This is a challenging year for our state. With a pandemic raging, economic growth going in the wrong direction, and a federal government that has abdicated its responsibility for months, we will have many hurdles in forming a final budget.
A budget that puts families first has been the clarion call of the Assembly. I am encouraged that the Governor’s proposed budget takes some of the steps to prioritize our families first, while balancing the cuts we have endured at the hands of the Trump Administration, and his congressional enablers.
As we move forward with this year’s budget, I look forward to working with our families, community leaders, and my colleagues to ensure that we can provide the much needed and appropriate services while maintaining those things that make New York the Empire State.
As always, my focus continues to be the families of our Rochester area. I am most interested in expanding educational opportunities for our young people, investing in employment opportunities by ensuring workforce development is fully funded, and holding the line on middleclass tax increases, while also providing the needed support to our local partners and the families they serve.
Education for our children is paramount, especially this year with hybrid and remote learning that has proven to be challenging for many of our families and may be leaving some students behind. Every child deserves a good education and a shot at a brighter tomorrow – regardless of any constraints imposed by budget deficits. That means funding community schools with comprehensive wrap-around services, early childhood intervention programs, and equitable foundation aid for our schools. I will keep working to ensure all our students have a real and equal opportunity to fulfill their dreams – no matter where they live.
My focus will be creating policies and supporting initiatives that either move our society closer to equity or remove barriers to equity. That includes the areas of job growth and workforce development.
One such program is the Multi-Craft Apprenticeship Preparation Program (MAPP) that is designed to increase the number of underrepresented craft-persons, especially young men and women of color, in the construction and building trades in our community. With a proven track record and a success rate, MAPP has truly transformed the lives of countless families in Monroe County by providing them with an opportunity to succeed in the construction and building trades.
I am proud of my consistent advocacy for our State’s Centers of Advanced Technology (CATs) and Centers of Excellence (COEs), which provide critical industry leadership and help drive regional economic development through supporting research, training, and technology development. We in the Rochester and Monroe County region are fortunate to have these hubs of innovation and advancement in our community at both the University of Rochester (U of R) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). As Chair of the Committee on Economic Development, I will strongly advocate for this type of investment as we take steps to help our economy recover.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven once again that our families need access to quality and affordable healthcare. Even as we deal with the challenges of a Medicaid shortfall, we need to ensure that each of our citizens can take care of their health needs, both mental and physical. As well as, addressing behavioral health and substance use disorder care. I will continue to push forth policies that increase healthcare as well as mental health care accessibility. Accessibility can only be achieved if these services are also affordable.
So many of our local organizations provide the necessary services that improve the quality of life for so many of our families and neighbors. Programs such as Lifespan that helps our older New Yorkers age at home and addresses elder abuse, the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester that provides regional programming and services benefitting those impacted by cancer; the Judicial Process Commission that is reintegrating former inmates into society after they have served their sentence; the Western NY Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders that provides a continuum of comprehensive and coordinated care for individuals with eating disorders and their families; and the Veterans Outreach Center that serves thousands of veterans by providing emergency and transitional housing, employment assistance, and assists veterans with receiving VA compensation, as well as, serving veterans in the Veterans treatment court giving them alternatives to incarceration, through peer support, budget counseling, case management, and legal assistance.
We cannot continue to withhold funding to these kind of community programs without damaging the fabric of our community and the families that rely on those services.
To that end, I will support creative and innovative ways to raise revenues. First and foremost, the Biden Administration will need to recognize the federal government’s responsibility to the families of New York State.
Additionally, I intend to work with my colleagues to enhance revenues through the legalization of adult-use marijuana and sports betting. We will also ask those who can best afford it, the ultra-wealthy, to dig a little deeper for all our families and pay a little more; to pay their fair share.
While our State faces daunting fiscal challenges in the coming year, with the election of a new federal administration, there remains reason for optimism. As we begin budget negotiations, my priorities include initiatives to increase economic equality, protecting and expanding healthcare, boosting job creation, and ensuring our children have the educational opportunities they deserve.