Assemblywoman Hunter’s Statement on the Final Budget

“Last year, my colleagues and I had a highly productive legislative session in the Assembly that was responsive to the challenges we face as a state. We passed a measure that suspended the state gas tax, accelerated middle-class tax cuts, and made record investments in our public schools. The 2023-24 budget builds on that progress by raising the minimum wage, expanding free school meals to more children, and making record investments for our most vulnerable.

“As chair of the Assembly Banking Committee, I have also been working to ensure that new financial protections were included in the budget. I am extremely pleased that my legislation to protect consumers from excessive or unexpected overdraft fees for paperless transactions was incorporated into the final budget. Protections against excessive overdrafts for check payments already exist; however, these same protections do not exist for paperless transactions, which are much more common today. My legislation would require the State Department of Financial Services to establish the same protections for these paperless transactions. Additionally, my legislation would task the department with developing rules about how these charges are imposed on consumers whose accounts are overdrawn and how account owners are informed and notified about overdraft processes.

“While consumer protection in banking is vitally important, another one of my goals as the chairwoman of the Banking Committee is to make home-buying more accessible for first-time buyers. The budget will invest more than $20 million for the new First-Time Homeowner program to provide assistance to lower-income first-time homebuyers for closing costs and down payments.

“Although chairing the Banks Committee allowed me to pursue new opportunities and protections for the people of New York in this budget, education remains one of my absolute top priorities. I am incredibly pleased that every school district in the 128th Assembly District will see at least a 3% increase in the Foundation Aid they receive from the state. Additionally, every school district will receive at least the same amount of money they received last year for universal pre-K. In addition to the record investments, we are making in education, we are providing $130 million to expand free meals to 300,000 New York students, including students at Syracuse City schools.

“Healthcare is also a major priority that is top of mind for many New Yorkers, especially post-pandemic. Diversifying our health care workforce is crucial to our state’s future, which is why the budget invests $1 million in the Diversity in Medicine Program that I advocated for. This investment will help recruit and train a diverse healthcare workforce that represents the diversity of the patients in underserved communities and ensures health equity. Having a healthcare workforce that reflects the communities they serve and their cultures has been demonstrated to lead to better health outcomes.

“As a veteran myself I have always appreciated the unique challenges veterans face and I have advocated for them throughout the budget process. I am proud of the many items in the budget that will help New York Veterans. On any given night in New York State, the Division on Veteran’s Services estimates that there are over 1,300 veterans who are homeless.To combat this, we will be providing the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund $1.1 million. Additionally, we will provide $2.8 million in restorations and adds for veterans’ programs including Clear Path, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of New York, and many other veteran organizations.

“Additionally, I also worked to respond to the concerns I heard from small businesses. When the Governor presented her Executive Budget Proposal, she proposed to let the sales tax exemption for all vending machines in the state expire. I am very pleased that we are keeping this extension and applying the exemption to all vendors, not just vending machines. Keeping the extension is critical to allow the vending industry to continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and update their equipment to facilitate new payment methods.

“Finally, all New Yorkers have seen firsthand how persistent inflation has cut into their bottom line. Lower income workers have been the hardest hit. To give families breathing room, we are raising the minimum wage to $15 on January 1st, 2024, $15.50 on January 1st, 2025, and then $16 on January 1st, 2026. After the $16 wage increase, we will index at a rate equal to the three-year average change in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

“The 2023-24 state budget secures big wins for Syracuse communities and I’m proud to have supported many of these initiatives. As we continue to recover from the pandemic, I will keep working with my Assembly colleagues to deliver real results to the people.”