NYAPRS Note: As NYS legislators and Governor Cuomo must reach agreement by late Friday to produce an on-time state budget agreement, increases for the nonprofit workforce have emerged as a top priority they all share.
Thanks to determined advocacy over the past few weeks, the increases may well extend beyond those who support individuals with developmental disabilities to include the community based nonprofit behavioral health workforce.
To get there, we need consumers, families and the workforce to come out in full force and make calls to the top officials listed below: call today and every day this week to get it done!
State Budget Deadline Date Looms
STATE: Lawmakers Race To Craft Deals
By Joe Mahoney CNHI State Reporter March 27, 2017
ALBANY – Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are divided on several major issues in the drive for an on-time state budget, though an agreement is emerging for a $47 million infusion to boost the pay of direct-care aides for developmentally disabled people.
The next fiscal year begins April 1, meaning a budget will have to be in place by Friday for the spending plan to be on time.
Advocates of the higher pay for those workers – including Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda and Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford – have called for the added funding to help non-profit agencies retain workers being lured away by higher pay at fast-food restaurants.
"I'm hearing that this is going to be in the final budget, and I'm very pleased with that because we owe these workers a lot, and with a bump-up in their salary is very much in order," Seward said.
Some of the most contentious aspects of the budget battle involve the effort by Assembly and Senate Democrats to extend the so-called millionaires' tax, a surcharge on high earners, and efforts by the union for public school teachers to derail a proposal backed by Senate Republicans to eliminate the cap on charter schools.
The New York State United Teachers stepped up its attacks on upstate Senate Republicans this week, alleging that they are hurting funding for public schools in their own districts through their support of the charter schools, most of which are in the metropolitan New York City region.
Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate GOP Temporary President and Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk, disputed the union's contention.
"It's simply not true," he said. "Senator Flanagan is a supporter of charter schools and giving every student the opportunity to have a first-class education. But we have delivered a record level of support for public schools that aren't charters."
The union deployed activist teachers Friday to picket the district offices of several Republican senators, calling on them to "abandon U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ destructive education agenda." DeVos is an appointee of President Donald Trump.
Trump's policies in Washington also overshadow the Albany shoving match over extending the surcharge on the income of high earners, set to expire this year.
Assembly Democrats and the Fiscal Policy Institute, a union-backed think tank, are calling on the millionaires' tax to not only be extended but expanded to bring in up to $6 billion in added revenue, about $2 billion more than what is generated now for state coffers.
A group of more than 80 millionaires from the New York City area said this week they back an expansion of the tax. "They are assuring everyone they won't be leaving the state (if the surcharge is increased)," said Ronald Deutsch, director of the institute. "They feel it's their duty and obligation to pay a little more than the average citizen."
Cuomo's proposed budget calls for the tax in question to be extended, though not increased.
The Senate Republicans want the tax to expire on schedule.
"Our position is that were for cutting taxes, not raising them, because we want to make it more affordable to live, work and operate a business in the state of New York," Reif said.
One of the centerpieces in the draft budget released by Cuomo in January would allow free tuition at New York's public colleges for students from families whose income is less than $125,000 annually. The Assembly and Senate are warm to some aspects of the proposal, though many lawmakers have voiced concerns with the impacts to private colleges if more funding for tuition assistance is not offered to their students.
The Cuomo administration has enlisted state university campus administrators to back the call for what the governor has dubbed the Excelsior Program.
Mary Beth Labate, president of the Commission on Independent Colleges, said the private schools are already mapping "contingency plans" if Cuomo's plan is approved, noting the impacts on independent schools "will be unpleasant" because of the possibility of enrollment losses at their campuses.
"We just need to get a solution that treats students with parity," she said in an interview, noting colleges such as Niagara University, Hartwick College in Oneonta and Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks are among those that could be harmed by the Cuomo plan.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has met with strong resistance from lawmakers on his drive to require local governments to find ways to share the costs of local services, with voters in each county getting to approve consolidation plans.
Another Cuomo initiative, one that would increase the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18, has been embraced by the Assembly leadership, but has generated concerns from Senate Republicans, district attorneys and county sheriffs.
If no agreement is reached in the coming week, that is among the issues that could take center stage after the budget is wrapped up. Similarly, there has been no agreement on allowing ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate communities, though negotiations continue on competing proposals for insurance requirements.
With so many issues on the table, Cuomo has signaled to advocates for voting reforms – such as same-day registration and a measure that would allow New Yorkers to cast ballots up to 12 days before Election Day – that patience is going to be required.
"Many of the democracy issues that you talk about we are going to take up after the budget," he told reporters in New York City this week.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites.