Capitol Watch: NY looks at mental health, higher ed budgets
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York state Legislature is set to weigh in on the governor’s plan to focus spending on mental health, higher education and workforce development over the next year.
The Senate and Assembly finance committees plan to gather input from state officials and advocacy groups at budget hearings scheduled for next week in Albany.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s overall $178 billion spending plan would increase state spending by 1.9%. Cuomo proposed a $176 billion budget last year, a 2% increase over the previous fiscal year.
Lawmakers have until April 1 to pass a balanced budget.
The Democratic governor is proposing to boost funding for the state’s Office of Mental Health by 1.1% to $4.5 billion. Cuomo is balancing his budget in part by reducing state funding that’s helped local government run certain health programs.
But he’s proposing more money to help mental hygiene providers deal with the cost of minimum wage hikes and to transform a state psychiatric center into a recovery hub, among other initiatives.
New York would also launch a new program to treat confined sex offenders at a secure treatment and rehabilitation center under another proposal. Cuomo estimates the state would see $2.5 million in savings because sex offenders are expected to have shorter lengths of stay.
His budget would also direct $1 million in new funds for suicide prevention efforts for veterans, law enforcement and corrections officers.
A statewide coalition of child advocates and mental health professionals say they’re concerned that New York could further cut children’s behavioral health care amid concerns about higher-than-expected Medicaid spending.
The Campaign for Healthy Minds, Healthy Kid s points to New York’s move this year to eliminate enhanced rates of reimbursement for child and family treatment and support services. Advocates say over half of New York children with a mental health condition or substance use disorder who need treatment services don’t receive them.
Cuomo’s budget calls for New York to spend $1.2 billion on higher education. That includes a 6.5% increase in funding to the State University of New York and a 10.8% increase to the City University of New York.
Much of the increase comes from $1.9 billion in new appropriations for capital projects in the public university systems. Cuomo is calling for a new capital matching grant program for new construction and major renovations at the universities.
The governor also wants to expand eligibility for the tuition-free Excelsior Scholarship at the State University of New York and City University of New York colleges. He’s also calling for boosting tuition awards to New York state residents attending private colleges in the state.
The governor’s plan would increase the maximum income threshold for those programs from the current $125,000 to $135,000 for the academic year starting in 2021. That limit would then jump to $150,000 the next year.
Cuomo also wants to continue restricting public universities from raising undergraduate tuition more than $200 each year.
His budget ends $2.5 million of state funding for the accelerated studies in association programs and $2 million for the Family Empowerment Community College pilot program. He proposes less funding for child care centers, small business development centers, graduate diversity fellowships and other state-operated college programs.
Lawmakers are expected to hear from labor advocacy groups over the budget’s proposals to address New York’s workforce.
The governor has proposed legislation to require all employers to provide sick leave and to establish prevailing wage requirements for certain private construction projects. Another bill would allow employers to share personal information about new hires with employee organizations and require employers to allow labor unions to attend orientations for new employees.
Some companies, such as Uber and DoorDash, have been wary that New York will boost employment protections for workers. Cuomo has proposed a task force to look into so-called gig economy workers and issue recommendations by May 1.
Cuomo wants to direct $2 million for hiring and keeping a diverse workforce in the motion picture and television industries. He’s also proposing to set aside $635,000 for spending on a business development and lending program aimed at minority and female business owners.
The state Senate’s analysis of Cuomo’s budget proposal says it would decrease the state workforce by 1,077 full-time employees between March 2020 and March 2021. Cuomo’s proposal doesn’t include $13 million in employment and training programs supported by lawmakers last year.