While proponents of universal access to child care were disappointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal, state Office of Children & Family Services Commissioner Sheila Poole says the governor’s approach to expanding access to care is the “right direction.”

The executive budget calls for raising the eligibility for child care subsidies over the next few years from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which would benefit hundreds of thousands of families when fully funded in. Democratic state lawmakers and child care industry stakeholders had been looking for a multi-billion dollar pledge from Hochul, which would ensure that all New York families could access care.

Poole described universal access as the “North Star” for the conversation surrounding child care, but told The Capitol Pressroom, “I do believe that the governor’s proposal, taking those very forward facing steps, yet incremental steps, is the right direction.”

“I think it’s a really fiscally responsible way to begin to approach it,” she added.

The commissioner made the case that the governor’s “measured” proposal ensured the state didn’t make promises that it might not be able to keep in the future. She indicated that federal resources would be a critical part of any state plan to realize universal access to child care.

“We’ll be watching what happens in Washington and hopeful that … we can all keep moving forward,” Poole said.

On Monday, a group of about four dozen Democratic state lawmakers called on the governor to invest $5 billion in this year’s budget toward achieving universal child care access.

“We, legislators representing every corner of New York State, are disappointed by Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget proposals, which fall short of meeting the needs of New York’s children, families, and child care providers,” reads the statement from lawmakers, including Andrew Hevesi and Jabari Brisport, who chair the respective children and families committees in the Assembly and Senate.

Neither of the legislative leaders have indicated a willingness to invest billions of dollars of state funds to make universal child care a reality. Proposals in Albany that would make investments toward universal access would rely on increased taxes on wealthy New Yorkers or large businesses.

The governor’s child care proposal will likely be picked apart on Wednesday, during the human services portion of the legislature’s joint budget hearings, when Poole is expected to testify.