Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new budget garners criticism from State Senator Jessica Ramos, other elected officials
The New York lawmaker criticized the particulars of Hochul’s budget, including bail reform and indexing the minimum wage increase.
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New York Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled the Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget on Wednesday, Feb. 1, with $227 billion going towards mental health, the housing crisis, gun violence, combating fentanyl, investing in affordable energy, childcare and more.
“I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make the Empire State a more affordable, more livable, safer place for all New Yorkers,” Hochul said.
“We will make bold, transformative investments that lift up New Yorkers while maintaining solid fiscal footing in uncertain times,” she added.
However, the budget, particularly a few specifics, were not fondly received by several Republican lawmakers, including Democratic State Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens, in regards to the governor’s decision to index the minimum wage increase and a bail reform order.
Indexing the minimum wage
In January, Ramos and Assemblymember Latoya Joyner sponsored a bill — the “Raise the Wage” bill — that was heard by the New York State Legislature.
It would have increased New York state’s minimum wage and indexed it to inflation and worker productivity over the next five years.
It would have increased the minimum wage to $21.25 by 2027, while for downstate counties like New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester, as well as upstate, rates would change annually but separately because of differences in costs of living depending on where one lives so it keeps pace with rising prices.
In the budget’s unveiling, Hochul urged raising the state’s minimum wage by indexing it to inflation, and added that she looks to extend an expiring increase in corporate taxes for three years. She ignored proposals from tenant groups over big increases in state spending.
Progressives called Hochul’s plan to index the minimum wage increase, “hopelessly inadequate.”
“I think that it’s insulting, because the math shows that it would result in a mere increase of $13 a week, which is barely lunch where I come from,” said Ramos.
The consecutive term serving governor is also seeking additional revisions to the state’s bail law – altered in 2019 to get rid of pretrial incarceration of those accused of nonviolent offenses.
Republicans and moderate Democrats have argued that the rules have deprived judges of a tool used to hold people who are likely to commit more crimes.
Budget briefing documents say the governor wants to grant judges greater discretion by removing the “least restrictive means” standard to guarantee a defendant returns to court.
Hochul said the current guidelines are at times unclear, so she wants to provide “clarity for the judges.”
Ramos once again had a rebuttal for the proposal.
“I am not keen on budging on any of the bail reform work that we have done,” Ramos said.
“It is incomplete work and I am hoping that the response is to actually build the mental healthcare facilities that we need so New Yorkers who are engaging in harm-doing can actually receive the services and given the treatment that they deserve,” she added.
This is an issue Ramos has fought for most recently.
The Senator held a rally at the state Capital on Tuesday, Jan. 31, where she and other supporters rallied for another bill introduced by Ramos called the “Treatment Not Jail” Bill.
It would ensure that residents with substance use disorders, mental health problems, and other disabilities have an “off-ramp” from the legal system to seek and get treatment and support within their communities.
The bill is sitting in the State Assembly’s Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee.
“We want to make sure that our children don’t grow up in a world where everyone is succumbed to the wills of prosecutors and defense attorneys and judges, who may be experts in the law, but are not experts in public health,” Ramos said during the rally.