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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Union presses Albany on state budget priorities


New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the largest budget in state history in early January when she presented her State of the State address.

In presenting the 2023 fiscal year $216.3 billion Executive Budget, Gov. Hochul said, “This is an extraordinary time and it will be met with extraordinary solutions—and we are in a position to fully fund them.”

The $216 billion budget now under consideration by the Legislature in Albany is an ambitious plan — $4 billion larger than the budget passed last year under the pressures of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and anticipation of federal aid to the state.

Highlights include a 15% set aside for any potential economic downturn as experienced in the financial crisis wrought by the pandemic, $2 billion in both highway repair funds and pandemic recovery efforts, and a four-year extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system.

Hochul’s executive budget also includes record spending on education with plans to address equity in statewide school systems and improve infrastructure in the state. The governor said her budget is balanced for the next four years because of federal aid, increased tax receipts, and a booming stock market. Because of this, the Executive Budget does not adhere to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2% cap on spending growth. This year’s budget increase is 3.1%.

While the Governor’s increase in spending on vital services in many areas has been a decisive step forward from the often-contentious budgets offered by the previous administration, DC 37 has specific priorities that must be addressed this year.

The union is calling for funding for universal child care so desperately needed in this time of economic uncertainty for many working families, and for an additional $25 million to the Childcare Enrollment program, with spending evenly split between the NYC area and upstate New York.

DC 37 wants a 3% increase per year for Human Service Workers so they are paid a living wage. Many of these workers providing in-home care and at private facilities have been grossly underpaid and deserve pay parity with workers in similar titles and work settings.

As part of the union’s campaign for hospital funding, DC 37 is demanding enhanced funding for the city’s safety net hospitals, regulation of for-profit, private hospitals passing on costs, known as “surprise billing,” to patients, placing an additional financial strain on at-risk families, and is insisting that the final budget end the Global Medicaid Cap and adequately fund providers.

Finally, the union is calling for $14.8 million to fund public school substance abuse prevention and intervention specialists (SAPIS), a New York City budget match of $4 million, and full funding of programs at the City University of New York, particularly those focusing on worker education and domestic violence, such as the School of Labor and Urban Studies and the Consortium for Worker Education.

While a good, first start for the new governor, more must be done for working families, particularly public workers who held the line during the pandemic. DC 37 is committed to pressing Albany legislators during the state budget process in the coming weeks to ensure that labor’s priorities are met.