As part of my community engagement platform, I promised to provide a regular weekly update on what’s happening up in Albany.

You can always email me directly at gounardes@nysenate.gov if you have any other questions, ideas, or want more information about what’s happening in Albany or the district.

***UPDATE ON THE STATE BUDGET***

Last week, we (finally) passed the state budget for 2022–2023. The programs and initiatives that will be funded in this year’s budget will make a significant impact for New Yorkers. As you know, one of my biggest priorities this year was fully funding CUNY and this year we made one big step towards supporting this necessary institution. By allocating over $200 million for operating costs, and $1 billion in capital funding, we have just made the largest investment in CUNY in a decade. There is more to be done to win a New Deal for CUNY but we’re off to a very important start.

But this budget is just one step towards our state’s recovery from the dual harms of the COVID pandemic and our state’s trends of austerity budgets where we starved crucial programs of their funding. We have decades of disinvestment to undo, and unfortunately, that long history of disinvestment — in childcare, CUNY, our subways and buses, mental health services, and more — cannot be undone in a single budget.

There’s a lot to be proud of in this budget: from property tax and pension reform to climate resiliency, affordable housing, childcare and education, we have made important investments for our communities. I will keep fighting for our communities’ needs until we no longer simply reverse austerity budgets, but until New Yorkers’ ambitions of properly funded services and a more affordable life can be fully realized.

Let’s break this budget down together, but first, here’s a quick primer on how the budget process works: To understand how and why we end up with the budget that we do, we cannot ignore the fact that the state constitution explicitly places control of the budget process firmly in the hands of the Governor.

Article VII of the New York State Constitution states (emphasis added):

In short, the state constitution states that: (1) the governor must submit a budget to the legislature and can include policy proposals related to budget revenues and expenditures; (2) the text of the actual budget bills are submitted by the governor to legislature; and (3) the legislature cannot amend the budget bills submitted by the governor, except to eliminate or reduce a proposed spending item.

And thanks to a pair of Court of Appeals decisions known collectively as ‘Silver v. Pataki’, since 2004 the governor has increased authority to line-item veto any changes that the legislature makes to the budget that exceed the parameters of Article VII, Section 4.

Despite these constitutional restraints, the actual practice of finalizing the budget involves the legislature to a large degree. There are two and a half weeks of joint legislative budget hearings. Each chamber of the legislature passes a budget resolution that reflects the budget priorities of that chamber — a budgetary wish-list if you will for both the senate and assembly. And the final budget product that is voted on is a reflection of negotiations between the governor and the legislature.

But just like the state constitution requires, the final budget product is still a bill submitted by the governor to the legislature to be voted on. And so, at the end of the day, if the legislature really wants something included in the budget, the governor must agree to include it in the final budget bill to the legislature. Likewise, if the governor really wants to include something in the final budget bill, the legislature is constitutionally powerless to prevent him or her from doing so.

This is how you end up with a final budget that may fall short of specific spending priorities or policy preferences. At the end of the day, the state budget must be passed, and working towards a compromise with the governor is crucial to ensuring that state government does not shut down.

And now to the details of this year’s budget:

Relief for Homeowners and Renters Property Tax Reform

More and more New Yorkers have been facing housing and financial insecurity these past few years due to the economic effects of the pandemic. To help keep New Yorkers in their homes with access to crucial utilities, this year’s budget includes:

  • $2.2 billion homeowner tax rebate. This is a one year property tax rebate credit for households that are eligible for STAR and Enhanced STAR and have incomes below $250,000. In NYC: The average benefit will be about $425, with benefits reaching another 479,000 households. Homeowners with incomes below $75K will receive an average credit at over $1,000 and benefiting an estimated 837,800 recipients. This benefit will be in the form of an advanced credit that will be an advance on Tax Year 2022 income tax returns, to be directly sent to eligible homeowners beginning in Fall 2022.
  • $1.1 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and the Landlord Rental Assistance Program (LRAP), including $150 million in federal funding to ensure tenants can pay their rent and landlords can pay their mortgages. These programs provide assistance to tenants and landlords who have been financially affected by the pandemic.
  • $250 million for a utility arrears program to be administered by the Department of Public Service, to ensure that New Yorkers financially affected by the pandemic can keep their lights on.

Taxpayer Relief

  • Income tax rate cut for working and middle class filers will save New York families $777 million over two years. Approximately 80% of residents in our district will benefit from this tax relief.

○ For married filers making:

  • $27,900 — $161,500 state tax rates will be 5.50% (down from 5.85%)
  • $161,5000 — $323,200 state tax rated will be 6% (down from 6.25%)

○ For individual filers making:

  • $20,900 — $107,650 state tax rates will be 5.50% (down from 5.85%)
  • $107,650 — $269,300 state tax rates will be 6% (down from 6.25%)
  • Financial assistance through the Earned Income Tax Credit and Supplemental Empire State Child Tax Credit, which will support low and moderate-income families
  • New York’s Empire State Child Tax Credit is a refundable credit for full-year New York State residents with children who qualify for the Federal Child Tax Credit and are at least four years of age. The Federal Child and Dependent Care Credit is a tax credit offered by the federal government.
  • Gas tax holiday: $585 million in tax relief by suspending the motor fuel tax and state sales tax on motor fuel from June 1st to December 31st, 2022. This will help save motorists up to 16 cents per gallon whenever they fill up at the pump. The MTA, which receives direct funding from the gas tax, will receive an equal amount of state funding from other sources to make up its revenue loss.

Investing in Our Public Workers

Despite chronic underinvestment in our public sector workforce, state and local employees have risen to the occasion to serve our State time and time again, and we must do all that we can as policymakers to support them. I’m proud that this budget includes pension reform they desperately need.

  • Pension Reform for Tier 6 members so they won’t be penalized by higher contribution rates because of their overtime pay.
  • Lowering the vesting period to qualify for a pension for Tiers 5 and 6 from 10 years to 5 years

Supporting Our Small Businesses

Small businesses are the backbone of our community in southern Brooklyn, but they have all too often borne the economic burden of the pandemic-related shutdowns and economic difficulties. That’s why I fought to include these measures to support them in our budget:

  • Creating a tax credit for small business COVID-19 related expenses, which will provide $250 million in savings for our small businesses, in addition to $100 million in annual tax relief for small businesses.
  • To-Go Drinks — allowing on-premises establishments to sell wine or liquor drinks for take-out or delivery. When to-go drinks were introduced earlier in the pandemic, they were a great way for New Yorkers to support small businesses, and I’m eager to see this continue.

Education

This year, we continued the state’s commitment to fully funding our public schools, including:

  • $31 billion in education funding statewide, including $21.3 billion in Foundation Aid.
  • Ensuring that southern Brooklyn school school districts will receive their fair share of the pie with $12.3 billion for NYC schools, a $475 million or 4 percent increase over last year’s funding. This includes over $8.9 billion in Foundation Aid to support our NYC students
  • Continuation of funding of $550 million to support Universal Pre-Kindergarten in NYC schools
  • $100 million in mental health grants for school districts over two years
  • $58 million in STEM funding for nonpublic schools to build on our state’s commitment to STEM education
  • $34 million in capital funding for libraries throughout our state

Investing in Higher Education

  • More than $660 million in capital for SUNY and over $1 billion in capital for CUNY, and $60 million each in operating expenses for both SUNY and CUNY
  • Providing $48.8 million to SUNY and $59.6 million to CUNY to close the gap between the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and actual tuition costs, also known as the “TAP Gap”
  • Expanding the Tuition Assistance Program to include part-time students and some 4 non-degree programs
  • Supporting families by providing $16M to establish childcare centers on CUNY campuses

Supporting our Health Care Workers

Health care workers have risked their lives to keep us safe during this pandemic, and it is only fair that we recognize their sacrifices in this budget:

  • $1.2 billion dedicated to frontline healthcare worker bonuses with up to $3,000 bonuses going to workers earning less than $125K who remain in their positions for one year, and prorated bonuses for those working fewer hours. Essential workers kept our city running this pandemic, and I am proud that our budget celebrates them.
  • $500 million dedicated to raise wages for human services workers.
  • Increased home care worker wages by $3 per hour over two years. This represents a raise of approximately 20% and investment by the State of $1.1 billion.

Affordable Childcare

As a parent, I know how difficult and expensive it is to juggle parenting and work. I am proud of the steps New York is taking towards universal childcare by allocating:

  • Over $1 billion to increase eligibility for child care vouchers by raising the threshold to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (approximately $80,000 for a family of 4), increasing reimbursement rates from 69% of the market rate to 80%, and to provide additional compensation to child care workers.
  • Improving child care centers with $50 million in capital funds
  • Funding for holistic prenatal and postnatal care $20 million to reduce racial inequities and make quality care accessible for all mothers. Our budget also expands postpartum coverage for all individuals eligible for Medicare while pregnant from 60 days to one year after they give birth.

Health Care and Mental Health Care Funding

  • Increasing capacity to treat severe mental illness by funding 1,000 new psychiatric beds with $55 million
  • Ensure adequate staffing at state-operated psychiatric centers
  • $1.6 billion in capital funding for healthcare transformation projects
  • Tackling the opioid crisis with $184 million to provide support to municipalities and ensure oversight of spending by the Opioid Advisory Board
  • Suicide prevention: preparing for the nationwide launch of the 9–8–8 suicide prevention hotline with $35 million

Environmental Protection and Climate Change Mitigation

We in southern Brooklyn know how crucial it is to ensure we mitigate the worst effects that climate change might have on our communities. This year’s budget includes:

  • $500 million in our clean water infrastructure
  • $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, a $100 million increase over FY’22
  • $4.2 billion for Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act of 2022 which will help direct critical funding for new environmental protection and climate change mitigation projects in years to come.

Public Safety and Criminal Justice

Making changes to our criminal justice system was a key priority of the Legislature in this budget process. My constituents elected me to be a thoughtful and considerate lawmaker, not a reactionary one, and I remain committed to working with the city and state to address the concerns that many in our community have expressed. As a legislative body, we have the ability to address the root causes of violence in our communities by stopping the influx of guns into our communities, increasing access to healthcare, housing, and other social services, and more, and we must use it.

This year’s budget includes:

  • $227 million to fund various programs that will strengthen gun violence prevention efforts of law enforcement and community-based organizations
  • Building off changes made in 2020, made additional changes to bail laws, including:

○ requiring data collection regarding judges’ bail decisions to increase judicial accountability

○ facilitate easier prosecution of gun crimes

○ add additional gun crimes to the list of bail-eligible offenses

○ clarify language to make certain repeat offenses eligible for bail

○ allow judges to consider if a crime caused serious harm to a person or people when setting bail

  • An extension of Kendra’s Law for five years and expanded care coordination for mental health. Kendra’s Law allows a court to order outpatient treatment for certain people with severe mental illness who are unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision.

Tackling Hate Crimes

  • $10 million in community based programs to combat biased crimes
  • An additional $10 million to support AAPI community groups engaged in crisis intervention and social service delivery

If you have any questions about this year’s budget or anything else, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office: gounardes@nysenate.gov or (718) 238–6044.

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NYS Senator, District 22.

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Senator Andrew Gounardes

Senator Andrew Gounardes

NYS Senator, District 22.

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