Albany Agenda

The biggest issues left out of the state budget

The NY HEAT Act could still be passed before the end of session, though higher taxes on the wealthy are likely dead.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a conceptual budget agreement with legislative leaders on April 15, 2024. The final budget included a number of the governor and lawmakers’ top priorities, but not everything made it in.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a conceptual budget agreement with legislative leaders on April 15, 2024. The final budget included a number of the governor and lawmakers’ top priorities, but not everything made it in. Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

At a record-setting $237 billion, this year's finalized budget contained a lot. From a housing package years in the making to stalled legislation that will allow New York City to lower its speed limits to 20 miles per hour, the spending plan touched on a wide variety of policy and spending items.

But even with a budget this large, not everything that lawmakers, the governor and advocates wanted made it over the finish line. For some, exclusions were themselves a victory. For others, the lack of budget action for key priorities represented a sore defeat. 

Plenty of items never entered into the budget discussions, while several higher-profile issues were discussed as part of the spending plan but ultimately didn't make it in. While some are likely dead this year after the budgetary exclusion, other policies may still get a chance to pass during the time remaining in the scheduled legislative session, which is set to end at the beginning of June. Here are some of the biggest issues left out of the budget.



Although the legislation passed in the state Senate more than once – including earlier this year – and both the governor and Assembly included part of the bill in their respective budget proposals, the NY HEAT Act was ultimately not part of the final spending plan, much to the chagrin of climate activists. The bill would remove a subsidy for gas companies to install a new hookup within 100 feet of an existing one, which advocates say would save the state $200 million a year. It would also cap utility payments for low-income New Yorkers at 6% of their income. While debating the budget, Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Helene Weinstein said the issue was too complex for the budget. The legislation does have fiscal implications, but it remains possible for lawmakers to address it post-budget, though it has stalled in the Assembly in the past.

Previously vetoed bills

In its one-house budget proposal, the state Senate included both the Grieving Families Act and Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act, two pieces of legislation that Hochul vetoed last year. Neither made it into the final budget, which is unsurprising given both the governor’s rejection of the bills last year and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s general opposition to the inclusion of non-fiscal policy in the budget. Since both bills passed outside of the budget last year, it seems likely that lawmakers may be willing to address them outside of the spending plan once again.

SAFE for Kids Act

Despite support from a wide coalition – including the governor, state attorney general, New York City mayor and a variety of lawmakers – legislation meant to protect kids online did not make it into the budget. The SAFE for Kids Act would limit the use of addictive algorithmic social media feeds for minors in order to combat the negative mental health impacts of social media on young people. The legislation remains a priority for the governor for the remainder of the session, and she has expressed confidence that the Legislature will eventually return to the bill. Legislative leaders did not rule out addressing it outside of the budget.


Housing Access Voucher Program

The final housing deal received criticism from both tenant advocates and real estate, while a measure with broad bipartisan support once again failed to make it into the final budget. Both the state Senate and Assembly one-house budget proposals included the Housing Access Voucher Program, which would create a $250 million voucher program to help tenants at risk of homelessness pay their rent. It has widespread support as it would help keep renters in their homes and help ensure that landlords get paid rent. But the measure has yet to receive the support of the governor, who has in the past cited the cost of the program after declining to include the proposal as part of her housing agenda for the past three years. Given that the program would have a significant fiscal impact, it’s highly unlikely that it would get passed outside of the budget.

Higher taxes on the wealthy

Few policies have a greater fiscal implication than new taxes, so after progressives failed to get state leaders to agree to higher taxes on the wealthy, the fight is most likely dead until next year’s budget cycle. Hochul has made her opposition to tax hikes a line in the sand, and this has held true during her time in office even as both chambers included increases as part of their budget pitches. The Legislature sought to raise the tax rates for the highest earners in the state making over $5 million and over $25 million. They also proposed increasing the corporate tax rate.

Free bus pilot expansion

Assembly Members Zohran Mamdani and state Sen. Michael Gianaris pushed for more funding to expand New York City’s free bus pilot – and they got significant support from members of the city’s congressional delegation and other local officials. The state approved funding for five free bus routes as part of last year’s budget, but the lawmakers wanted another $90 million to expand it to 15 routes across the city and to increase overall service reliability. Specifically, supporters wanted the funding secured before congestion pricing takes effect this summer, so that commuters have more reliable and cost-effective options other than driving. But they didn't get the $45 million meant for free buses, and secured just over $12 million for service improvements. And with the spending plan finalized, tens of millions in additional funding doesn’t seem to be in the cards in order to expand free buses before drivers start getting tolled to entire lower Manhattan. Without the new money, the original pilot is set to end later this summer.