Advocates are trying to ratchet up support for a bill to expand health care coverage to include more New Yorkers regardless of their immigration status.
But Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signaled she was skeptical of doing so without more money from the federal government.
Her comments come as budget watchdogs are warning New York officials against expanding recurring spending. Supporters of the health care proposal contend, however, there can be more flexibility than the governor realizes.
The state Assembly is set to return next week for two days of voting on unfinished legislative business. The bill, known as Coverage for All among its supporters, has been already approved by the state Senate.
New York has received approval from the federal government to tap federal pass-through funds to expand health care coverage.
Hochul, speaking with reporters at an event to tout an expansion of paid family leave for state workers, questioned whether the current pot of money is big enough.
"It's not just saying that $2 billion will be there forever, because it won't be," she said. "If the federal government wishes to give us more to compliment that, supplement that, give us $13 billion, that makes it a lot easier on the state. But I have to look at everthing holisitically and the impact on our state finances before I make a decision."
Supporters of the measure are still trying to convince Hochul, pointing to the amended version of the bill providing a limit on coverage.
Progressive advocates at Make the Road New York in a statement urged the Assembly to take up the legislation, pointing to the wide-ranging groups backing the bill, including the Business Council of New York and major health care unions and hospital groups.
“We are disappointed that the Assembly did not take up life-saving Coverage for All legislation in the regular session, and we urge Speaker Heastie to include the measure as a top priority when Assemblymembers return later this month," the group said. "The Senate has already passed this common-sense measure, which would ensure that low-income immigrant New Yorkers can finally access health coverage, at no cost to the state, and even create savings for the state. We are eager to work with Speaker Heastie and members of the Assembly to ensure that New York takes this crucial step to achieve health equity and strengthen both the state’s economy and its healthcare system."
Fiscal hawks, meanwhile, are urging caution on new spending with mounting budget gaps expected in the coming years.
"It's all about planning and thinking forward," said Patrick Orecki of the Citizens Budget Commission. "It's not just next year's gap. Gaps get bigger in years two and three."
Spending has already increased in the biggest budget areas for New York in the last several years: Health care and education.
"This would not be a great time to put the state on the hook for any kind of new, recurring spending because this isn't just a short-term problem," said Ken Girardin of the Empire Center.