Last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul presented her first Executive Budget proposal. It was a first in many ways – the first time a woman governor had delivered one, of course, but also the first budget since I’ve been the president of this union that begins to take into consideration – and reward — the critical work performed by public employees.
Don’t misunderstand me – the proposal is not perfect. But we are starting the budgetary process for the first time in more than a decade on very solid footing. She proposes no cuts to services or agency closures and in fact increases staffing by almost 2% statewide. In addition, she allocates billions to rebuild the healthcare workforce and leverages federal funding to support infrastructure projects throughout the state. Since our February issue published, we’ve come out with eight PEF Budget Priorities and created letter-writing campaigns surrounding each of them. If you haven’t participated yet, please do, and please share with your fellow members. You can find all the details on this page. In this issue, we’ve spotlighted one of those priorities – parole officers and public safety. PEF supports the governor’s “Jails to Jobs” program she unveiled in her budget, but we’re asking the legislature to expand it, as well as authorize hiring 500 more parole officers to deal with untenable caseloads. Read the full story here, which includes our recommendations to amend the “Less is More” law to empower parole officers and keep communities safe.
Elsewhere in this February update, I’d like to call your attention to a roundup of interviews conducted with PEF members who work at the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). They sat down with us at the 2021 Convention to talk about how service cuts and short staffing have impacted their jobs. We also produced a video using some of their replies and the words of two mothers who have loved ones in the OPWDD system who aren’t getting the care they need.
Finally, please take note of a March 1 deadline for applying for retroactive tuition reimbursement. And if you have kids interested in attending a DEC summer camp this year, check out our feature with PEF member Tom Shimalla, who administers the camps. Last but not least, we’ve updated the photo gallery in this issue with shots from around the Empire State this week. Myself and PEF’s other statewide officers were joined by PEF staff at the SUNY hospitals, Roswell Park and the veterans’ homes, to answer questions about the COVID booster mandate for healthcare workers.
Wayne SpencePEF President