ($5 million for certification and safety/health initiatives)
- Driver training grants: New bus drivers must undergo training prior to becoming licensed. That training has always been done in a group setting. With the onset of COVID-19, much of the training must be done in a one on one setting. This leads to increased costs for school districts and private school transportation companies in an already stressed economy. ($5 million)
- Driver recruitment grants. Recognizing that a shortage of school bus drivers is a serious and on-going problem, Martucci is calling for funds to be used for a marketing and recruitment campaign to attract more drivers to the industry. Funding will be allocated to SED to implement the program and they will be responsible for establishing a driver recruitment advertising and marketing grant program for school districts, private school transportation companies, and the New York Association for Pupil Transportation to assist the industry in recruiting school bus drivers. ($10 million)
Martucci estimates the total cost for this program to be an estimated $90 million. Recognizing that the state is in a dire financial position, he is calling for the money to be reprogrammed from funds Senator Metzger and her far-left cohorts in the legislature have unfortunately set aside to fund their political campaigns.
“As the former owner of a school transportation company, I know first-hand that takes time to recruit, train and license school bus drivers, “Martucci said. “With the Hudson Valley having a 14 percent unemployment rate right now, we have a golden opportunity to put people back to work, but time is running out. People who need work now are not going to become bus drivers if it takes 10 weeks to take a road test and they then have to wait another ten weeks to get certified. Let’s be smart and use taxpayer dollars that Senator Metzger and her radical colleagues in the legislature greedily earmarked to pay for career politician’s campaigns for something far better – getting our children safely to and from school every day.”
About Mike Martucci: Mike is a small businessman who employed hundreds of people locally at his former company, Quality Bus Service, which was responsible for safely transporting thousands of school children each day in and near the 42nd senate district. Mike and his wife Erin own a small family-farm in the Town of Westtown, so he understands the importance of supporting local farmers, and protecting our environment. Mike and Erin established a family foundation to support local women and children in need, educational opportunities, job creation, and agriculture initiatives. Mike and Erin have three children and live in the Town of Wawayanda. Mike earned his MBA and BS at Marist College and graduated with honors from SUNY Orange, he is also a Board member of the SUNY Orange Foundation which provides college scholarships for students. The 42nd state senate district comprises Sullivan county, and parts of Orange, Ulster, and Delaware counties. Click for full bio: www.Martucci4Senate.com