Albany Agenda

Few City & State readers think we’re looking at an on-time budget

It’s budget week in the Capitol, and it could be the first of many.

After a long budget season, it’ll be time to unwind.

After a long budget season, it’ll be time to unwind. Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

The state budget is technically due in one week, which means it’s crunch time in Albany as legislative leaders and the governors work to find compromises on any number of thorny issues. But with so much still up in the air, it seems that many readers expect that it’ll take officials at least until the end of next week to pass the budget – a somewhat optimistic opinion that politicos will get to enjoy the total solar eclipse on April 8 without worrying about an overdue spending plan. 

Last year, the budget didn’t come together until more than a month after the deadline, requiring a total of six extenders to keep state workers paid while legislative leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul fought over bail reform. This year, bail may not be in the mix, but there’s no shortage of negotiation topics to hash out. 

Education funding has top billing this year, as Hochul proposed eliminating the “hold harmless” provision for school aid, which until now ensured that a district receives at least as much money as it did the year before. She also wants to change the Foundation Aid formula, the main device used to determine and distribute school funding. Under her proposal, roughly half the districts in the state would see funding cuts. Both the state Senate and the Assembly oppose her cuts and changes to Foundation Aid.

Housing has once again emerged as a potential sticking point, as leaders agree they’d like to have a comprehensive housing package even if the details remain scarce. Both the Senate and Assembly would like to pass a new developer tax incentive for affordable housing along with new tenant protections. But they’re leaving it up to unions and developers to decide on construction labor standards for the incentive program – and they seem to be at a stalemate with no agreement yet. Legislators have also not proposed details for the rest of the plan, like affordability requirements, nor the specifics of the tenant protections.

Last week, City & State surveyed readers to see when they thought the budget would be finalized this year. More than 340 people – including numerous journalists, consultants, lobbyists, former lawmakers and even a couple of current elected officials – responded with their best guesses. (But Hochul, Heastie and Stewart-Cousins were not among them, so don’t worry that they’ll delay budget negotiations just to win the poll.)

The earliest guess was this past Saturday, March 23, which proved to be overly optimistic. Most respondents did not think that the budget would be finished on time; only 37 people guessed that the budget would be finalized by the end of day on Monday, April 1. But respondents were still generally hopeful, with more than one-third guessing that the budget would be passed within a week of the deadline.

The most popular guess was Friday, April 5 (which received 30 guesses), closely followed by Thursday, April 4 (with 25 guesses). Only 21 people thought budget negotiations would stretch into May, with one particularly pessimistic individual guessing that the budget would not be finished until June 18 – a guess that was literally off the charts.

City & State readers are well aware that lawmakers prefer not to work over the weekend. Only 35 people guessed that the budget would be finished on a Saturday, and just 14 thought it would be completed on a Sunday. Compare that to the 77 who thought it would be finished on a Friday, the 63 who thought it would be finished on a Thursday and the 61 who thought it would be finished on a Wednesday.