As part of my community engagement platform, I promised to provide a regular weekly update on what’s happening up in Albany. This is an update from week fifteen of the 2023 session.
As always, you can email me directly at email@example.com if you have any other questions, ideas, or want more information about what’s happening in Albany or the district.
*Session Week Fourteen*
This week, the New York State legislature passed the FY 2023–24 budget, which includes many of my priorities. The budget builds on prior investments in our higher education institutions, public transportation, and working families while keeping the lowest personal income tax rates for working- and middle-class New Yorkers. Although this budget does not represent all we had hoped for, I’m proud that we were able to bring a number of crucial initiatives over the finish line.
Firstly, New York will finally expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit (ESCC) to families with kids ages 0–3 years old. This massive improvement to the ESCC is a down payment on my Working Families Credit, where eligibility will be further expanded and families will receive a larger credit, disbursed every three months, to better keep up with real-time needs.
This year’s budget also earmarks additional funding for the MTA to increase subway frequency, improving train times and enticing riders back onto the system. These investments will also help launch a free bus pilot program in each borough as well as reduce the upcoming fare hike. We’re also supporting a pilot program to operate automated enforcement of vehicles stopped or parked at bus stops, bus lanes, bike lanes, and double parking areas, speeding up our notoriously slow public buses. The budget also extends the current bus lane camera enforcement program.
The fight for a New Deal For CUNY continued, and this year we’ve secured more than $100 million in additional operating aid over the Governor’s proposed budget, over $1 billion in new capital, and no tuition hikes yet again for in-state students.
Unfortunately, this budget may be remembered most for what it does not include: any meaningful solutions to our state’s housing crisis. As our session continues, we must continue to engage in the discussion around building more housing and strengthening tenant protections to keep people in their homes.
Here are some more details on my accomplishments in the FY 2023–2024 budget:
- Tuition freeze for in-state students at both SUNY and CUNY
- The legislature included $103m over the executive proposal for CUNY operating aid- $53m in one year funding, $50m in transformation initiative funds that are investments in innovation to help meet the workforce needs of the future, can be used to enhance students support services, academic programs, increase enrollment and modernize campus operations
- $435m increase in flexible capital funds for CUNY for a total of $1.1b, includes a total of $1.9b for SUNY for capital projects.
- Due to the advocacy of the CUNY Rising Coalition and Senator Gounardes, the final budget included a total of $545m in funding for CUNY over the Executive Budget.
Housing & NYCHA
- $391m for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to cover NYCHA residents, who were originally excluded from the program.
- $135m for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) capital repairs.
- $40m for the Homeowner Protection Program
- $25m for the first-time homeowners program
- $15m in additional funding, for a total of $50m, for legal representation for evictions
Investing in New Americans
- The budget includes $1b in funds to New York City to help with shelter costs and other associated costs related to the influx of migrants and asylum seekers to NYC. As we wait for assistance from the federal government, our state legislature is committed to helping.
- $5m in additional funding for the New York State Refugee and Resettlement Program, for a total of $7m.
- An additional $20m for the Office of New Americans
Helping Working Families
Empire State Tax Credit
- After years of advocacy, the budget will finally expand eligibility for children ages 0–3 years old for the Empire State Child Tax Credit. At a time of a growing affordability crisis, we can’t leave New Yorkers hanging; we need to build upon this successful program that invests in our New York families.
- Building upon last year’s program to achieve universal child age, the budget modifies the Executive’s proposal to improve NYS Child Care Assistance Program to expand the income eligibility to 85% of the state median income and give the Office of Children and Family Services discretion to determine priority populations for child care assistance. This will help more families receive the child care assistance that they need.
School Lunch Program
- $135m for expanded school meals program, which will cover 81% of the total student population in our state.
Fighting Hate Crimes and Advancing Equity
- This budget includes $30m for Asian American Pacific Islander equity budget coalition priorities, for crisis intervention initiatives and community-based programs to combat hate crimes
- This year’s budget includes additional money for the MTA to increase subway frequency. With this investment, the MTA will be able to improve train times so that we can help entice riders back onto the subways.
- One free bus route per borough
- Reduced the upcoming fare hike
- The budget allows cameras for automated enforcement in NYC, which will allow for a pilot program to operate automated enforcement for vehicles stopped or parked in bus stops, bus lanes, bike lanes, and double parking areas. It also extends the current bus lane camera enforcement program.
Minimum Wage Increase
- This year’s budget includes language to provide minimum wage increases to home care aides, require transparency measures from providers and health plans to better understand the flow of home care wage and benefit dollars from the state to the workers, and to allow DOH to implement regulations regarding federal requirements on electronic visit verification processes.
- General minimum wage increase to increase the current minimum wage for 2024, 2025, 2026 by statutory amounts, followed by increases that are pegged to inflation beginning January 1, 2027.
- For New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties, the minimum wage will be:
- January 1, 2024: $16.00
- January 1, 2025: $16.50
- January 1, 2026: $17.00
Safety Net Hospitals
- Due to the advocacy of many in the State Senate, the adopted state budget included an additional $500m in additional funding for distressed hospitals. Safety net hospitals, such as Maimonides and SUNY Downstate suffer from chronic underfunding and need adequate investment to maintain operation. This is a much needed step to ensure they remain open and servicing their communities.
Meeting our Climate Goals
- Build Public Renewables which authorizes the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to develop and own renewable energy projects, phase out its fossil fuel power plants, and provide renewable energy and energy efficiency services to state and municipal buildings and residential customers. This legislation empowers NYPA to ensure our state can meet the goals laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
- The All Electric Buildings Act would prohibit the permitting of any new residential or commercial building that is not an all-electric building. Would apply to new buildings starting December 31, 2025 for new buildings of seven stories or less, and December 31, 2028 for all new buildings regardless of size or building type.
This week the Budget & Revenue committee, which I chair, and the Labor committee met. Here’s a snapshot of what we did:
Budget & Revenue:
- S2576, my bill that provides for the deduction of student loan interest from federal adjusted gross income. This bill will create a state equivalent to the student loan tax deduction that already exists on the federal level.
- S1446, establishes a fund for the creation of affordable housing for veterans and seniors.
- S3134, establishes a tax credit for individuals who serve or are employed as a direct support professional, or direct care worker.This bill provides for up to five thousand dollars for taxpayers who make less than fifty thousand dollars and a phase out for individuals who make over one hundred thousand dollars.
- S5026, my bill that enacts the “freelance isn’t free act” which provides for the payment of freelance workers as independent contractors, including requiring written contracts. This legislation covers timely payment of compensation, the handling of controversies relating to payment, complaint procedures, and penalties.
- S1746, relates to the development and implementation of programs intended to prevent workplace violence in public schools.
- S1902A, requires unemployment applicants to be notified of the supplemental nutrition assistance program and the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC). This legislation intends to reach New Yorkers who may qualify for programs yet remain unaware or unsure of how to apply for benefits.
The Senate passed important legislation to add substance abuse resources and strengthen fire safety measures. Here’s a snapshot of our efforts this week:
- S3348, refers individuals to appropriate service providers that are able to provide services to such individuals within seventy-two hours for substance use disorders.
- S2048, prohibits forensic child custody evaluators who have been terminated for cause from appearing as an expert witness in family court custody and visitation proceedings.
- S622, requires State-owned buildings or State-leased space to adhere to the State’s uniform fire prevention and building code or the applicable local fire prevention and building code.
Thanks for reading! As always, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office as 718–238–6044.