- Associated Press - Saturday, February 18, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - In New York state government news, budget deliberations get serious and lawmakers examine a growing shortage of home health care workers.

While most of the Legislature will take the week off before a month of work on the budget, some will meet in New York City for a hearing on what health experts say is a looming crisis in home health care services.

A guide to what’s coming up:

BUDGET BUILD UP

Following a straight week of long hearings on the state budget, lawmakers can look forward to a month of backroom negotiations over the massive spending plan.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion budget proposal includes a plan for free state tuition for middle class students, $2 billion for water quality and infrastructure over five years, an expanded child care tax credit and $1 billion more for public schools.

Lawmakers are likely to seek several changes before the final compromise is hammered out between Cuomo, Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan.

Cuomo and the Legislature aim to approve the budget by April 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

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LAWMAKERS TAKE A BREAK

The Legislature will take a full week off this week after spending only four days in session so far this month.

Many lawmakers have events planned in their home districts. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, for instance, will hold a community meeting in her hometown of Yonkers to discuss Cuomo’s proposed budget.

The full Legislature will next convene in Albany on Feb. 28.

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UBER IS WAITING

One of the most pressing questions facing lawmakers is whether to authorize Uber and Lyft to expand into upstate New York.

The ride-hailing services are now prohibited from operating outside New York City. They’ve long sought permission to expand into cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, which is the second-largest U.S. city currently not served by Uber.

The Senate voted earlier this month to approve the expansion. The Assembly has yet to vote. Supporters say they want to see action in the Assembly soon to allow a compromise to be worked out in the budget.

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HOME HEALTH CARE

A select group of lawmakers do plan to meet in New York City this week to examine the growing need for home health care aides.

Wednesday’s Assembly hearing will focus on the “obstacles to recruiting, employing and retaining an adequate home care workforce.”

Projections indicate the number of New Yorkers aged 65 or older will jump sharply over the coming decades. Additionally, more Americans are choosing in-home care over institutional or hospital settings.

Organizations of home health care providers argue the state must increase compensation if it is to recruit enough workers to handle the increase. They say the problems are already resulting in care shortages and waitlists for services.

A second hearing on the topic is scheduled for Feb. 27.

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This story has been corrected to show the hearing on home health care services is Wednesday in New York City, not Tuesday in Albany.


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