Joint legislative budget hearings to review Gov. Cuomo’s 2016-17 Executive Budget proposal continued last week. At Monday’s hearing on the proposed health budget, state health officials reported progress on curbing Medicaid costs for 6.3 million New Yorkers, telling lawmakers that annual spending growth has dropped to 1.4%.  The Governor’s Executive Budget proposes spending $63.3 billion for medical care of low-income residents in the 2016-17 fiscal year, half of which is federally funded. Lawmakers also expressed concern about the Governor’s proposed minimum wage increase, from $9 per hour to $15 per hour in 2019 in New York City and in 2022 in the rest of the state, and its impact on hospitals and health care providers.  They asked how nonprofit and public health entities that provide health care to New Yorkers, many through contracts with the state, will be able to absorb the higher wages that the Governor has proposed.

On Tuesday, local government leaders from around the state made their case to lawmakers.  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged lawmakers to fund public housing, infrastructure and health care, while also defending the city’s spending and tax practices.  The mayors of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany also testified, talking about the impact of the state budget on their respective city’s finances.

On Wednesday, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia explained the State Education Department’s request for a $2.4 billion increase in education funding in the next fiscal year. She also called for an elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and recommended funding increases for pre-kindergarten programs, teacher training and support for English language learners. (Her testimony is here.) The Republican-led Senate has indicated that its top priority will be the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment this year.  The Democratic Assembly is expected to push for an increase in Foundation Aid, which was established after the state Court of Appeals in 2006 ruled in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case that New York State was failing to meet its constitutional responsibilities by underfunding schools.

On Thursday, legislators questioned Department of Environmental Conservation Commission Basil Seggos on the environmental conservation aspects of the Executive budget proposal.  Issues that came up at the hearing included the Governor’s $300 million proposal for the Environmental Protection Fund, invasive species, the need for more electric car charging stations, and how the state is addressing climate change. Legislative budget hearings continue this week on the following topics:

  • Monday, Feb. 1 — Housing
  • Tuesday, Feb. 2 (morning) – Taxes
  • Tuesday, Feb. 2 (afternoon) – Economic Development
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3 (morning) – Mental Hygiene
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3 (afternoon) – Workforce Development
  • Thursday, Feb. 4 – Public Protection