While the state budget still remains under negotiation, Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers did reach a breakthrough on one key issue for those who work with the developmentally disabled: boosting the pay for direct care workers.
"There are some things in government that are no-brainers. And being fair to direct care is a no-brainer," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "I'm so happy we finally got an agreement that would pay some of the people who work the hardest jobs, the most reward jobs."
At a raucous rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced he would back the pay boost, which aligns direct care workers with a faster increase in the state's minimum wage, initially approved in 2015.
"When we passed the minimum wage, it put direct care workers in a difficult situation because it didn't apply to direct care workers," the governor said. "Well, we're going to make that right this year."
But Cuomo's plan goes further than what the legislature initially called for after lawmakers sought $45 million. Cuomo's plan seeks $55 million for the workers.
And Cuomo says he's not backing a budget agreement that doesn't include the money.
"This hand will not sign a budget unless there's $55 million," the governor said.
The direct care issue is a bipartisan concern, and advocates have rallied Republicans on their side as well.
"This conference led the way in terms of advocating for be fair to direct care months ago," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. "Not this week or last week, but months ago."
Cuomo had been the last holdout for the direct care funding and had not initially included it in his budget.