Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York Legislature have agreed on a $220 billion state spending plan for the 2022-23 fiscal year. This budget clearly provides what Governor Hochul termed a “blueprint” for our future.
“I want to thank Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie for working with us to deliver a state budget that addresses many of the long-ignored needs of at-risk New Yorkers,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “This budget makes significant investments in mental health and addiction services, public education and rebuilding the state workforce so that all New Yorkers can access the services they need to thrive.”
After a decade of austerity budgeting that left the state and its citizens ill-prepared to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget increases agency spending by more than 3% to address the state staffing crisis and to expand agency capacity to deliver needed services to New Yorkers.
In addition to making investments in agency staffing and operations, the budget agreement addresses several of PEF’s priorities as outlined in the union’s “Fund Our Future” campaign, including:
· Health Care Bonus Program: Establishes a health care workforce bonus for state and other employees who work in health care or mental hygiene positions. Health care and mental hygiene workers who provide direct services to clients will be eligible for a workforce and retention bonus of up to $3,000. PEF led the fight for hazard pay for essentialemployees. While not all essential employees are eligible for these bonus payments, we are thankful that the Governor secured her signature budget initiative in support of our health care heroes;
· Nurse Loan Forgiveness Program: Creates the Nurses Across New York program to repay the loans of nurses in hard-to-staff areas;
· Expand Mental Health and Addiction Services: Increases funding for mental health and addiction services and restores a number of inpatient psychiatric beds across the state to help address the current mental health crisis and the lack of stabilization services for the mentally ill;
· Protect SUNY Hospitals: Provides significant financial support for SUNY hospitals to ensure the continuity of operations and the delivery of quality services to residents in those communities;
· Expands Loan Forgiveness: Authorizes the state to share records to facilitate debt forgiveness benefits for state employees under the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and excludes such loan forgiveness from the definition of income for state income tax purposes;
· Protects Employees from Increased Costs from COVID Overtime: Protects state employees who worked overtime in response to the COVID pandemic from being subjected to higher contribution rates to the retirement plan because of those additional earnings;
· Tier 5 and 6 Pension Reform: Re-establishes the five-year vesting period for benefits in the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System so that the state can attract and retain talent in this extremely tight labor market. This begins the process of repairing the Tier 5 and 6 retirement plans so state and local governments can attract and retain the workers they need to maintain operations and build the public sector workforce of the future.
“PEF’s Fund Our Future campaign is about building relationships and forging consensus with stakeholders to improve the lives of New Yorkers,” Spence added, “PEF members sent more than 18,000 letters and made thousands of phone calls to lawmakers on behalf of their friends, neighbors and families to advocate that all New Yorkers have access to the quality public services they need and deserve. We are proud to be part of the process in collaboration with our elected officials as we work collectively to rebuild our state so that no one gets left behind and everyone thrives in New York’s future.”