Albany leaders say they have a “conceptual deal” a week after missing an April 1 deadline.
The $220 billion deal includes several wins for Gov. Kathy Hochul, including controversial changes to bail reform and more than $180 million in funding for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in addition to gambling revenues received through a controversial settlement with the Seneca Nation. Legislators secured additional funding for child care and public schools as well as changes to state law that will help more undocumented people access health care, among other provisions. A climate-conscious future ban on gas hookups in new buildings and Clean Slate legislation to clear some people’s criminal records will not be included in a final budget deal, according to Hochul.
“It was worth the time to get this right for New Yorkers,” Hochul said Thursday as she presented the budget. “Seven and a half months ago, I said we're going to do things differently.”
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie were not present at the announcement to outline the proposed budget, which totals $4 billion more than Hochul’s original proposal in January.
While she acknowledged the dangers of climate change catastrophes in New York, one of the first budget items Hochul highlighted was a suspension of the state’s gas tax to provide relief to car-owners as fuel prices continue to spike. The tax will be suspended from June to December of this year, totaling $585 million in suspended taxes.
On the subject of ethics, Hochul called the existing state watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics “structurally broken” and announced it would be replaced with a Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. Despite criticism from lawmakers and good government groups, she announced the members of that new organization would be nominated by lawmakers and approved by law school deans.
The deal represented a compromise between competing interests within the Democratic supermajorities, especially when it comes to public safety. Some additional crimes will be made bail eligible, as moderates had hoped, but legislators on the political left managed to block a proposal that would have expanded how judges could jail people pretrial based on their past arrest record or perceived danger to the public. Kendra’s Law, which allows for the forcible treatment of people with mental illnesses, will be strengthened.
Hochul emphasized additional funding for child care, saying the state would put $7 billion toward child care support for families over four years. That funding will not go toward child care for undocumented children due to restrictions on the use of federal funds, Hochul said.
Hochul said $5 billion would be committed to the state’s reserve fund.
Several budget bills have already been introduced before the Legislature. Hochul will need to issue a so-called Message of Necessity to overcome a legislative rule that new bills wait at least three days before getting a vote. State lawmakers are expected to begin voting Thursday night.
This is a developing story.