(Albany, NY) – State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) joined his colleagues in the New York State Senate to vote on the 10 bills of the 2018-2019 Budget. Senator Rivera voted against bills that did not include critical measures to improve the lives of New Yorkers: Public Protection and General Government (S7505C), Education, Labor, & Family Assistance (S7506B), and Transportation, Economic Development, & Environmental Conservation (S7508C).

“This year the Democratic Conference experienced the same closed-door process of deciding the New York State Budget that forces legislators in our conference to vote on appropriations and language without contributing to the negotiations and with insufficient time to properly review the bills we must vote on,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “Too many decisions that affect the people we represent, like communities of color facing injustice, people battling health issues, overburdened families, beleaguered tenants, and hardworking New Yorkers, were made without us in the room. This year was particularly absurd: sexual harassment policies that should protect every worker in this great state were cobbled together while excluding the only female legislative leader, ultimately rendering the product inadequate to protect people from harassment, abuse, and retaliation. ”

After a rushed, combative process, our State finally announced the passage of the 2018-2019 New York State Budget totaling approximately $168 billion. “I am proud of the leadership of our Democratic Leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Yet, without her in the room, the interests of New Yorkers across this State went unheard. New Yorkers have made their priorities explicitly clear, yet common sense measures were not passed,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera

People who were abused as children deserve the passage of the Child Victims Act, but Senate Republicans chose to protect the abusers and the people who stand in the way of justice for them. New York is falling behind on protecting immigrants during a time when the Federal Government is attacking them daily, and once again the DREAM Act wasn’t even brought up for a vote. Demands for gun control reform went unheard by my colleagues as we passed a fraction of the reforms put forth. Women’s rights to control their reproductive health are being threatened across the nation as some try to overturn Roe v. Wade, and our state can’t even codify language to enshrine that protection in law. New Yorkers should know that the Senate Republican Majority did not include election and campaign finance reforms like Early Voting, Online Voter Registration, or closing the LLC Loophole, which would have increased participation in elections by the people, instead of wealthy interests. The Senate Democratic Conference will continue the fight to make these reforms a reality. Some further highlights are below.

Hospitals and labor unions won $525 million in capital money for providers, combined with $500 million from last year, and the indigent care pool formula was renewed for another year. Changes to the safety net hospitals program will create “enhanced safety nets,” which will provide better funding streams for hospitals with large populations of Medicaid or uninsured patients. We saw millions of dollars allocated specifically for community based health care providers, residential health care facilities, and Assisted Living Programs.

“I am proud that the budget supports hospitals serving impoverished people who have a right to adequate healthcare and receiving it at their local hospitals, no matter who they primarily serve. We must do more to guarantee that everyone can receive the services they need to be healthy, which is why I carry the bill to create Healthcare for All in our great state,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I am very pleased at the inclusion of language requiring rape kits and sexual assault evidence to be stored and maintained for 20 years from collection to better enable the victims of these heinous crimes to find justice. However, we are not doing enough to change the conversation about the opioid crisis: every person in every county deserves health care for their substance dependency issues, and the criminal justice system is not where they will receive this care. I look forward to details of how the new funding stream plan will be spent by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.”

The budget will provide some capital funding for the New York City Housing Authority to address health hazards like lead and mold and includes Design Build provisions that will significantly expedite the installation of desperately-needed upgrades, like heat and hot water systems.

“NYCHA residents are not to be used as a political talking point. New York State’s leaders should not be debating whether NYCHA should receive capital funding to ensure homes are safe and healthy.” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “The new funding stream is a lot of money, but it is just the beginning– we should be enacting a long-term commitment that isn’t up for negotiation every year. Design Build and oversight will ensure that we address the priorities of residents and the health hazards in a timely manner, but we must continuously address the health crises in public housing and support an Authority that provides over 300,000 affordable apartments to families in New York City amidst a mounting housing affordability crisis.”

New Yorkers accused of a crime should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, yet important criminal justice reforms were not included, like Bail Reform, Speedy Trial, or Automatic Discovery, to ensure that this right is guaranteed so everyone can enjoy the rights that this country’s constitution requires.

“I was proud to pass a law to create the Charitable Bail program six years ago, which has had a real impact on the lives of people in this state. Sadly, it could not save people like Kalief Browder, who lived in my district before he languished in Riker’s for three years, simply because he and his family could not afford bail,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “The system is allowing people to lose their livelihoods, their dignity, and tragically their very lives, in favor of perpetuating the criminalization of black and brown people. It is unconscionable that this state will let people languish in jails awaiting trial, punished for being poor, because bail, speedy trial, and real criminal justice reforms for every New Yorker were not a priority in budget negotiations this year.”

The budget increases MTA Funding by $334 million, which includes funds for the $836 million Subway Action Plan, but leaves New York City responsible for contributing the remaining half after many renovations of late have been focused on the system infrastructure beyond the boroughs.

“I have great concerns for our subways and our public transit system’s viability if we continue to defer its upgrades. The signal system must be brought into the 21st century and delays need to be addressed with investments in its functionality, not its aesthetics. My colleagues should also remember that New York City taxpayers are not the only group who rely on this system, so this State has failed to ensure that the basic needs of commuters were met by placing half the burden of funding on the City,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “The congestion pricing plan, which will help improve air quality, ease traffic on critical roadways, and would help fund the system that most New Yorkers in the metropolitan area use, and the lockbox language I saw, are moves in the right direction. We need increased transparency and more cost-effective investments, so the fight is certainly not over.”

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