NYAPRS Note: As Albany budget makers worked into the night, so did mental health advocates, especially on giving feedback around legislative proposals effecting the long awaited and ADA required move of adult home residents into community housing with supports. Advocates are insisting that no proposed language changes result in any further delays for such moves and that homes with more than 25% of residents with psychiatric disabilities continue to be required to cooperate with resident community transition plans, even if such homes get assisted living enhancements.
Despite public proclamations of a 3 way deal around the big issues, details are not yet available about other specific issues that may well still be being negotiated. Along with adult home resident issues, we’re also closely watching the outcome of how/if state hospital downsizing and savings reinvestment will be approved as well as whether clearer standards for how gun law-related mental health reporting will be adopted into statute. Stay tuned for details as we get them!
State Budget Within Reach
By Jimmy Vielkind Albany Times Union March 21, 2013
A state budget is withinreach.
Top state elected officials held a news conference Wednesday evening to praise a conceptual budget agreement, but several key details in the spending plan are still not settled. And issues that are being simultaneously negotiated - including changes to state gun control and marijuana laws - also areunresolved.
"Hopefully this is going to be another budget that shows the people of the state of New York that government can work well, and people can come together," said Gov.Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in the Capitol's RedRoom.
For the third year in a row, the budget is on course to be adopted on time - a run of basic government performance that has not occurred in more than threedecades.
The first budget bills were sent to the printer late Wednesday. Excluding federal money for Superstorm Sandy recovery, the budget will be roughly $135.1 billion for the fiscal year that begins April1.
Most of the details Cuomo and the lawmakers confirmed had squeaked out over the course of days of closed-door budget negotiations. The announcement was said to be imminent since last Thursday. After three Wednesday negotiation sessions lasting more than five hours overall, it arrived just after 8 p.m.
Major elements of thedeal:
- The minimum wage will rise from $7.25 to $9 an hour in three steps, with the top step kicking in on or just before Jan. 1, 2016. There is no agreement on whether the hike will include restaurant-based workers who earn a "tip wage," something labor and progressive groups pushed for during sit-in demonstrations in New York City onWednesday.
- Lawmakers will renew tax rates adopted in 2011 for three years. The rates - which include a higher surcharge for New Yorkers reporting more than $1 million income, but slightly lower rates for people reporting between $20,000 and $200,000 - were set to expire at the end of2014.
- The state will spend $350 million to send $350 rebate checks to homeowners with a dependent child younger than 18. Eligible households must report more than $40,000 in income and less than $300,000. The checks will be mailed sometime after April 1, 2014. Assembly SpeakerSheldon Silvernoted this was a "progressive" form of tax relief since it would give lower-income families in the range a biggerboost.
- Businesses will see $300 million in tax relief, state officials said, but it was not immediately clear how it would be distributed. Bronx Sen.Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, touted a $10,000 credit that will be given to businesses that hire a post-9/11 veteran. Another proposal touted by Senate Republicans would offer a credit for businesses that hire a worker between ages 16 and 19 for a seasonaljob.
- Senate Republicans also pushed for the elimination of a utility surcharge, called the 18-a assessment, that expires at the end of this year. Cuomo proposed extending it for five years. State lawmakers agreed to phase it out in three years, with the bulk of it remaining in place during the 2013-14budget.
- While exact figures are not available, Silver said the deal would increase the money given in base aid to schools by roughly $500 million over Cuomo's original proposal for the 2013-2014 schoolyear.
- Cuomo said New York City schools would not see $240 million in state funding that was withheld in January after city school and union officials failed to reach agreement on a teacher evaluation system. Silver said most of the money would be restored through otherchannels.
- Exact figures were also not available regarding Cuomo's proposed $120 million cut to organizations that care for the developmentallydisabled. "We're trying to minimize the cut as much as possible," said Budget DirectorBob Megna.
Lawmakers had been scheduled to leave the Capitol at the end of Thursday for a three-week break. With nobody eager to weather criticism about a lack of transparency, a required three-day waiting period on bills would push the first votes to late Saturday. Lawmakers said they hope to wrap up by Sunday. The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Monday at sundown, and Christians start Holy Week on PalmSunday.
State officials did not immediately offer any written details about the budget as they spoke in the Red Room. A projector screen said "New York State Budget 2013-2014" and sign that on a table said "creating jobs and cuttingtaxes."
Cuomo emphasized taxes. He insisted the "net effect" of the budget would be a reduction in taxes, even though the income tax rate extension brings in $2 billion a year and the total amount of tax relief is $650million.
The governor based his claim on the 2014-15 fiscal year: Since the higher rates are already assumed for the first nine months of that budget year, the "net" result of extending them is only $500 million - less than the taxrelief.
"Some taxes go up, yes, and others go down. Net, it's a cut," the governorsaid.
It's unclear if business groups will agree. In a statement, Partnership for New York City PresidentKathryn Wyldesaid that "raising taxes on the people who contribute most to the state's economy and revenues is not the right message to send to businesses looking to grow and invest in NewYork."
Michael Kink, executive director of a coalition of labor and progressive groups that supported the higher rates as well as a minimum wage hike, praised thebudget. "When you renew the millionaires tax and provide a significant increase in the minimum wage, you're taking strong steps to reduce income inequality," hesaid.
Many issues were left on thetable.
Speaking to journalists at a separate news conference earlier Wednesday, Cuomo said he was trying to use the budget to leverage agreements about the gun control law as well as a deal to criminalize bath salts, provide college tuition aid to illegal immigrants, and allow New York City officials to close a loophole in marijuana possession laws that is prompting criminal arrests in the police department's stop-and-friskprogram.
"There's possibilities of other issues that may or may not work out," Cuomo said. "If they work out, we can pass them along with the budget. If they don't, we'll continue to work on them for the rest of thesession."
Increasing the state minimum wage to $9 by 2016. The $7.25 minimum rate will rise to $8 by 2014 and $8.75 by 2015.
$350 tax rebate checks for middle-income homeowners with children.
A cut to state support of service providers for the developmentally disabled.
The amount of school aid that goes to each district.
Changes to New York's gun law, including the rollback of a coming ban on purchasing magazines with an eight, nine or 10-round capacity.
Criminalization of bath salts and allowing New York City to tweak marijuana possession laws.