New York state Sen. Gustavo Rivera is the latest member of the Legislature to criticize Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to include $265 million in money from opioid settlements in the state budget before the Opioid Settlement Board has been convened and can approve any allocations.
Earlier this week, Republican state Sen. Sue Serino and other Republican lawmakers called on legislative leaders to reject Gov. Hochul’s state budget proposal, which circumvents existing New York state law and spend $265 million in opioid settlement funding without any formal plan or input from the state-appointed advisory board.
In a statement sent to Capital Tonight, Sen. Rivera, who is the chair of the Senate Health Committee said:
“It is concerning that there are attempts to allocate the settlement funds without the input of the board and in violation of the Opioid Settlement Fund law. At the very least, as was included in our Senate One House, we need to include language in the final budget that requires the Opioid Settlement Board, the Majority Leader, and the Speaker to approve any allocations not designated in the settlements entered into by Attorney General before funds are disbursed and spent.”
The Opioid Settlement Board was created by the Legislature in 2021 to oversee and recommend programming for money the state receives from the opioid settlements.
The current members of the Opioid Settlement Board sent the following letter to governor and legislative letter with the same message.
Hochul recently announced that she both signed a critical chapter amendment increasing the number of Opioid Settlement Board members from 19 to 21, as well as appointed two members to the board: Anne Constantino, president & CEO of Horizon Health Services, and Debra Pantin, president & CEO of the Outreach Development Corporation.
The complete board has not been announced, nor has it met.