Assemblymember Lunsford: State Budget Puts Money Back into Taxpayers’ Pockets

A good budget is better than an on-time budget, and so I am glad we spent an extra week putting together this year’s State Budget to ensure it put New York families first.After a grueling week and a half of very late nights in Albany, we were able to pass a budget with some big wins, some necessary compromises, and some firm foundations upon which to build into the future.

To begin, we are putting money back into taxpayer’s pockets.Between supply chain issues, workforce shortages, and Russian aggression in Ukraine, people all across the country are feeling financial strain.High prices at the supermarket and the gas pump are forcing families to make difficult choices, which is why we suspended the State gas tax and call on our local municipalities to do the same.We accelerated the middle-class tax cut, which will have most middle-class families paying the lowest tax rate they’ve seen in 70 years. We are providing $2.2 Billion for property tax rebates for homeowners and have expanded the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to help lower income families make ends meet.

One of the biggest costs for families in our district is childcare, which is why we’ve built upon our historic childcare investments from last year by expanding eligibility for childcare subsidies to more families.Now, a family of three earning $69,900 per year will qualify for subsidies to cover 80% of the market rate for childcare. For a family of four, that income threshold raises to $83,000. We’re also providing $343 Million in stabilization grants to childcare providers, including funds specifically to raise worker wages, and investing $15.6 Million to help SUNY and CUNY campuses open new on-campus childcare facilities and $1.1 Billion to expand access to Universal Pre-K throughout the state. Finally, we are fulfilling our promise to fully fund Foundation Aid by investing a historic $31.2 Billion in School Aid and $21.3 Billion in Foundation Aid for our public schools!

New York continues its commitment to being a leader in climate policy by creating a $4.2 Billion Environmental Bond Act, which you will see on the ballot this November. This bond will help local governments perform critical infrastructure improvements including flood protection, clean water initiatives, and climate resiliency projects. We are also protecting our wetlands (which are essential tools for carbon sequestration), enhancing the tax incentive for Brownfield cleanup, and helping our schools transition to Zero Emission school buses!

For our healthcare system, we finally require telehealth visits to be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits, which will allow doctors to continue providing this important service to homebound patients. We increased Medicaid rates, created bonuses of up to $3,000 for our healthcare workers, gave our mental hygiene workers in hospitals and group homes a long overdue cost of living raise, and bumped up the pay for our home health workers.

We also made some changes to our criminal justice system by giving our district attorneys more funding and extending “Kendra’s Law,” which allows judges to order a mental health assessment of an individual who appears to be mentally ill or at risk of serious harm to themselves or others.Bail reform law was also changed to allow for more judicial discretion when setting bail, including instances for repeat offenders as well as those arrested for bringing illegal guns into our community.

We have also taken steps to make our government work better for the people. We created a Department of Veterans Affairs, elevating the division to a full commissioned department, which will allow our veterans to better access services by placing them all under one roof, and we’ve also enhanced the Hire-A-Vet tax credit to encourage business to hire more veterans.We overhauled JCOPE to provide for a more independent evaluation of claims of ethical violations.We also created a database of Economic Development projects to allow the people to more easily track how we are spending their tax dollars. We amended the Open Meetings Law to allow governmental bodies to choose hybrid remote options for meetings and to hold meetings remotely during inclement weather, and we changed the formula for how we fund our local governments, requiring local tax dollars to stay local while maintaining the state’s responsibility to provide funding.

There is a lot to be proud of in this budget, but we certainly didn’t get everything we need.I will continue to work hard to get funding for early intervention services, to close the TAP gap for every student, to make our childcare system even more affordable, and to provide support for our nursing homes. While this was an exhausting budget cycle, we continue to work tirelessly for the people of our district.

Thank you, as always, for the opportunity to serve you.