Gov. Kathy Hochul’s political power in Albany has been in question, after a bruising start to her first full term. So how did Mayor Eric Adams do in the state budget? It looks like a mixed bag. He got some money for asylum-seekers, but not as much as he wanted. Bail laws are being made stricter, again, but the budget didn’t include any part of Hochul’s housing plan. Here’s a quick look at how some of the mayor’s priorities fared in the state budget.
Adams said this was his top priority in Albany, and he got it – partially. The mayor, though grateful for any help, complained that the $1 billion pledge in Hochul’s executive budget wasn’t enough, since it assumed that the federal government would make up the difference in city spending on serving migrants.
And that extra $1 billion or so could go far, since the mayor’s $4.3 billion over two years price tag was just a rough estimate. The city has actually spent $817 million so far housing and serving the recent wave of migrants.
Just don’t call it that! Worn down from being the face of Democrats pushing for “bail reform,” Adams has more recently insisted that he has a broader perspective on reducing criminal recidivism. “The criminal justice reforms were successful in those areas of nonviolent, nonrepeated offenders,” Adams said of the 2019 reforms in a recent appearance with Hochul in Upper Manhattan. “We wanted to sit down and address those who were dangerous and recidivists.” Adams praised Hochul and legislative leaders for giving judges more discretion on bail for repeat offenders, and for adding money for district attorneys and public defenders in the budget.
Earlier, a statement from Adams’ press secretary Fabien Levy praised the deal for including “progress on public safety,” but added that “we remain disappointed that this budget will not include discovery reform.”
But broadly, Hochul’s announcement that her proposal to remove the “least restrictive means” standard – further rolling back the 2019 bail reforms – will make it into the budget is a win for Adams, who has been adamant that the law needed changes.
Adams wants developers to build more housing in the city, but the state budget won’t include anything to help him with that. Adams lobbied for the state to raise the Floor Area Ratio cap to allow denser housing, pave the way to convert some office buildings to housing and revive tax incentive programs for new construction and conversions. That all got booted from the budget discussions.
It may seem wonky, but Adams really wanted a package of reforms that he and allies said would help the city build stuff faster and cheaper. Members of his administration traveled to Albany to lobby for changes to allow alternative project delivery methods like design-build, let the city hold fewer public contract hearings and turn the Department of Design and Construction from a city agency into an authority. Insiders following the debate said none of it made it into the budget.
Adams seemed bamboozled by Hochul’s proposal to increase the city’s contribution to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by more than $500 million a year. In the final deal, the city will pitch in $165 million a year. “The city’s portion of the MTA was significantly lower. That’s huge!” said Claudia Granados, a lobbyist who closely follows the state budget. “We all know the city should be paying more, but they skate by it. That was a tremendous amount of work (Adams’ team) put in and got.”
However, the city will still be the only municipality to see an increase in the payroll mobility tax, something Adams also grumbled about. And while Adams endorsed a pilot program for 10 free bus routes in the city, Hochul said the budget will include a plan for half that.
Speaking of transportation, Adams wanted Sammy’s Law, which would allow the city to set speed limits lower than 25 miles per hour. It didn’t make it in the budget, but advocates are hoping it’ll move later in the session.
For various political reasons, Adams isn’t the loud champion of charter schools that some political allies hoped he’d be. In fact, his main complaint was that allowing more charter schools would cost the city too much. In order to get 14 more charter schools in the city, Hochul agreed to have the state cover the costs. That’s another relief for the mayor, who loves to talk about the city’s budget woes.
Mental health care
The mayor has talked a lot about mental health, particularly about serving the severely mentally ill. Hochul said the budget includes $1 billion total for care, most of which is funding for new supportive housing units. Adams’ office called this funding a win for the administration.
Expanded tax credits
Adams joined labor unions to rally for expanding the Empire State Child Credit to include kids under four years old. And he got it in the budget. As Politico rightly noted, stuff like this is kind of a political lay-up, but Adams didn’t even get everything he wanted. Unlike last year, the state declined to further expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
With reporting by Annie McDonough. This story was originally published after Hochul announced a “conceptual agreement” on the state budget and updated after the budget was passed.