March 10, 2015

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Announces
SFY 2015-16 Families First Budget Proposal

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly's SFY 2015-16 Budget at a Capitol news conference. Heastie called the Assembly fiscal plan a "Families First Budget," and one that will "Uphold our commitment to the families across this state who are struggling." The Assembly budget the Speaker unveiled includes $24 billion in support of public education, the DREAM Act, $420 million in full-day pre-K funding and $500 million for affordable housing.

Calling it an investment in the health, safety, economic success and social well-being of New York's families, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Ways and Means Committee Chair Herman D. Farrell, Jr. today released the State Assembly's 2015-16 "Families First" budget proposal (E203). The $150.7 billion proposal makes strategic investments focused on New York's families in education, health and human services, criminal justice, and housing and includes measures to promote independence and economic security.

"When families succeed, our state succeeds and that is why we are putting families first in the New York State Assembly's budget proposal," said Heastie. "We have a responsibility to provide our citizens all across the state with a budget that encourages strong and supportive communities. By investing in these programs, we ensure the sustainability of the families who are the foundation of New York's vibrant communities and a cornerstone of our state and local economies."

"Whether it is our children, working parents or seniors, all members of our community benefit from programs that strengthen families by increasing access to human services and promoting economic independence," said Farrell. "For generations, citizens across this state have been able to pursue a higher education, access quality healthcare, grow a business and enjoy the benefits of living in a state that invests in the future well-being of its citizens. This year, the Assembly budget once again pursues a responsible and balanced approach to meeting the needs of families across the state by making a sound investment toward their future success."

Heastie said the Assembly budget proposal is a multi-pronged approach that addresses critical needs in several important areas to build and strengthen families throughout New York.

"As we move forward in budget negotiations over the next few weeks, we will be laser focused on helping families grow and succeed," said Heastie. "Families are the bedrock of our communities and we will be fighting to ensure they have the resources and support they need."

Families First - Education

In 2014, New York's families finally received the promise of full day pre-kindergarten so that from the earliest stages, our students would start building the foundations for a successful future. This year, the Assembly will build on that promise by earmarking an additional $80 million for statewide universal pre-K. For SFY 2015-16, the Assembly proposal would increase School Aid by $1.8 billion for a total investment of $23.95 billion, independent of any other budgetary action. This funding will allow school districts to access the resources they need to provide New York's children with a sound public education.

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, chair of the Education Committee said "It is so important that we continue to make progress on fair and equitable funding for our schools, and I am so pleased that the Assembly recommends a significant increase of $1.79 billion in school aid. I am also pleased that the Assembly recommends rejecting language suggested by the Executive that would arbitrarily close schools using only high stake/high stress test scores as a measure of success."

Families First - Higher Education

Higher education is the most direct path to greater lifetime earnings and economic success. Unfortunately, many New Yorkers cannot withstand the financial burden that comes with an advanced degree. The Families First budget provides critical funding to the Higher Education Road to Success proposal. The program would fund innovative new and existing programs to make college more affordable, including increasing support for Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards and committing more than $20 million to Opportunity Programs. The spending plan also provides funding to enhance community college base aid, to support the DREAM Act and to boost outreach programs.

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, chair of the Higher Education Committee said "The Assembly Majority continues its battle to ensure that every New York student who wants to go to college can afford to do so. Increased funding for TAP awards, scholarships and opportunity programs are important steps toward making an affordable higher education a reality."

Families First - Child Care

While New York has made great strides toward recovering from the Great Recession, many families are still struggling to regain their economic footing. For those who have obtained stable employment, one of the biggest challenges is securing safe, reliable and affordable child care. Lack of access to child care has a direct impact on worker productivity and opportunities for professional advancement and higher earnings. The Families First budget will include $25 million for 3,000 new child care slots, an additional $10.7 million in support for facilitated enrollment services, $1 million for the continuation of child care programs for SUNY and CUNY and will increase the Advantage Afterschool Program funding to $18.3 million. It is not enough that workers find jobs. They must also have a support system that does not force them to choose between earning much needed income or pursuing a higher education at the expense of the safety and well-being of their children.

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo, chair of the Children and Families Committee, said "Prioritizing the needs of children has always been important to the State Assembly. It is essential that the we continue to support programs that protect and help improve their lives through education, quality child care, and increased opportunities so they can achieve their full potential."

Families First - Minimum Wage

With growing numbers of New Yorkers employed in low-wage sectors, it is becoming harder than ever for minimum wage earners, many of whom are heads of households to achieve financial stability let alone pursue higher education or other paths to economic freedom. The Families First budget would raise the minimum wage to put more income into the hands of over a million workers in the state. The increase will be gradually phased in over the next three years and will bring the statutory minimum wage to $12.60 an hour by December 31, 2018 and to $15 an hour in certain counties where the cost of living is significantly higher and where minimum wage earners make up a higher share of the population. The proposal would also raise the wage for tipped workers in the service industry who currently earn a mere $5 an hour from their employers, to $9 an hour and $11.40 an hour, respectively. Effective December 31st, 2019 the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation.

Assemblymember Michele Titus, chair of the Labor Committee, said "Although New York's unemployment rate has steadily improved, the reality is that workers will accept opportunity wherever it becomes available. In the post-recession era, it is our duty to ensure that these men and women are not forced to subsidize the cost of doing business, for wages that are not even enough to reduce their reliance on public assistance for food and shelter."

Families First - Housing and Homelessness Prevention

The Assembly recognizes that the affordable housing crisis has been a significant obstacle to promoting stability for New York's families. In recent years, homelessness has risen dramatically, further destabilizing families who are struggling to afford basic necessities. The Families First proposal would commit $254.5 million for affordable housing programs, including $100 million for assistance to homeowners in foreclosure or who are underwater on their mortgage. An additional $310 million is set aside for preservation and rehabilitation programs of which $125 million would be provided to the New York City Housing Authority and $110 million would be provided for Mitchell-Lama developments.

Assemblymember Keith Wright, chair of the Housing Committee, said "A stable, dignified living situation is essential to achieving education and economic independence.This funding will be absolutely vital to the housing development and preservation programs across the state. I am encouraged that in the City of New York, it will allow the New York City Housing Authority to make the capital investments that its residents have so desperately needed."

Last year, thousands of families who were unable to remain in their homes turned to shelters. The Families First budget provides $32 million for a homelessness prevention pilot program to allow for enhanced rental assistance to individuals and families who are at risk of losing their homes. An additional $5 million would be allocated for homeless and supportive housing services for a total investment of $36.5 million.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, chair of the Social Services Committee, said "Life doesn't always go as planned. It is important that the Assembly continues to support programs that help struggling families. The proposed budget includes funding that will make it easier for New Yorkers to find and keep reasonably priced housing, even during times of economic hardship."

Families First - Social Services

Social welfare benefits provide a safety net for New Yorkers that are unable to make ends meet or provide the basic necessities for their family. The Families First budget restores $30.9 million in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funding for programs that provide relief to families in need. Additionally, the Assembly's proposal allocates $5 million to support the development of new service opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are living with aging parents.

A critical component of the Families First budget is providing support for at-risk youth. The budget proposal commits $5 million to the Safe Harbour for Sexually Exploited Youth and $5.4 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.

The proposal also includes a provision to raise the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles charged with offenses in New York State. Data demonstrates that when 16 and 17 year old offenders are confined in settings with adult offenders, they suffer significant harm to both their social and psychological development and are more prone to suffer physical and sexual abuse, depression and suicidal behavior. The reform would allow the State to recognize that children under the age of 18 are not criminally responsible and allow them to benefit from the programs and services provided through Family Court and appropriate youth placements.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee, said "Teenagers are not adults. However, New York's outdated laws continue to treat too many young people charged with crimes as adults and as a result, they often suffer severe physical and emotional abuse and end up trapped in a cycle of incarceration and recidivism. We must act now to raise the age of criminal responsibility and provide for more effective and appropriate treatment of young people charged with crimes, reduce incidents of re-offense and improve the opportunity for successful rehabilitation."

Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell, chair of the Correction Committee, said "Raising the age of criminal responsibility is a critical step in our efforts to modernize the criminal justice system. In every other regard, we recognize that the adolescent and teenage mind are not the same as an adult's. Too often, these impressionable young men and women are placed in adult facilities where they suffer social and mental disruption that follows them into adulthood. It is our duty to pursue responsive and appropriate correction reforms that improve, not jeopardize the well-being of all our citizens."

Families First - Health

The Assembly funds $10.7 million for Spousal Refusal which ensures that elderly individuals living in the community will not be impoverished if their spouse needs long term care services.

Promoting the health and well-being of young families, $4 million funding is proposed for the Nurse Family Partnership, a community health program that assists first-time and low income mothers as well as $5.5 million for maternal and child health programs. The proposal restores $10.9 million to support clinic services, including family planning clinics. HIV/AIDS community based providers will receive an additional $1.1 million in addition to $10 million in support for the proposed End of AIDS initiative.

Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried, chair of the Committee on Health, said "An adequately funded and accessible health care system is essential to protecting the health and well-being of New Yorkers. This year's Assembly budget responsibly balances the needs facing our health care providers and the needs of the communities they serve."