Fiscal Policy Institute Response to the 2019-2020 Adopted Budget
Read FPI’s comprehensive overview of the NYS budget.
This year’s budget raises revenues from a number of different areas, and does so through a number of well-founded approaches. The Fiscal Policy Institute supports the newly enacted luxury real estate tax, which makes property taxes more progressive. We support congestion pricing, which will raise needed revenues for the transit system while reducing traffic in Manhattan. And we support the collection of sales tax from internet marketplace providers, which will level the playing field between online services and retail stores. Unfortunately, a number of other new revenue streams were not included in the budget that should have been.
“We applaud the state for seeking new dedicated revenues for the MTA but they missed the mark by not adopting other revenue streams desperately needed to fund critical services like Ultra-Millionaires Tax ($2.1B), a Pied-a-Terre Tax ($650M), or a Carried Interest Fairness Fee ($3.5B). The wealthiest New Yorkers can and should pay a little more so we can begin to address our states worst in the nation income inequality and shamefully high child poverty rates in many of our cities and rural areas.”
Human Services COLA
The majority of the Human Services workforce was once again denied a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in the budget, with the exception of Direct Care workers. The Governor and Legislature have once again targeted a small subset of the human services workforce for a raise while excluding hundreds of thousands of workers who have been denied a COLA for nearly a decade. The final budget also includes less than half the funding needed to bring human service contracts up to the minimum wage.
“The Governor drew a line in the sand to provide a small portion of the state’s contracted human services workforce a raise, while ignoring and disrespecting the rest of the workforce. Literally in the last minutes of budget negotiations the Governor decided that he needed a raise and pushed the Legislature to agree. The Governor gives himself a raise and pays lip service to gender pay equity while leaving a predominantly female (80%) workforce out in the cold once again. Sixty percent of these workers, because they are paid so little, can qualify for public assistance benefits. This is shameful and hypocritical.”
Local Governments and the Property Tax Cap
Making the property tax cap permanent without any changes is a great disappointment. FPI has long said that the cap is the wrong solution to the right problem. Property taxes are indeed too high in many areas of the state, but that’s because the state government does not carry its fair share of the costs they push down to the local level. This leaves local governments with few ways to raise revenues short of increasing property taxes, which are often already too high, and increasing fees and fines as a profit center rather than a means of fair and appropriate law enforcement.
“Not only did the legislature go along with the governor’s misguided property tax cap, it did not even take the occasion to restructure the cap to ensure that it provides local governments and school districts with a floor rather than a ceiling. Options on the table were making it a true two percent cap by better accounting for inflation and removing undemocratic supermajority override provisions that would allow for more predictable funding and eliminate the possibility (as we have seen for a number of years) of negative or very low cap rates.
The Fiscal Policy Institute produced a study last fall showing the need for a robust outreach campaign to ensure an accurate count in the census and estimating that $40 million was needed to allow community-based organizations to be trusted voices in their communities. The assembly and the senate both included this amount in their one-house budgets, while the governor included zero. The final budget includes $20 million.
“Half a loaf is better than none, but $20 million is not nearly enough to ensure the outreach New York needs. This is going to be a particularly difficult year, using online responses for the first time, and taking place in a context of high levels of suspicion of government. With the state not carrying its share, other local governments, philanthropy, and others will have to step up even more than usual. And we be looking closely to see how the state funding is allocated as well: the $20 million is not clearly allocated to community-based organizations but is broadly set for ‘community outreach.’”
Enhanced Services to Refugees
The New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program (NYSESRP) was funded at $2 million, the same as it has been for the past two years. That’s short of the $4.5 million FPI estimated was needed, but $2 million more than any other state is doing.
When the federal government restricted refugee resettlement and the federal funding that comes with it, New York was the only state to react by expanding its programs to help the refugees who are already here and to refugees who move to New York from other states. The enhanced services for refugee program helps create communities in which refugees succeed at work and at school, and helps newcomers to learn English and become better integrated into our communities. That’s good for refugees, of course, but it’s really good for all of us.
“It sure would have been a good year to do more to make sure refugees get off to a good start in New York. But, it was a relief to see the program funded at the same level as in prior years, at a time when so many other programs were squeezed. New Yorkers can be proud of the state’s enhanced services to refugees’ program, which is unique in the nation.”
Liberty Defense Project
New York’s Liberty Defense Project was intended to ensure that New York immigrants have adequate access to legal services to make sure they are fairly represented in the American legal system. Funding of $10 million was included in this year’s budget.
“The Liberty Defense Project is a great initiative of the state, and it is good to see $10 million in the budget after even that much was often in question. In a state with 4 million immigrants and at a time when immigrants both with and without status face a hostile federal enforcement regime, $10 million is not enough to ensure adequate representation to all who need it, but it is enough to make a big difference in people’s lives.”