State legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to an agreement Wednesday on a tentative deal for a $135 billion budget for 2013-2014, which needs final approval by April 1.
The budget is on schedule to pass the earliest the state budget has passed since 1976. Should it pass on time that would be the third straight year it does, which last happened in 1984, according to a release sent out by the governor’s office.
The budget deal agreed on plans to raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour over the next three years, as well as provide $650 million in tax cuts and credits for businesses and middle-income families, which begin in 2014. Those who make between 40,000 and $300,000, and have at least one child, will also receive tax rebate checks of $350 for the next three years.
While local state representatives were pleased the agreement sets the budget up to pass on time, many had some issues with the deal. The most brought up issue was the cuts in funding to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
“I am pleased that we are moving toward an on-time budget agreement for the third year in a row. And I am especially proud of how hard the assembly fought for the programs that sustain the families in our state, for small businesses, investment in jobs, education and to restore minimum wage and every penny of cuts to vital programs for developmentally disabled persons in our community,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee in a statement. “However, I am disappointed at the numbers we have as of now, which indicate too deep a cut for services to programs for disabled persons. Throughout the final budget process and beyond, I will continue to fight for restoration of the funds for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, indexing of the minimum wage and increased funds for public education.”
The OPWDD is facing a proposed $120 million, or roughly six percent cut in the budget. The actual figure of the cuts is still being worked out, and Cuomo has said the cuts to OPWDD won’t be as large as originally proposed.
At a recent rally organized by Jawonio, many local officials threw their support behind the OPWDD and said they’d do whatever they can to restore the cuts. In a statement released by State Sen. David Carlucci, he said he will continue to fight the cuts.
"While various components of this budget agreement continue to be ironed out, I continue to remain focused on fully restoring funding to nonprofit providers who service those with developmental disabilities,” he said. “A 120 million dollar cut to the OPWDD budget is too steep a price to pay, and as chairman of the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee I will do everything possible to avoid these devastating cuts."
Jawonio CEO Jill Warner was disappointed with the tentative agreement, but thankful for the support from local elected officials.
“We want to thank our friends and advocates in the New York State Legislature who worked tirelessly and relentlessly on behalf of Jawonio and all the not for profits providing services to New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, their staff and families - we are deeply disappointed with the preliminary figure for restoration," she said.
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski also said he’ll use the last few days before the final budget is agreed upon to fight to restore funding to non-profits.
“As of this moment some details are still being worked out and I have several concerns including cuts to the not for profit agencies that serve the developmentally disabled,” he said. “Final passage of the budget is expected this weekend and I will continue to advocate for Rockland families throughout the process.”
Zebrowski also praised the budget for its “increase in education aid and tax cuts to small businesses.”
Carlucci and Zebrowski have also worked with local girl scout Hannah Buckler in her attempt to raise the state minimum wage over the last year-plus.
“With the understanding that we cannot wait for Washington to act, we have also enacted progressive legislation here in New York that for the first time will raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour over the course of three years,” Carlucci said. “After years of endless chatter and empty promises, we have finally followed through on our promise to make sure that hardworking New Yorkers living at the poverty level have a chance to climb the economic ladder.”