Happy April Fools from Albany: The state budget will be late

The state budget will be late this year after Gov. kathy Hochul and the state legislature failed to reach an agreement by the April 1 deadline.
Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Here’s an April Fool’s Day joke – the state budget is going to be late. Except it’s true.

The state Senate majority leadership sent its members home for the weekend Thursday with just hours left until the midnight deadline for passing the state budget for the coming fiscal year.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she expects there will be a timely budget because state lawmakers are making progress in their negotiations with Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“The thing is that we know that we’re responsible for getting a budget that is timely, that balances the interests of the people of New York State and allows for us to continue doing the things that we know are important to make sure New York progresses,” Stewart-Cousins said. “So, we’re going to deal with it.”

In a statement, Hochul echoed those same sentiments.

“I am continuing to have productive conversations with Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie and I appreciate their collaboration and good faith approach to these negotiations,” Hochul said. “We are getting closer to agreement, with consensus on major policy items.  New Yorkers should know that progress is being made and that we will put in the time it takes to reach an agreement that delivers for them and moves our state forward.”   

The main issue holding up the budget this year is whether or not to make rollbacks to bail and discovery reforms passed in 2019 and Raise the Age reforms passed in 2017, which many people blame for the dramatic rise in crime over the past two years. Stewart Cousins told reporters she believes the legislature and the governor will come to a consensus on a set of rollbacks this budget cycle.

“Well, I mean, we’re certainly closer than we’ve been and we’ve been talking about it,” she said. “So, I don’t have any reason to think that it won’t be in.”

Hochul proposed a plan to make changes to the criminal justice reforms earlier this month, which included making more crimes bail eligible, allowing judges to hold repeat offenders on bail and allowing them to consider people’s criminal histories when setting bail. It would also require prosecutors to turn over less evidence in discovery to the defense and move certain gun cases involving 16 and 17-year-olds back to adult court.

It was reported Wednesday night that state Senate leaders had drafted their own plan for tweaking criminal justice reforms in response to Hochul’s. Their plan would also allow judges to set bail for repeat offenders for certain felonies and top-level misdemeanors and would allow police to detain them while they’re awaiting arraignment.

However, Stewart-Cousins said her conference won’t endorse allowing judges to consider dangerousness.

This leaves a number of issues on the table that need to be reconciled between the governor and the legislature, including the fate of the 421-a affordable housing subsidy, increasing spending on child and home health care and $600 billion in funding to build a new football stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

Republicans in the state legislature were quick to criticize Hochul and the Democratic controlled legislature’s failure to pass the budget on time.

“The people of New York expect and deserve an on-time budget. It’s a simple, straightforward requirement of state government,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay. “Unfortunately, Gov. Hochul and her Democrat colleagues in the Legislature have proven they are unable to meet that very basic expectation, and as a result the multi-billion dollar spending plan that impacts every facet of operations in New York is in limbo. Another year of Democrats’ dysfunction has resulted in little more than needless gridlock. Leaving Albany on March 31 without an agreement is embarrassing.”