Hochul pressured to expand funding for police, fire agencies

Gov. Kathy Hochul is being pressured to provide more funding for first responders as she puts together a spending package for the next fiscal year.

A newly filed bipartisan proposal calls for providing New York police and fire departments up to $300 million in grant funding to help with recruitment and retention efforts and purchasing equipment.

The funding from the proposed Public Safety Investment Act would be divided evenly between police and fire agencies and made available over three years, the lawmakers said. The agencies would be eligible to apply for $100 million each year, they said.

The bill’s co-sponsor, state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said police and fire departments across New York state “are struggling financially and face significant challenges when it comes recruiting and retaining members and keeping equipment up to date and in working order.”

“Local governments are often forced to raise taxes to address these issues,” he said. “This bill will strengthen police and fire departments, enhance public safety in the state and help to alleviate the burden on taxpayers.”

The bill’s other co-sponsor, state Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, said the infusion of funding will help fire and police departments “acquire the resources they need to keep us all safe and answer the call when we are in need. I have visited almost every fire department in my district and every single one of them is struggling to make ends meet as well as recruit and retain members,” he said. “The same is happening at police departments across New York as well.”

In May, Hochul signed a $229 billion budget more than a month after a deadline to approve the spending package and after adding billions of dollars to the final plan.

The approval of the so-called “big ugly” final spending plan drew criticism from fiscal watchdogs and Republican lawmakers, who panned the lack of spending cuts, and progressive groups, which called for a higher minimum wage increase.

Hochul’s budget writers are working on a spending package for the next fiscal year, but early indications suggest there will be less money available to expand funding or create new grant programs.

In a memo to department heads, the state Division of the Budget said crafting a new spending package will be challenging “amid softening economic activity, a reduction in state tax receipts, and a humanitarian crisis” — a reference to the migrant crisis.

“Changing economic winds pose a challenge to New York’s financial position,” Blake Washington, the state’s budget director, wrote in the memo. “Extraordinary amounts of post-pandemic Federal fiscal stimulus have ended. The Federal Reserve tightened its monetary policy, and the robust tax collections fueled by market activity and prior year tax increases have subsided.”

Washington urged agency heads to review their operations for savings opportunities, called for programs and expenditures to be “scrutinized,” and for unnecessary duplication or overlaps to be eliminated as they craft their budgets.


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