The New York State budget is the most important document for determining our state’s priorities, and how resources will be allocated to communities across New York’s diverse regions, for the coming year. By April 1st, Albany legislators and the Governor will seek to conclude the process of debating and negotiating the New York State budget. This year, many proposals are on the table, ranging across issues such as education, ethics, infrastructure, and health care. Too often, however, budget debates and negotiations ignore the needs and priorities for immigrant New Yorkers, who represent a large and growing proportion of our state residents.
Statewide, no less than 23 percent of the population, 24 percent of the electorate, 27 percent of the workforce, and 27 percent of small business owners are immigrants (see Table 1). This report from Make the Road New York (MRNY) highlights several key budget priorities for working-class immigrant New Yorkers across a wide range of issues, with particular focus on priority issues for immigrant communities: education, health care, workers’ rights, and workforce needs.
The list identified in this report emerges from the lived experiences of immigrant New Yorkers who are members of Make the Road New York, some of whose stories are included in the pages below. The list is not exhaustive, but rather highlights a series of top-priority items for New York’s immigrant communities, to which Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the State Assembly and State Senate should pay careful attention.
Key Proposals for a 2015 Budget for Immigrant New York
• Invest at least $2 billion in new school aid in 2015-16 to fund teaching and learning, programs for English-Language Learners, support community schools, expand full-day prekindergarten, and end inequality—with the majority of funding distributed through Foundation Aid.
• Pass the DREAM Act to ensure tuition equity by expanding access to state tuition assistance for college and creating a private scholarship fund for immigrant youth.
• Increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, with indexing, with higher wages for high-cost localities.
• Crack down on wage theft to ensure that all workers are paid for the work they do.
3. Adult Education, Workforce Development, and Immigrant Integration
• Increase NYSED Funding for Adult Literacy Education (ALE) to $10 million and invest $5 million for success on the New High School Equivalency (HSE) Test.
• Increase funding of the Office of New Americans to $15 million to further bolster ESL and workforce development programs for immigrants across New York, as well as providing legal services and combating fraud.
4. Health Care
• Ensure comprehensive health care for all immigrants.
• Increase the Community Health Advocates (CHA) program budget to $5 million to ensure a strong program to help immigrant New Yorkers navigate our state’s complex health system.
• Stop undermining public health priorities through the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution or sex trafficking.