Thanks to federal aid and increased revenues, the state’s Executive Budget proposal avoids massive cuts to services and even contains resources to address many issues.

For PEF members, the most important issue is short staffing, which has plagued state agencies for years and left New York ill-prepared to deal with the sudden crushing needs arising from the pandemic that began in 2020.

In broad numbers, the governor’s budget proposal appears to recognize and address some of these problems.  For instance, it includes $10 billion to rebuild the health care workforce and build a health care system for the future.

It also contains almost $33 billion for a five-year state Department of Transportation capital plan that would leverage federal funding to support major infrastructure projects throughout the state.

In addition, there are large sums to address environmental challenges, a widespread need for affordable housing, and crucial law-enforcement efforts to curb crime and gun violence.

The nagging question is how much of this money will actually be used to improve state hiring and services to accomplish these goals?

“The governor has proposed a budget that has the potential to correct many very serious and longstanding issues that drag down employee morale and curtail services,” PEF President Wayne Spence said.  “We want her to ensure that it is used efficiently to achieve the maximum benefit for state employees and the public they serve.”

PEF Vice President Randi DiAntonio testified before a joint state legislative hearing focused on the State Workforce on January 31 in Albany. She pressed lawmakers to support improving state pay and benefits to improve employee recruitment and retention, and to halt the closing of state programs and facilities. Some New Yorkers currently languish on waiting lists for years to get the services they desperately need.

PEF continues to urge the state to expedite the hiring and onboarding process across all agencies so that the state has adequate staff to fulfill its mission as the safety net provider of services for New York’s most vulnerable residents.  DiAntonio stressed that this needs to be a primary focus for the Governor and legislators as they continue to refine the budget.

“The availability of this funding is a rare opportunity to set a new and better course for state services and the workforce that provides them,” Spence said.  “At PEF, we are working to make sure the governor, lawmakers and other state leaders understand that the test is in how these resources are invested and in recognizing that public services are best provided by state professionals. Just give us what we need, and we will do the job.”

Editor’s Note: Members should keep an eye on their email for budget documents from the PEF Legislative Department and are urged to participate when letter-writing campaigns commence to push for PEF’s budget priorities.