Walsh Focuses on Families, Ethics and Infrastructure for 2017 Budget

Editor’s Note: Video of Assemblywoman Walsh’s budget priorities are located here.

As the 2017 State Budget negotiations begin in Albany, it is important to reflect upon and prioritize the issues we as a community know need to be addressed. Ethics reform has always been and continues to be at the forefront of my list. The longer we go without instituting tough and meaningful ethics reform, the more likely we will have yet another ethics scandal. We must also focus on college affordability, infrastructure and fair pay for our direct-care workers in this year’s budget, all of which are of immense importance to the residents in our community.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a constitutional amendment that would strip taxpayer-funded pensions from corrupt politicians and public officials found guilty of crimes pertaining to their office. While this is an important first step toward cleaning up Albany, we must address the issues of campaign finance reform and term limits for legislative leadership positions. Eliminating the pensions of corrupt officials is a necessary measure but we must also institute proactive reforms that minimize the potential for corruption, and campaign finance reform and legislative term limits would do that.

College affordability is also an issue that I am passionate about. As the mother of two boys in college, I know the expense of a higher education. However, I do not support the Governor’s proposed plan, and instead encourage the Legislature to consider my Conference’s plan, which increases the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and provides tax credits for recent graduates paying back student loans. Expanding TAP will provide assistance for families who make too much to currently qualify, but too little to afford university costs directly out of pocket.

Ensuring we obtain our fair share of infrastructure funding is vital to providing safe roadways and jobs for our families. This year we are headed in the right direction with the introduction of the Safe Water Infrastructure Action Program (S.W.A.P.), which I am proud to co-sponsor in the Assembly; however, we must finish the job and obtain the necessary funding to enact this legislation.

Finally, ensuring our direct-care workers are paid fair compensation for their work is crucial. Last year, the Legislature passed a measure raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Meanwhile, our direct-care workers struggle to obtain a rate that fairly recognizes the work they do. I truly believe that taking care of the most vulnerable members of our society and providing an adequate safety net is an essential function of government. People who care for the sick and disabled receiving Medicaid should not have to be on Medicaid themselves because they are not paid a living wage. It’s time we are fair to direct care.

The deadline for the 2017 New York State Budget is midnight on March 31. I will continue to advocate every day to ensure the needs of our district are met.