This Week in Albany

Week ending January 19, 2018

Executive Budget Released

Governor Cuomo presented a $168 billion state budget for 2018-2019. The Governor’s budget would close a $4 billion deficit through various cuts and new revenue.

Here is a short summary of the proposals in the budget:

 

Revenue / Taxes

The Governor has raised the possibility of amending State tax law to address the limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) imposed by the recently-passed federal tax reform law, though none of these proposals are included in the Executive Budget at this time. Possibilities include shifting taxes from a personal income tax to a payroll tax or creating new state-run charitable organizations. CSEA is reviewing these proposals at this time.

The budget includes the following revenue increases:

  • Collecting sales tax on all internet purchases. A portion of this tax would go to local governments;
  • A tax on opioids to help combat the opioid crisis;  
  • A tax of 14% on health insurance windfall profits;
  • A tax on vaping liquid, similar to cigarette taxes;
  • A $120 inspection fee for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to inspect for-profit passenger carriers.

CSEA supports these revenue increases.


State Operations

Funding for State operations is essentially held flat. In spite of that, many agencies are held harmless from cuts and will see an increase in positions.

Budget proposals regarding state operations include:

Adding Employees

Several agencies will see an increase in full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions, including:

  • The Department of Health (DOH): DOH will be adding 381 FTEs. These new positions will be used to help with the continuing State takeover of local administration of Medicaid (200 positions), provide operational support within the Office of Primary Care and Health Systems Management and the Office of Public Health (142 positions), and to provide necessary resources to review Adult Home applications and provide background checks for Health Home Care Managers serving vulnerable populations (39 positions);

  • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): DMV will be adding 89 positions to help the State meet federal Real ID requirements;
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT): DOT will be adding 70 positions for snow and ice removal and highway maintenance.

CSEA supports these investments in the State workforce.


OCFS

The budget proposes closing the Ella McQueen reception center in Brooklyn, which is operated by Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). The budget would eliminate the required one-year notice of closure and move forward with closing this facility after 30-days notice. CSEA opposes the closure and the elimination of the one-year notice.

The budget would re-authorize the “Close to Home” program for five years. This program has a history of being unsafe, with many juveniles going AWOL and committing crimes while away from the facility where they are supposed to be housed. CSEA will advocate for changes to this program.


OMH

The budget calls for the reduction of 275 full-time equivalent positions within Office of Mental Health (OMH) adult services programs. These positions will be reduced through attrition, but there are currently no details on where these reductions will come from.

There are no proposed facility closures in the budget, but the budget includes language that would allow OMH to close up to 400 State-operated inpatient beds. The budget has included this language in each of the last several years. While some beds have been closed, OMH has never reached the 400 bed limit. CSEA opposes a reduction in OMH staff and a reduction in the number of State-operated beds in the mental health system.


OPWDD

The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) will not see any significant cuts, an improvement over recent years. Additionally, funding will be provided for CSEA’s care pilot programs. CSEA supports the continued funding of these programs, which provide valuable services to OPWDD clients.


Wadsworth Lab

The budget includes $600 million to build a new Wadsworth Laboratory somewhere in the Capital District. The specifics of the plan are not yet known.


SUNY, SUNY Hospitals, and Community Colleges

Funding for the State University of New York (SUNY) will increase by $116 million over last year. Community College funding is held flat at $2,747 per full time equivalent student, but will see an overall reduction of $22 million because of declining enrollment.

The budget proposes eliminating the $78.6 million State subsidy to SUNY hospitals and replacing it with capital funds. CSEA will fight to get this subsidy back.

 

Local Governments

The budget holds funding for local governments (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) flat at $715 million. In addition, the budget would make the county-wide shared service panels created in last year’s budget permanent. No AIM funding is tied to these panels, and there are no financial penalties for a county that does not put forward a plan.

There is $100 million included in the budget for local government expenses in complying with “Raise the Age.” CSEA supports this funding because it will help county probation departments that will see an increased workload under “Raise the Age.”

Education

Education funding would be increased by 3%, or $769 million.

Library aid would be cut by $4 million, with an additional $10 million cut to building aid. CSEA opposes these cuts to libraries.

The budget would also allow school districts to equip their buses with cameras that would record anyone who passes a stopped school bus. The information would be sent to a law enforcement agency, which could then issue a ticket. This proposal would increase safety around school buses and provide additional revenue to school districts, and CSEA supports it.

 

Health Care

The budget would increase the Medicaid budget by $1.7 billion.

The budget also fully funds a cost-of-living increase for direct care workers across multiple agencies. CSEA supports this proposal.

 

Child Care

The budget would increase child care funding by $7 million. This amount was cut last year in the budget. CSEA supports increased investments in child care.

 

Infrastructure

Funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and Marchiselli program are held flat at $438.1 million and $39.7 million, respectively. The budget proposal does not include the additional $65 million for local highway and bridge projects for “extreme winter recovery” that was included in last year’s budget. CSEA supports investments in local highway and bridge maintenance, and would support the restoration of funding for winter storm recovery.

 

Other Proposals

The budget includes a proposal for ensuring that all levels of government have policies in place to address sexual harassment. The budget proposes to forbid the state or local government from paying any costs associated with a financial settlement of an employee who is accused of sexually harassing a fellow employee. In addition, the state, public authorities, and all local governments would be required to develop a standardized reporting and investigations policy for complaints of sexual harassment.


Retirees

The budget would cap the State’s reimbursement of standard Medicare Part B premiums to $134 per month and eliminating the State reimbursement of Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). CSEA strongly opposes increasing costs for retirees.

CSEA is continuing to review the budget legislation and proposals. Please check our website for more information on the Executive Budget proposal and its impact on CSEA members as it becomes available.

 

At a Glance

CSEA will be testifying at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Workforce Development next Wednesday, January 24. The hearing starts at 2:30PM.

The legislature will also be holding hearings on higher education, housing, and transportation next week and will be in session for two days.


Federal Shutdown

At the time of this writing, it appeared that the federal government would be heading for a shutdown for the first time since 2013.

The House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill late on Thursday. The bill that passed the House would fund the government through February 16, fund the Children’s Health Insurance Plan for six years, and delay or suspend several “Obamacare” taxes. The bill would not address protections for immigrants who came to the United States as children, a major concern of Democrats.

The bill faces a steep climb in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass legislation. Many Democratic Senators oppose the bill passed by the House, mainly because of its lack of immigration provisions, and several Republican Senators either oppose the bill or oppose the continued passage of short-term budget extenders.

 

Congress has until midnight on Friday to reach an agreement. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.