Assemblymember Wallace: Assembly One-House Budget Addresses Needs of New Yorkers

“The Assembly’s one-house budget is a step toward a more affordable, prosperous, and successful New York State, though it falls short on some much-needed policies and funding priorities. I’m pleased that our budget proposal recognizes the critical importance of education and makes historic investments in our schools, including fully funding Foundation Aid, increasing resources for schools for the visually or hearing impaired, and providing free school meals so that no student is left struggling because of hunger. I’m also pleased that we rejected the proposed SUNY tuition hike and expanded the Tuition Assistance Program in order to keep our public universities affordable and competitive.Our plan would also increase SUNY operating aid by $200 million and significantly expand the proposed matching endowment fund for universities. This is a good starting point, though we must go further for our SUNY system to be more affordable and reach its full potential.

“Our budget also reflects the need to support working families and small businesses at a time of rising costs. Our calls to expand childcare assistance, reject the proposed thruway toll hike, and provide financial assistance to help first-time home buyers afford a down payment and closing costs will put money directly into the pockets of working families. Our plan to pay down the state’s unemployment insurance debt and create a small business inflation assistance grant program will provide relief to small businesses. And by fully funding the Homeowner Protection Program, this budget will help New Yorkers who have fallen behind with their mortgage payments avoid foreclosure.

“Following the disruptions caused by COVID, many more New Yorkers are struggling with mental health, particularly young people. That’s why I’m glad to see the Assembly budget increase funding for mental health, provide more inpatient psychiatric beds for children, and restore funding for student mental health services. The pandemic has also had a profound impact on our healthcare systems, many of which are struggling to recruit workers and remain financially stable. Recognizing this need, the Assembly budget will provide a much larger cost-of-living wage hike for direct support professionals who help those with disabilities and mental health issues, and it will provide higher wages for home care workers, which will better compensate these chronically underpaid professionals and help attract workers to a field that is facing a dire labor shortage. Our plan also seeks a 10% increase in nursing home reimbursement rates to help these facilities fairly pay employees and better care for residents. Though this is an improvement over the Governor’s proposal, I believe a 10% increase is insufficient, and I will continue to advocate for more resources for nursing homes. Additionally, the Assembly spending plan rejects the Governor’s proposal to shift some $624 million in Medicaid costs onto counties, which will help keep down local taxes.

“Many Western New Yorkers have expressed deep concerns with proposals to ban gas-powered home heating systems within the next decade, and I have been clear that I do not support that proposal. So, I’m pleased the Assembly budget rejects the proposed ban and recognizes that conversions to electric heating systems are simply too expensive for most New Yorkers. Instead, our plan seeks to accomplish our climate goals by setting a timeline for electrifying new builds, decarbonizing state-owned buildings, and providing financial assistance to help homeowners make their houses more energy efficient, which will also save energy costs and make homes more resilient to extreme weather. Moreover, the Assembly budget stipulates that electrification projects may only proceed if the state and independent system operators both determine that the nearby power grid has sufficient infrastructure to support the additional energy use. Though we must address the worsening climate crisis, we must do so in a way that is affordable for consumers and does not risk the viability of our grid.

“While the Assembly budget leaves out some much-needed policies and funding levels, it is nonetheless a strong starting point for a final budget that will improve affordability, education, healthcare, and more. I look forward to continuing to champion legislation and resources in the budget to address the issues that matter most to New Yorkers.”