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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Profiles of MRNY
Type: Pubs & Reports

A BUDGET FOR IMMIGRANT NEW YORK: Key Elements to Ensure the 2016-2017 New York State Budget Benefits the Immigrant Community

Executive Summary

The New York State budget is the most critical annual document for determining how resources will be allocated to communities across the state for the coming year. By the end of March, the Governor and legislators aim to finish debate and negotiation of the state budget. In 2016, energetic debate will cover a wide range of issues including workers’ pay and benefits, education funding, corruption, investments in housing and infrastructure, and much more. As these debates proceed, it’s critical that the needs and rights of immigrant New Yorkers—whose communities have long been under-resourced—are treated as high priorities. In short, immigrant communities must get their fair share.

Statewide, no less than 22 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: workers’ rights and wages, adult literacy and education, civil rights and criminal justice reform, health care, affordable housing, civil legal services, and the environment.


Key Proposals for a 2016 Budget for Immigrant New York 

  1. Workers’ Rights and Wages

  • Minimum Wage: Increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, with indexing, and full implementation that begins no later than 2018.

  • Sub-minimum Wage: End the sub-minimum wage currently allowed under the law for many of the state’s most exploited workers. 

  • Wage Theft: Crack down on wage theft to ensure that all workers are paid for the work they do.

  • Paid family leave: provide twelve weeks of family leave insurance for working New Yorkers to care of young children and ailing relatives.

  1. Immigrant Integration

  • Adult literacy and Workforce Development: Increase NYSED Funding for Adult Literacy Education (ALE) to $17.2 million (from $6.3 million) and support the Regents’ recommendation of a $10 million investment in Bridge Programs.

  • Drivers Licenses: Provide all qualified New Yorkers, irrespective of immigration status, with the ability to obtain a drivers’ license.

  1. Education

  • School Aid: Invest at least $2.9 billion in new school aid to fund teaching and learning, programs for English-Language Learners, support community schools, restorative justice, expand full-day prekindergarten, and end inequality—with the majority of funding distributed through Foundation Aid. 

  • DREAM Act: Pass the DREAM Act, with funding of at least $27 million, to ensure tuition equity by expanding access to state tuition assistance for college and creating a private scholarship fund for immigrant youth.

  • CUNY: Maximize state investment in CUNY to make it free and open once again. Steps should include freezing tuition, raising the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) grant, and passing the Maintenance of Effort bill to strengthen infrastructure and ensure quality. 

  • Restorative Justice: Invest $50 million in restorative justice and trauma-informed initiatives to end the school-to-prison pipeline.

  1. Revenue Generation and Money in Politics

  • Progressive Taxation: Generate at least $2.3 billion in new tax revenue through additional taxes on the top one percent wealthiest New Yorkers and closing the carried interest loophole for hedge fund managers.

  • Fair Elections: Adopt comprehensive campaign finance reforms that include a public financing system of all state and legislative races.

  1. Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Reform

  • Police Data: Mandate the collection of data on the number of all summonses and arrests, demographic data for violations and summonses, deaths during arrests, and the location of law enforcement activity and arrest-related deaths.

  • Special prosecutor: Ensure that the Attorney General’s office has sufficient resources to fully implement the 2015 Executive Order naming him as Special Prosecutor, with no narrowing of that order’s scope and no shift to an “independent special counsel” that would weaken enforcement.

  1. Health

  • Comprehensive Health Care: New York should allocate $10.3 million in state funding for (EP) coverage for the PRUCOL New Yorkers who are ineligible for insurance and carefully examine options to cover all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.

  • Community Health Advocates: Allocate $4 million to the Community Health Advocates (CHA) program to maintain the level of services and ensure a strong program to help immigrant New Yorkers navigate our state’s complex health system.

  • Access to Condoms: Stop undermining public health priorities through the use of condoms and reproductive or sexual health devices as evidence of all prostitution- and trafficking-related offenses.

  • Medicaid Expansion for LGBTQ-specific health care needs: 1)Expand Medicaid coverage in New York State to provide comprehensive health care to LGBTQ youth under the age of 18 for hormone therapy and hormone blockers and 2) Expand Medicaid coverage to fully cover all LGBTQ people for procedures that are deemed cosmetic that affirm gender identity and expression, including surgery and treatment.

  1. Affordable Housing

  • Vacancy Bonus: Repeal the vacancy bonus provision in the rent laws, which speeds up the process of deregulating rent-regulated units and raising rents for working-class New Yorkers.  Require landlords to seek DHCR approval for increasing rent based on Individual Apartment Improvements (IAI). 

  • Tenant Protection Unit: Double the size of the Tenant Protection Unit to preserve as many affordable housing units as possible.

  • Affordable Housing: Increase state investments in affordable housing at income bands that meet the needs of the lowest income New Yorkers, without increasing state-based red tape for projects funded with bonds, which will slow housing financing to New York City and other localities.

  1. Legal Services

  • New York Immigrant Family Unity Project: Invest $3.6 million to extend the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) to the entire state. 

  • Civil legal services: Increase NY State funding for Civil Legal Services to $100 million.

  1. Environment

  • Make our climate commitment legally enforceable: Enshrine Governor Cuomo’s commitment to reducing emissions 80% by 2050 in law, and a set a path to an equitable 100% clean energy economy and increased energy efficiency, mandating all of state government to screen every decision to ensure that it will meet the goals, address social equity and provide a pathway forward for good jobs to be created.  

  • Ensure accountability: Set specific benchmarks and reporting requirements every 4 years until 2050 to ensure emissions reductions, rapid deployment of renewable energy, and increased energy efficiency. Ensure action and accountability through stakeholder engagement and a private right of action.

  • Create a just energy policy: We seek to ensure that energy policy decisions not only provide benefits, but is a tool for elevating those communities that have traditionally been disadvantaged. This includes communities that already have existing environmental burdens, ongoing energy transitions, high unemployment, or historical disinvestment. All state entities shall work with stakeholders to develop a screening tool that would be applied to all future policy decisions to ensure that these goals are met and to report on the success of meeting our equity goals.

  • Create good jobs: Ensure that the new clean energy economy creates good jobs by applying a prevailing wage to both construction and operations jobs projects that include energy spending of over $1 million. Create a “Build the Future” working group that brings together labor, community, business, and other leaders to propose and implement specific projects.