By MIKE LEE
In a sharp break from typical timelines, the New York State Legislature passed a $229 billion Fiscal Year 2023-2024 State budget in the late hours of May 3, more than a month after the April 1 deadline.
After Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her Executive Budget in January, she clashed with legislators over several of her proposals, including the State minimum wage and bail reform, extending the process much further than past budgets.
Although several of DC 37’s highest priorities made it into the final compromise, other demands fell short of the union’s expectations.
Minimum Wage, Home Care Workers
After intense negotiation and lobbying by a cohort of unions, the minimum wage was raised to $16 an hour in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, with annual 50-cent increases until it reaches $17 in 2026. In upstate New York, the minimum wage will rise to $16 an hour by 2026. After 2027, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation.
Home Care workers were initially promised a $1-an-hour increase beginning this October. Instead, NYC-area Home Care workers will receive a $1.55-an-hour raise in January 2024, with workers in the rest of the state receiving $1.35 an hour.
At a May 4 event with Hochul and citywide labor leaders in Manhattan, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido spoke out on behalf of essential frontline workers fighting for a fair minimum wage.
Referencing the success of the recent ratification of the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the City, Garrido told the crowd, “We stand up for working people, whether they are union or not, because they deserve justice, a minimum wage, and benefits that reflect what we have. We fought for a budget that reflects that.”
“Our citywide contract has a minimum wage above what was negotiated at the State,” Garrido continued. “We could have stopped after negotiating this contract, but that’s not who we are, that is not what we are about.”
Education Funding: CUNY/SUNY, NYC Department of Education
The State legislature beat back Hochul’s proposed 3%-6% hikes in tuition increases for in-state students, although out-of-state students will see increases, and added $2.4 billion toward capital projects for the CUNY and SUNY systems.
The City’s Department of Education received a record $34.5 billion in funding. City schools will also get $12.9 billion from New York State, a 5.5% increase from last year. New York State will spend $50 million for K-12 meals for the City’s schoolchildren in five years.
The Empire State Child Tax Credit expanded to cover children under four, increased the eligibility thresholds for the Child Care Assistance Program, and capped costs to 1% of the family income for participating families.
The budget commits $7.6 billion over four years to improve Child Care Assistance Program services. Additionally, $5 million establishes a pilot program encouraging employers to offer child care services.
Addressing Climate Change, MTA and Transit, Public Housing
Pressing forward with progressive innovations, Albany passed multiple bills to ensure more sustainable buildings and a program to limit pollution with revenues dedicated to Green infrastructure. The state also passed legislation that guides public utilities toward generating 100% of electricity from clean energy by 2040.
This year, the state will make large-scale investments in the MTA to address financial shortfalls due to the impact of the pandemic, including $300 million in one-time assistance, a $1.1 billion annual increase, and $65 million to offset a projected 5.5% fare increase. A pilot program for five, free bus routes in each of New York City’s boroughs was included, along with other enhanced services beginning this summer and $35 million for improving rider safety.
These investments are funded by raising the Payroll Mobility Tax, licensing casino fees from three casinos, and an estimated share in annual tax revenue.
The budget provides needed help to families in subsidized and public housing with rental assistance, a commitment to significant investment in the New York City Housing Authority and other public subsidized housing, and help for Section 8 recipients through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.