NY Governor’s Budget Hits and Misses
Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address focused on a myriad of issues, many of which show up again in his budget proposal. There is a 4.4% increase in education spending, $1 billion over five years for affordable housing projects, $21 billion in state funds for disaster relief, recovery and mitigation and a provision to raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.75 effective July 1, 2013.
The minimum wage provision is the center of many conversations in Albany. Should this provision remain intact when the state legislature passes the budget, it would mean a $1.50 increase per hour for nearly one million minimum wage workers in the Empire State. This item could gain some Republican support, but Democrats are not pleased that it does not include a provision to index the minimum wage for inflation.
Education funding is also set to increase should the Governor get his way. The current proposal calls for $889 million to be added to the state’s $20.8 billion education budget for competitive grants, assistance for poorer districts to provide extended school days and full-day kindergarten, and one time aid to struggling districts.
Expanding affordable housing for New Yorkers was among the issues Governor Cuomo discussed earlier this month in his State of the State. According to the proposal, there are 2.9 million households in New York that spend more than 30% of their annual income on housing costs. The House NY program included in the budget proposal would allocate $1 billion over five years to maintain and construct 14, 300 affordable housing units around the state.
An additional $36 million will be utilized to implement the NY SAFE Act, the new gun violence prevention law.
Looking at 89-page summary document, it is important to discuss what the Governor did not include in his proposal. First, there is no mention of hydrofracking in his budget; while pro-fracking advocates see the delay in legalizing the controversial drilling practice as a loss in state revenue, anti-fracking groups are congratulating the Governor. Most likely, it is not included because the state’s environmental review of the practice remained unfinished.
And for all the talk of education in this budget proposal, there was no discussion of the DREAM Act in either this proposal or Cuomo’s State of the State. The bill, passed by the Assembly last year and reintroduced this year, would provide tuition aid to undocumented immigrants.
Also missing from the proposal is any mention of campaign finance reform and the Reproductive Health Act, key issues for the Governor and Reform Jewish Voice.
It’s now up to the legislature to balance and pass an on-time budget. Should they pass it by March 31, 2013, this will be the third consecutive year in which they have done so.
While funding state programs and balancing the budget are necessary actions each year, perhaps the most intriguing and exciting provision in this proposal is the minimum wage increase. Reform Jewish Voice of New York State has worked on this issue for many years now and in response for Governor Cuomo’s proposal signed a statement put together by the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State emphasizing the importance of this issue.