Let’s Pass a Budget Only Moms Can Deliver

By Jessica González-Rojas and Samra Brouk | April 4, 2024

The halls of power have not always been open to us. There is no doubt that women are still a minority in the state legislature as we make up only 33% of seats between both the Assembly and Senate. But we are breaking glass ceilings as the number of moms and parents, particularly of school-aged children in the New York State legislature, is growing. Many of us became so aligned on issues that impact children and families that our colleague, Assemblymember Sarah Clark, dubbed us the #MomSquad. That is why it was very exciting to many of us when New York elevated the first woman and mother to be Governor of the greatest state in the nation. Like Governor Kathy Hochul, we are also invested in building a more livable, safer, and affordable New York, including for our children and grandchildren. To do this we have a shopping list of integral budget priorities for inclusion in the enacted Fiscal Year 2025 state budget to better support working-class families and children in our communities across our state.

We are grateful that after years of advocacy, Governor Hochul included funding in her executive proposal for childcare, which is critical for getting moms and parents back in the workforce. But we need more funding to support the childcare workforce and truly resolve the years of divestment in the sector, which is predominantly represented by women. The executive proposal contained no new funding for childcare workforce when the average salary of a childcare worker was a little over $35,000 in May 2022. If we truly are committed to sustaining and growing the childcare sector, we must act in this year’s budget and adopt the Senate and the Assembly one-house budget proposals to include $220 million in additional state funds for the child care workforce. We should also make that fund permanent to provide ongoing wage supplements to all members of the child care workforce.

Representation is only part of our broader efforts. We need policy change and we desperately need investments. One way to do this is to invest in our families. Half of the top six cities in the United States with the highest child poverty rate are in New York State, disproportionately affecting communities and children of color. In recognition of this fact, legislative leaders support a vital program to provide direct cash assistance to low-income mothers during the last three months of pregnancy and the first 12-18 months of a child’s life. Research shows that these types of interventions improve maternal health, increase childhood performance outcomes, and reduce the need for long-term interventions. This program must be in the enacted budget as part of the work to eradicate the crisis of childhood poverty.

What we oppose is balancing the budget on the backs of our children and families. We recognize that school funding is one of the greatest expenditures in our state budget but do not think that this year needs to be the year that we implement across-the-board cuts. Instead, we fully support funding a study of the current foundation aid formula to update it in a fiscally prudent and realistic manner that meets the needs of 21st-century students in diverse communities. We also urge that our enacted budget include fully funding universal school meals because we cannot teach hungry children. Healthy school meals for all will save families $150 in grocery spending per child each month, putting more money back into the wallets of our families at a time when they need it most. And of course, we know that now more than ever, we must prioritize youth mental health—which is why the state budget must invest in providing our young people with five free mental telehealth appointments.

Making these brave, bold investments in our budget will cost money. That is why we urge our Governor and legislative leadership to adopt revenue-raising proposals in our enacted budget that will ensure we can deliver these policies for our families.

The Senate and Assembly both recognize the value of creating a more equitable tax system that ensures super-wealthy New Yorkers and highly profitable corporations pay their fair share. The small increases to residents making more than $5 million and $25 million a year, as well as to corporations that make $5 million or more in profits and conduct business in New York, will raise an additional $2 billion every year. These funds will allow us to establish a permanent workforce fund to increase pay for childcare providers, ensure a guaranteed income to new mothers, and fully fund our schools and feed our students.

Unrigging our tax system isn’t just good public policy, it’s also popular. Seventy-four percent of New Yorkers — regardless of their political affiliation or in which region of the state they live – agree that lawmakers should increase taxes on the highest-earning individuals, highly profitable corporations, and the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund public programs and services that support all New York families.

The idea is so popular that it has been embraced by President Biden, the leader of the Democratic Party. His recently released budget includes a minimum tax on billionaires and increased taxes on corporations. As the leader of New York’s Democratic Party, we ask Governor Hochul to join the President in prioritizing working-class New Yorkers over the wealthy. Let’s pass a budget that only moms can deliver.

Jessica González-Rojas is the Assembly Member for the 34th Assembly District in Queens County. Samra Brouk is the State Senator for the 55th Senate District in Monroe County.