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No NY budget likely for at least another week after lawmakers pass a second spending extender

The New York state Capitol building.
Wangkun Jia
The New York state Capitol building.

With no New York state budget in place, lawmakers have passed a spending extender for the second week in a row to keep the state running.

Lawmakers returned during a two-week holiday break to approve the one-week extender. That will take the state through next Monday.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger spoke Monday on the Senate floor.

“There are no budget bills in print for us to vote on today,” Krueger said. “In order to ensure that the state of New York continue its governmental operation, with its workers being paid, we need to pass an additional extender today.”

The bill ensures that biweekly checks for 83,000 state workers will go out on schedule.

Senators and Assembly members will not be among those getting paid, however. Under state law, their pay is held in escrow until the new spending plan is approved.

Republicans, who are in the minority party in both houses, complained about the second one-day session that’s been held since the budget deadline was missed on April 1.

Sen. Tom O’Mara, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said everyone knew that the Passover and Easter holidays were going to make it difficult for legislators to get back to work until April 17. He said doing one longer-term extender on April 1 would have saved taxpayers “the expense of calling the Legislature back here.”

Even though legislators are not being paid their salary, they still can collect travel and related expenses for each trip to Albany. That adds up to an estimated total of $70,000 each time.

Governor Kathy Hochul, speaking over the weekend outside the governor’s mansion, where she was hosting an Easter egg roll for neighborhood children, said it’s more important to get the right budget than an on-time budget.

Hochul is seeking changes to the state’s 2019 bail reform laws to give judges more power to hold defendants accused of serious crimes before they go to trial. She wants to eliminate a clause in the law that requires judges to use the “least restrictive means” when deciding whether to set bail or not.

“My priorities have been clear from the very beginning,” Hochul said. “We’re going to have bail laws that give the judges the discretion that I believe they should have.”

Hochul said the “least restrictive means” clause, which was added to the law last year, has only created more confusion.

Democrats who lead the Legislature have not agreed to the changes. They say the data does not show that the bail reform laws are responsible for the recent crime surge and are being made a scapegoat.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was asked by reporters if there’s been any progress bridging that gap.

“Nothing has been settled,” Heastie said.

Hochul is also seeking an ambitious housing program that would allow the state to override local zoning laws as part of a plan to build over 800,000 new housing units in the next few years. The governor said something needs to be done to ease the state’s affordability crisis.

“We cannot say that we can leave this legislative session, and this budget process, without doing something substantial to increase the housing stock in this state,” Hochul said. “We have a severe shortage.”

State lawmakers have rejected proposals to interfere with municipalities’ zoning regulations. They instead want to increase grants to localities to encourage more housing construction.

Hochul and lawmakers are at odds on other significant portions of the budget, including whether to raise tuition at state universities or allow more charter schools to open. The governor and Legislature also disagree on whether to ban flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.