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Senate Budget Supports COLAs, NYC UPK, Afterschool and More

March 14, 2014
The proposed plan would be paid for by eliminating nearly $1 billion in corporate tax cuts sought by Gov. Cuomo. It is not clear if Cuomo will accept axing the tax cuts.

The proposed plan would be paid for by eliminating nearly $1 billion in corporate tax cuts sought by Gov. Cuomo. It is not clear if Cuomo will accept axing the tax cuts.

The New York Senate released its own “One House” budget proposal late last night.  The bill includes a number of specifics which human service provider agencies are likely to applaud.

High on the list is the Senate’s support for a “partial Human Services Cost of Living Adjustment and a Medicaid Trend Factor increase targeted at increasing the salaries of direct care workers and direct service providers”.   However, the Senate’s COLA proposal is included under the section referring to Department of Mental Hygiene which includes the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and Office of Mental Health (OMH).  It is unclear exactly what the Senate COLA proposal would provide and whether their proposal would also cover programs funded by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the Office for the Aging, and the Department of Health which were specifically included in the Assembly budget proposal.

Making political headlines is the Senate’s support for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) and middle school afterschool proposals minus the tax surcharge on high income households.  However, the Senate does provide “$540 million to fully fund the expansion of universal pre-kindergarten and afterschool programs in New York City in the 2014-15 school year.”   This funding proposal, in line with de Blasio’s stated needs if not his preferred means of raising the money, significantly ups the ante on Governor Cuomo who had authorized only $100 million for UPK expansion throughout the state for the new fiscal year and no new funding for afterschool expansion until FY2015-16.

Just as importantly, the Senate committed “$2.7 billion to cover the costs of successfully expanding these two programs in New York City” over the next five years. “This new program will be financed through a specially designated reserve.”  The Senate also made $145 million available to districts for UPK expansion, “while also leaving flexibility for the funding to be used for kindergarten and GEA (General Education Aid) restoration.”

The Mayor quickly applauded the Senate’s proposal to provide full funding.  “Under Conference Leaders Klein and Skelos, the state senate’s majority has put forward an unprecedented commitment to fund free, full-day pre-K for every child in New York City, and after-school programs for every middle schooler,” he said. “Their powerful support for our children and families combined with Speaker Silver and the state assembly’s passage of a resolution last night that includes a funding stream in the form of a tax on the city’s highest earners represents a new consensus sweeping across this state. We will work closely with our state partners to ensure we have the sufficient, secure and ongoing resources needed to invest in the children of this city.”

Governor Cuomo, on the other hand, effectively dismissed the Senate and Assembly proposals as mere talking points.  “Now that the legislature’s one house budget resolutions are being completed, real discussions can begin,” he said.  “As we have said from the beginning, Pre-k funding will ultimately be determined by each individual school district’s actual ability to create an eligible program on a timely basis. Once it is determined that a plan is operational, the state will meet the locality’s need to that amount.”

The Senate bill goes on to outline specific funding and policy adjustments to the Governor’s proposed budget in a wide range of areas some of which were likely to be applauded by advocates and some which will be opposed. As we went to press, advocates and providers were just beginning to scour through the 48-page document.

In the behavioral health arena, for example, Harvey Rosenthal of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) noted that “The NYS Senate released its own budget proposal tonight that makes numerous changes to the Governor’s proposals, including halting OMH state hospital bed closures, making the supported housing rent increase statewide, bringing Medicaid housing expansion upstate and limiting the Executive’s authority to implement various Medicaid Redesign initiatives by requiring a host of written reports to the Legislature.

“The Senate’s plans to apparently step back from state hospital and adult home deinstitutionalization plans (that ramp up community services to improve care and meet legal Olmstead requirements) raise serious concerns,” he concluded

“United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) is pleased that the Assembly and Senate have each produced budget resolutions that include support for several key programming areas that vulnerable New Yorkers rely on, and that both houses of the legislature are now united in support of the New York City plan to expand Pre-Kindergarten and After-School,” said Annetta Seecharran, Director of Policy & Advocacy at UNH. “We are also encouraged by Senate Co-Leaders Klein and Skelos’s work to produce a budget resolution that increases investments in critical areas including a $4.7m expansion in Adult Literacy Education (ALE) and $1.0m to support the High School Equivalency (HSE) transition to the Common Core, an additional $5.0m to serve older adults through Community Services for the Elderly (CSE), and expanded eligibility for the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC).

“We remain disappointed, however, that that additional funding to account for the increase in the minimum wage was not included for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in either budget resolution,” Seecharran continued. “Without this funding there will be 2,750 fewer jobs for young people in NYC this summer. In addition, the Senate’s failure to include any funding for the DREAM Act is a tremendous letdown for the thousands of hard-working young DREAMers who will continue to find college out of reach.”

Click here to download a copy of the Senate Budget Proposal.

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