ALBANY, NY – With a slew of troubling issues continuing to snag negotiations, state leaders broke a midnight deadline on Thursday to reach agreement on a new state budget.
The April 1 deadline seemed achievable as ample federal funding allowed Democrat Kathy Hochul to propose a record $216.3 billion in spending. Its first executive budget aimed to boost the state’s recovery from the pandemic through investments in education, infrastructure and health care.
But members of the Democratic-controlled Legislature had responded with even more robust fiscal plans that cost at least $6 billion more than the governor’s proposal. And on Thursday afternoon, both houses adjourned until Monday, guaranteeing a late budget.
Non-fiscal policies are often crammed into the spring budget process, and the biggest obstacles this spring are complicated social issues that have divided lawmakers, particularly the issue of reviewing the comprehensive deposit reform bill that was part of the 2019 budget deal.
Other contentious issues surface as well, but veterans of the budget process can attest that once the big things are done, less complicated deals tend to emerge.
Though the April 1 deadline is constitutionally required, no state inspections will be delayed unless a deal is delayed after 4 p.m. Monday, according to the state auditor.
After the legislature adjourned, Ms Hochul issued a statement that offered a hopeful outlook, though her first budget was delayed. “We are approaching an agreement with consensus on key policy issues,” she said. “New Yorkers should know that progress is being made.” And the gathering is scheduled to meet virtually this weekend, even as staff continue to work on outstanding issues.
Here’s a quick look at where the negotiations are on some outstanding issues, from more money for childcare to take-out alcohol.
Bail reform could be the key to it all
Three years later, the landmark 2019 bail law amendments are still rattling through the halls of Albany, causing agita from some Democratic lawmakers and anger from others.
Ms. Hochul has proposed a series of new changes in response to a surge in violent crime in the pandemic era and possibly Republicans’ success in attacking Democrats on bail reform. She called for an increase in the number of offenses eligible for bail and for judges to be allowed to consider the danger posed by a defendant when deciding bail. But those ideas, supported by Mayor Eric Adams, met with opposition in both the Senate and the Assembly.
Republicans — a minority in both houses — have continued to bail Democrats in hopes of using the issue to win seats in the fall campaign, including for the governor. (This race, at least, has come a long way: Republicans are heavily outnumbered in the state and haven’t won a statewide race in two decades.)
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who heads the state Senate, said Thursday afternoon that she expects some changes to bail laws to be included in the budget, but she flatly rejected the dangerousness provision. “We were always the same,” she said. “We do not introduce dangerousness.”
New York City casinos are still on the table
The state has already hit a big hit with mobile sports betting, which began in January, and lawmakers seem poised to try their luck by allowing a handful of new casinos to take bets in New York. These new arcades would likely be permitted in the New York City area – including within the city limits – in contrast to previous expansions that focused on upstate economic development.
One such plan – which would authorize three new casino licenses – is already having developers and casino operators drooling and lobbying: Millions have been spent by gaming companies urging the state to speed up the current schedule, which called for expansion to be delayed 2023
Now, however, the deal appears to be gaining momentum with Gov. Hochul’s support, perhaps because of the bonanza the state has already seen from mobile betting: tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue since January as bettors quickly remade York is the statewide leading state for mobile betting.
Senate Democrats have also embraced the idea — they suggest operators pay at least $1 billion for each license — though some Assembly Democrats still appear wary, as do many Manhattan lawmakers, who fear neon lights and craps -Tables could harm their neighborhood.
With so much money at stake, many believe the city will soon see a casino, even if it’s on the outskirts of town, where establishments like Resorts World New York in Queens – which only offers computer games, no in-person table games or poker – were very successful.
A casino-related issue that seemed likely to be approved, despite the deep dismay of some lawmakers, was the provision of a new $1.4 billion stadium for the Buffalo Bills, a deal that came with a pledge of around $850 million. dollars in public funds.
Earlier this week, Ms. Hochul said about half of that public funding would come from proceeds recently paid to the state by the Seneca Nation, which operates three casinos in western New York. The decision to use the tribal payment for the stadium sparked an angry response from Seneca leaders, who described using their money to benefit the Bills as part of the state’s “long history of abuse and exploitation of Native peoples.”
SUNY + CUNY = money
Democrats have proposed pumping more money into the State University of New York and the City University of New York to hire new faculty and increase operating and capital costs for the system of nearly 375,000 students.
Democrats also want to increase the state’s student aid program after a coalition of students and staff called for the restoration of funding for public university systems, which have been the subject of cuts in the past.
More money, not less, appears to be flowing to SUNY and CUNY this year, although the exact number will likely have to wait until more contentious issues (see above) are resolved.
Child care and health care, too
Another top priority for Democrats in Albany this year is investing billions in childcare for low-income families and supporting new and existing daycares. Lawmakers see the proposals as first steps toward a universal childcare system in New York that would provide free childcare to all people, regardless of income.
That utopian vision aside, this too is a money and sanity discussion that may not be finalized until more thorny negotiations over bail and other issues are settled.
All the big players have offered more money for childcare, ranging from Ms Hochul – who presented a $1.4 billion plan – to the state Senate, which has a version that would cost $4 billion.
Also under discussion was a $345 million proposal to provide health care for undocumented immigrants, which proponents say would strengthen the social safety net among more than 150,000 low-income people excluded from insurance because of their immigration status are. This comes a year after the state provided more than $2 billion to undocumented workers who have suffered lost income due to the pandemic.
Ms Hochul’s budget officials have questioned the price of some lawmakers’ budget proposals, saying lawmakers vastly underestimated the potential cost. But supporters like Ms Stewart-Cousins said such spending is aimed at offsetting years of divestments exposed by the coronavirus trials.
This is exactly what the mayor hopes for a long-term school control
The newest player in the budget negotiations — at least in absentia — is Mayor Adams, who probably seemed to endure a common sentiment for New York mayors in Albany: disappointment.
Despite including a large contingent of city-based Democrats, the Legislature has not accepted his request to extend mayoral control of New York schools for another four years.
Democrats in both houses have traditionally backed promoting mayoral scrutiny, but felt it was a political discussion that could be taken outside of budget talks, as scrutiny doesn’t expire until June, when the legislature is also due to end.
Still, city lawmakers would most likely be able to claim victory on a range of issues close and dear to their residents’ hearts, including fairly predictable increases in spending on schools.
As a man who loves nightlife and the industry that surrounds it, Mr Adams should also be pleased at progress on a proposal to allow restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic beverages to-go, a practice temporarily legalized during the pandemic. Despite 190 percent opposition from the influential liquor lobby, Ms. Hochul had backed a plan to make drinks to-go permanent.
ethics, anyone? Okay, how about a tax freeze?
There seemed to be some momentum for a new ethics board to oversee Albany, always hard work that has been the subject of decades of failed attempts. But a reported proposal to replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (whose members are appointed by the Executive and Legislature) with another body (whose members are Executive and Legislative nominated) already conflicts with good government guess groups who have gone through similar iterations.
The governor had initially expressed some doubts, although the continued rise in prices at the pump has made a deal more palatable, and Ms Hochul said: “The timing of the budget is perfect to address this.”
Another possible cherry on top of the eventual budget deal is the accelerated pursuit of an existing middle-class tax credit, a move Ms Hochul supports.
Grace Ashford and Dana Rubinstein contributed coverage.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/31/nyregion/new-york-state-budget-bail.html New York has exceeded its budget deadline. Here’s why.