ALBANY — The final, $153.1 billion state budget includes plenty of money for the governor’s pet projects and failed economic giveaways, but doesn’t go far enough to provide for New Yorkers who are most in need.
Since the governor proposed his spending plan in late January, CSEA activists have been working hard toward a state budget that is fair to all New Yorkers, including visiting their state legislators in their Albany and district offices, writing letters urging officials to pass a fair budget and telling their stories about how understaffing and overtime have affected them on and off the job.
One of our most pressing budget concerns was preserving services for our state’s most vulnerable people. The enacted budget restores some much-needed funding for state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and Office of Mental Health (OMH) programs.
For OPWDD, the budget provides an additional $840,000 to create new community-based programs, or care pilots, to be staffed by the state agency’s staff.
The enacted budget also preserves 400 beds in state Office of Mental Health facilities that were initially slated for cuts.
While these funding items are a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to ensure adequate services for New Yorkers who depend on these services. More than 11,000 families need services for individuals with developmental disabilities — and this list continues to grow.
It’s also important to ensure adequate mental health services. As access to these services shrink, those employed in the criminal justice system have found themselves increasingly in a provider role.
“While the enacted budget takes steps to ensure services for our state’s most vulnerable individuals, it’s simply not enough to adequately provide for all of the New Yorkers who need these services,” CSEA Acting President Mary E. Sullivan said. “This budget shouldn’t be about giveaways or gifts; it should be about taking care of our own people.”
A look at the enacted 2017-18 New York State Budget
The governor and legislature recently reached an agreement on the full, $153.1 billion 2017-18 state budget after operating under a short-term budget extender for a week.
CSEA was able to fight back many of the more harmful proposals in the governor’s Executive Budget, while also successfully advocating for several proposals that will help CSEA members.
Here’s a look at some items in the enacted budget:
Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health
The enacted budget restores some much-needed funding for state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and Office of Mental Health (OMH) programs. (see above for more)
Aid to local governments, which are already challenged under the governor’s tax cap, will remain flat from last year’s levels. Local governments will continue to struggle to maintain services under the governor’s plan.
Municipalities have already done whatever is necessary to meet service demands in the face of zero growth budgets, a .68 percent tax cap and an incentivized tax freeze.
The budget includes a “county-wide shared services property tax savings plan” that mandates the chief executive officer of counties outside New York City to prepare a property tax savings plan for shared, coordinated, or more efficient services among the municipalities within the county and work with municipal and labor representatives on developing the plan. The final budget does not include bringing the plans to a public referendum.
CSEA worked closely with the legislature to better protect our members and the services they provide. “While the enacted plan is better than the governor’s original proposal, it’s important that we remain active and involved to ensure fairness,” CSEA Acting President Mary E. Sullivan said.
Retirees and health insurance
State legislators also rejected the governor’s proposals to increase health insurance costs for retirees and future retirees, including establishing a tiered health insurance contribution system for new retirees based on salary grade and years of service, a cap on the state’s reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums and elimination of higher cost Part B premiums for higher income retirees.
The budget also sets up a health insurance trust fund intended to pre-fund retiree health benefit costs for state retirees and their beneficiaries. While the state civil service commissioner will be the fund’s trustee, the state comptroller will also have custody of the fund and will be responsible for investing the fund’s proceeds. This fund can’t be used for any purpose except for retiree health costs, and contributions to the fund are irrevocable. The state must contribute to the fund annually.
OCFS/Raise the Age
The enacted budget includes provisions to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, under a plan that will be phased in over two years. Certain violent crimes are exempt.
All 16 and 17 year-olds will have access to county probation services. CSEA fought hard to ensure that these services will continue to be fully funded by the state due to the overwhelming caseloads that probation officers already see. The state will pay the full cost of probation services in all counties that stay within the property tax cap. If a county exceeds the tax cap, it would have to seek a waiver to maintain full funding.
State University of New York
The enacted budget includes a scaled-down version of the governor’s “free tuition” proposal, otherwise known as the Excelsior Scholarship. The final program would offer up to $5,500 — after all other federal and state grants — to SUNY and CUNY students whose families earn less than $125,000 per year, after the program is fully phased in. The program also includes community colleges on a smaller scale.
The enacted budget rejects the governor’s proposal to rename and expand the flailing START-UP NY program. The budget does, however, include an additional $69.5 million that could be used to advertise the program, including in other states.
The enacted budget will cut funding for child care by nearly $7 million. Counties will have to make up the difference in order to maintain access. CSEA and our allies are continuing to work to restore full funding. The CSEA/VOICE child care contract is fully funded for the next year.
Enhanced Executive Powers
The enacted budget provides the state Division of the Budget (DOB) with significant authority to react to federal aid reductions during the fiscal year. This plan would allow the department to develop a plan on how to respond to any federal cuts to Medicaid or other programs in excess of $850 million. If the legislature does not develop an alternative proposal within 90 days, DOB’s plan would be adopted.
Union dues deduction
Under the enacted budget, union members can now deduct on their New York state income taxes the full amount of union dues. Members would have to itemize their deductions.
The millionaire’s tax has been extended for two years on high income earners.