Dear Commons Community,
On Thursday evening, with many New York State lawmakers already heading home to their districts, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she and legislative leaders had reached a $229 billion budget agreement. As reported by The New York Times.
Hochul convened a news conference in the Capitol’s ornate Red Room to announce the handshake agreement, but there were no hands to shake. Neither the leader of the Assembly nor the Senate was present, leaving the Governor to make a solitary victory lap on the new budget that, if passed by the Legislature next week, will be one month late.
But the governor had no grand policy program to trumpet. She backed off from her pledge to construct 800,000 new homes, a potential centerpiece of her first term. She abandoned her push to ban menthol and other flavored cigarettes.
The resulting agreement burnished the governor’s reputation as a centrist Democrat, with some of her key priorities — tough-on-crime changes to the state’s bail law, money set aside into reserves, and no new taxes or higher levies on the superrich — in line with more conservative themes.
The deal also reflects Ms. Hochul’s willingness to seek a series of compromises with the liberal Legislature.
The state will grant 22 new charter schools statewide (14 in New York City), rather than the 100-odd ones in her initial proposal. New York’s minimum wage will rise, though not as far as some in the Legislature had hoped for. And a version of the progressive-backed Build Public Renewables Act will become law, but seemingly without some of the requirements that proponents said gave the measure its teeth.
While Ms. Hochul on Thursday described her relationship with the Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and the Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, as “stronger than you could possibly believe,” she also nodded to the friction in the process — perhaps unavoidable, given that many of the Democratic lawmakers are to the governor’s political left.
“I will never shy away from a fight. You’re not always going to win,” she told reporters. “This state requires a leader who is not afraid to get knocked down once in a while. Because I always get back up.”
Even so, the protracted conflict leaves Ms. Hochul in a somewhat tenuous position with lawmakers, just a year after pledging to forge a new, more collaborative Albany.
Below are highlights of the budget as provided by Governor Hochul’s Office
Highlights of the budget include:
- Improving public safety by providing judges greater discretion to set bail for serious crimes; investing $347 million in evidence-based gun violence prevention initiatives; $170 million to support the implementation of discovery reform for prosecutors and defenders, including $50 million in capital for discovery technology improvements in New York City; $92 million in aid for prosecution and defense funding across the state; and more than $66 million to increase the number of State Police academy classes and number of troopers dedicated to addressing serious crime
- Investing $1 billion in mental health – the largest investment in comprehensive mental health care in a generation – and transforming the continuum of care by increasing inpatient psychiatric treatment capacity, dramatically expanding outpatient services, and boosting insurance coverage
- Creating a stronger health care system for the future through an additional $1 billion in health care capital funding and expanded Medicaid coverage for more than 7.8 million low-income New Yorkers
- Protecting reproductive health care by investing $100.7 million to fund abortion providers, expanding access to abortion care for SUNY and CUNY students, providing access to over-the-counter contraception at pharmacies, enacting additional data protections for patients seeking reproductive health care, and increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate for abortion care
- Record funding for P-12 schools and higher education, including the largest annual School Aid amount of $34.5 billion, full funding of Foundation Aid for the first time in history, reauthorizing 22 charters, including 14 in New York City, and $2.4 billion for new capital projects for SUNY and CUNY
- Implementing new comprehensive programs to ensure high-quality, affordable child care, including $500 million towards a Workforce Retention Grant Program and $25 million to support the Employer Child Care Tax Credit, and an expansion of the Child Tax Credit to include children under four years old
- Increasing the minimum wage for three years, after which the State’s minimum wage would increase at a rate determined by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), giving hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who earn minimum wage a pay increase to keep with rising costs of living
- Supporting tenants, including residents of public and subsidized housing with rental arrears through a major investment in rental assistance for New York City Housing Authority and other public housing residents, as well as Section 8 voucher recipients and other subsidized housing residents through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)
- Saving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from the “fiscal cliff” and securing long-term stability through adjusting the Payroll Mobility Tax for the largest businesses within New York City to 0.6 percent, generating approx. $1.1 billion; $300 million in one-time State aid; requiring New York City to contribute $165 million for paratransit services funding; $65 million to reduce the proposed fare increase on the MTA; expanding service frequencies on the subway and launching a pilot program providing five free bus routes in New York City to enhance the customer experience
- Combating climate change and investing in energy affordability by implementing first-in-the-nation zero-emission requirements for new building construction, and expanding the New York Power Authority’s ability to support New York’s climate goals
- Making New York a more competitive place to grow jobs and drive economic growth by expanding and enhancing the New York Film Tax Credit – one of the most stable film production incentive programs in the nation – which will provide a boost to New York’s film industry, one of the largest union employers in the state
- Building infrastructure and capital projects across the State, including $1.7 billion for a new Department of Health research laboratory, $2.4 billion for transformation, maintenance and preservation projects at SUNY and CUNY campuses across the state, $446 million for Phase Three of the Hunts Point Interstate Access Improvement Project, $105 million to upgrade the State Emergency Operations Center, $51 million for Hudson Valley Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacements, and much more
- Supporting New Yorkers with disabilities by expanding the Medicaid Buy-In Program for working people with disabilities, funding and reinvigorating the Interagency Coordinating Council for Services to Persons who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing and increasing the number of Civil Service Section 55-B positions to grow the representation of those with disabilities in the State workforce
- Expanding access and boosting demand for New York food and products while supporting farmers by increasing food manufacturing capabilities in the state; $10 million to support the establishment of farm markets, supermarkets and food cooperatives in underserved communities; and $50 million over five years to local school districts to support New York State farm products in meals for K-12 school children
- Expanding the enforcement powers of the Office of Cannabis Management and Department of Taxation and Finance to further grow the legal marketplace for cannabis, including levying fines on illegal retail operations and closing those shops down
- Supporting New York Seniors by funding programs statewide to support aging in place and to fight financial exploitation, elder abuse, and isolation of the aging, and increasing funding for the Master Plan for Aging (MPA), a comprehensive, interagency vision for seniors living in New York State