On Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo formally rolled out his 2016 Executive Budget priorities in his annual State of the State address. In addition to ethics reform, infrastructure investment and increased funding for environmental protection, the governor introduced several significant proposals in the area of social and economic justice.
As anticipated, the governor made a compelling case for raising the minimum wage to $15, and putting an end to taxpayer subsidizing of workers whose wages are so inadequate that they are forced to supplement them with food stamps and Medicaid. Getting the State Senate on board will not be easy. But the governor appears to be on a mission to reclaim the progressive mantle. Last year he used his executive authority to raise the minimum wage for certain categories of workers as well as for state employees. Ensuring that workers are paid a decent wage is crucial to reducing poverty. And the governor’s plan to phase in the increase will give the economy time to grow and adjust to the higher wage.
The governor also wants to: spend $10 billion on affordable housing and another $10 billion for supportive housing for the homeless over five years; dedicate $100 million to “transform” failing schools in high needs communities; invest $55 million for urban job-training efforts; and, expand Universal Pre-K funding in the state to include three-year olds.
CSS commends the governor on all these initiatives. Findings from our latest Unheard Third poll show that many low-income New York City residents feel they are slipping further down the economic ladder. Among the poor, 8 out of 10 feel they are not getting ahead, including a quarter who see themselves losing ground. Nearly four out of ten low-income New Yorkers reported experiencing three or more hardships, such as skipping meals and falling behind in the rent, and one-quarter of low-income residents reported experiencing five or more. These hardships are in many cases being experienced by working New Yorkers.
According to the poll there is broad and enthusiastic public support for raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable and enacting a paid family leave law.
As he closed out his remarks the governor made a very personal statement on why paid family leave is needed. Invoking the name of his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died last year on New Year’s Day, the governor spoke poignantly of his personal regret in not spending more time with his father toward the end of his life. He said while he had the ability to do so, many workers in the state, particularly low-income workers, cannot afford to take time off the job to be a caregiver to a family member in need. “At the end of the day, family matters, intimate relationships matter. And in this 24-7 world, let this state make a statement on what’s really important. Let’s pass paid family leave this session.”
We could not agree more.