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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

The State Budget: time for action

Executive Director
Henry Garrido

The future of providing necessary funding that our already-overburdened city hospitals and schools will need hangs in the balance this month as budget negotiations continue in Albany.

The calendar is set to April 1, the state budget deadline, and until then, a lot remains at stake.

This union will stand with our allies here and in Albany to fight the state budget proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in early January.

His plan is an effort to plug a $6 billion deficit, which is a laudable goal. Yet, several of his solutions are, quite frankly, wrongheaded and misguided.

Given current events, the remedies he proposes are poison for the patient and would negatively impact our public health system, education, and social services.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget is a document that includes a proposal to shift more of the burden of the state’s rising Medicaid costs to local governments throughout the state. The cost for New York City is an estimated $1.1 billion, which will have a huge impact on the city budget — and ultimately the services DC 37 members provide.

This is double the estimate Mayor de Blasio’s administration projected, and some at City Hall have spoken out that this is the most serious blow to city finances in years. Rightly so, they have vigorously disputed these numbers from Albany.

If this budget is approved, the consequences for the city would have a devastating impact on our public hospitals and the workers employed at NYC Health+Hospitals’ 70 health care facilities and clinics, which include 11 hospitals.

This proposed state budget directly hits at the core of its task: providing health care for millions of New Yorkers.

This could not come at a worse time. The possible service cutbacks and staffing reductions at NYC H+H to fill the gap left by these proposed Medicaid cost shifts will affect our city’s ability to prepare for and respond to the increasingly serious Coronavirus threat (see pages 6-7).

Dumping additional Medicaid costs on New York City is also unfair. According to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the state is primarily responsible for growth in Medicaid costs. Because of the limited control New York City and other state municipalities have over how Medicaid operates, the Citizens Budget Commission has recently stated that the way the state handles costs is an unfunded mandate.

“The cost for New York City is an estimated $1.1 billion, which will have a huge impact on the city budget — and ultimately the services DC 37 members provide.”

Also in this proposed budget are other major strikes to the city’s finances and our safety net. The proposed state budget demands that the city contribute an additional 5 percent to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This may cost the city as much as $100 million — in addition to the $125 million increase the state demanded — and got — last year.

Despite statements to the contrary, this budget also fails to meet our needs in school aid by an estimated shortfall of $135 million. This is because the current proposed spending is less than half the $2 billion increase recommended by the state Board of Regents.

Taking away more money from education would place an additional burden on the city budget. For decades, the state has walked away from its obligation to properly fund education. In a recent report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, the state’s share of funding has dropped steadily since the 1990s by more than 11 percent.

This is unacceptable. We demand that the state budget include the recommended funding.

During the Feb. 15 weekend, I joined our local leaders, members, and activists at the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus in Albany (see page 8). We worked hard speaking with our political allies, state legislators, and other state elected officials, including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. They listened, they heard what we had to say, and many expressed their support.

In this union’s history, we have been successful by standing up for what’s right, organizing, and showing our strength in numbers — and we are many. As the process moves forward, stand with us. Stand against this proposed state budget.