Today Governor Spitzer presented his annual state of the state address, the traditional kickoff of the legislative session in Albany. The State of the State serves as a blueprint for the year regarding the Governor’s priorities. In a few weeks, he will be introducing the specifics behind his initiatives through the State Budget. Many program initiatives are not included in the State of the State but are included in the budget.
Though he did not mention mental health in his speech (there is not a Governor that I can recall who has ever mentioned mental health in the State of the State), there were several initiatives that are related to mental health issues.
The two issues that most significantly jump out are his proposal to extend health insurance to all 400,000 children in New York who do not currently have health insurance coverage and his proposal to create a Housing Opportunity Fund. The Housing Opportunity Trust Fund would ‘build supportive housing that enables persons with disabilities and others with special needs to live independently.” The Governor is proposing an additional $400 million for this initiative.
In addition, his proposal to create a “Doctors Across New York State” that would offer grants to help repay education loans to make it appealing for doctors to move to New York’s medically underserved areas, would be a way to hopefully add desperately needed adult and child psychiatrists in these underserved areas.
We applaud the Governor for introducing these proposals and will advocate strongly to insure that these initiatives are among the priorities in the state budget when it is passed later this year.
Listed below is the specific language in the State of the State related his proposal to fully fund the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Housing Opportunity Fund.
Expansion of Children’s Health Insurance Program
State of the State Address Fact Sheet: Health Insurance for All Children
“We cannot wait while children who suffer from asthma and diabetes go untreated. We will not wait while, tonight, some children in this very city go to the emergency room for illnesses that could have been prevented if they had a regular family doctor...Not on my watch. Not on our watch...In my upcoming Executive Budget, I will propose that New York State fully fund the expansion of our children’s health insurance program. There will be affordable coverage for every single child in this State.”
-Governor Eliot Spitzer (January 9, 2008)
There are 400,000 uninsured children in New York State. Two-thirds are currently eligible for Medicaid or Child Health Plus.
Last year, the Governor and Legislature proposed to expand children’s access to health care by allowing subsidized coverage under Child Health Plus for children from families with income up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level – which would make health insurance accessible to all 400,000 children. The current eligibility limit is 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
The Bush Administration blocked the proposed expansion of New York’s version of the federal program, Child Health Plus.
The Governor’s Executive Budget will include full funding for the planned expansion of Child Health Plus, which will provide access to health insurance coverage for all of the 400,000 uninsured children in New York State.
State support will be provided, along with an increase in family contributions tied to income level, to fully fund the planned expansion of Child Health Plus from 250 percent to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
The Department of Health is streamlining enrollment and renewal procedures to ensure that eligible individuals are able to get and keep coverage under Child Health Plus, Medicaid and Family Health Plus.
For More Information on Child Health Plus, visit: http://www.nyhealth.gov
Housing Opportunity Fund
MAKING HOUSING MORE AFFORDABLE
The key to making a community livable is good homes. For over 100 years, New York led the nation with a progressive, visionary housing policy that helped to ensure that people had housing they could afford.
In recent years, that vision dimmed. Today, millions of New York City residents are paying an unreasonable share of their incomes on rent, while in Westchester and Long Island, homeowners are telling me they could not afford to buy the home they live in today.
Last year we began using existing money more effectively. We shifted the Housing Finance Agency’s funding away from luxury projects and toward providing housing for working people. As a result, in 2007, HFA financed the production of 3,800 affordable units – more than three times as many as in 2006.
Still, in too many parts of our State, our children cannot afford to come back to the neighborhoods that they grew up in, and their parents cannot afford to stay in the homes where they raised their families.
I will propose the biggest housing initiative in a generation, a $400 million Housing Opportunity Fund. This fund will build homes for the men and women who teach our kids and police our streets. This fund will also build supportive housing that enables persons with disabilities and others with special needs to live independently. I want to thank Assemblymember Vito Lopez for his career of leadership on the issue of affordable housing.
We also must continue our shared efforts to make sure New Yorkers don’t fall victim to the subprime lending crisis. New York alone cannot solve a problem of this scale – one created by unscrupulous lenders and a massive federal regulatory failure. But we can continue to press banks to agree to mass modification of loans. And we can assure that our court system is not being used to treat homeowners unfairly.
I will send you a bill that amends state foreclosure law to provide additional protections for homeowners. In addition, working with Attorney General Cuomo, I will submit legislation that enhances our anti-fraud laws, to ensure that those who engage in mortgage scams are punished.
I want to thank Assemblymember Towns and Senator Klein for their leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with you all to guarantee simple fairness….”
State of the State Address 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer
“In too many parts of our state, our children cannot afford to come back to the neighborhoods that they grew up in, and their parents cannot afford to stay in the homes where they raised their families...I will propose the biggest housing initiative in a generation, a $400 million Housing Opportunity Fund.”
-Governor Eliot Spitzer (January 9, 2008)
• Safe, available and affordable housing is integral to economic growth. Over the past decade, New York State has underinvested in housing, failed to form partnerships for all spectrums of housing needs and devoted the limited available State resources to areas with already thriving private sector activity.
• We must use State resources at hand to address the wide variety of housing needs; including providing those with physical disabilities and mental illness the opportunity to work and live in their communities, offering young families and professionals the resources and support to become first time home buyers, and facilitating creative solutions for developing affordable housing in high-cost areas of the state.
• Limited financial resources need to be maximized by linking State efforts with the Federal government, local governments and the private sector, and by developing innovative financing structures that are sustainable over the long term.
• Housing programs and resources must be integrated with the Administration’s guiding principles of Smart Growth, energy efficiency and a revitalized Upstate economy.
• As part of Governor Spitzer’s comprehensive infrastructure and economic development plan, a total of $400 million will be used for a new Housing Opportunity Fund to support affordable and supportive housing across the state.
• This program will be funded by the creative use of existing and new resources and partnering with our public authorities and the private sector to create the most efficient and effective financing vehicles.
• The fund will be directly administered by the State of New York Mortgage Authority (SONYMA) under the guidance of an advisory panel consisting of experts from the Division of Housing and Community Renewal and the Offices of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Substance Abuse Services, Mental Health and Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.