Capitol Watch: New York Budget, Busted Pipes, Cat Claws
ALBANY — In this week’s state government news, the leaders of the New York Assembly and Senate unveil state budget recommendations and cat lovers make another push to outlaw feline declawing.
Upstate lawmakers also push for investments in aging water and sewer systems, and advocates for New Yorkers with mental illness seek more funding for services.
A look at what’s coming up in the week ahead:
The Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate will soon release their proposed state budgets, a list of spending priorities that will serve as the basis for negotiations with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the weeks to come.
Cuomo released his own $152 billion budget recommendation in January. Lawmakers hope to pass a compromise budget by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Big items up for debate in the budget include free college tuition for middle-class students and Cuomo’s plan to encourage municipal shared services.
MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING
Advocates for mentally ill New Yorkers say state funding hasn’t kept up, leading to greater staff turnover and putting vital residential services at risk.
They’re asking lawmakers and Cuomo to put more money in the budget to address a problem that advocates say is prompting some staffers to quit for jobs in the fast food industry.
“Staff turnover at state funded mental health housing programs has reached such unprecedented levels that New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities can no longer rely on the stability of relationships that are central to their recovery,” said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.
BAN ON CAT DECLAWING
Animal welfare organizations and a group of veterinarians will return to the Capitol on Monday to lobby for a bill that would prohibit the declawing of cats.
The bill didn’t go anywhere last year, but supporters say they’re gaining momentum. They call the procedure is unnecessary and harmful to the animal, since it involves the removal of actual bone.
The state’s leading veterinary group has in the past opposed the legislation, saying it should be up to individual veterinarians to decide whether they want to perform declawings.
MONEY FOR OLD PIPES
Upstate lawmakers want more funding to help local governments upgrade and replace aging water and sewer systems.
Cuomo included $2 billion in his budget proposal for efforts to address water contamination and aging infrastructure. But many lawmakers say local governments may need more than that to deal with a problem that estimates say will cost $80 billion to fix in coming decades.
The state has some of the oldest drinking water and sewer systems in the nation, and contaminants from decades of industrial activity pose another problem.