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The New York state budget will be late, again

This file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany.
Hans Pennink
/
Associated Press file photo
This file photo shows the New York state Capitol in Albany.

Governor Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers concede that there’s no chance that they will meet the state budget deadline, which is the day after Easter. But they say they intend to come back next month and try to reach agreement on a spending plan.

The legislature approved one budget bill, to authorize the state to continue paying its debts, and adjourned until next Tuesday, April 2, one day after the budget is due. They left the rest of the budget, including how to distribute school aid, pay for ever increasing costs of health care, and an affordable housing program, for later. 

On the Senate floor, Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, speaking on Thursday, said that with Good Friday and Easter Sunday approaching, there was not enough time left to vote on everything. 

“We are working hard to reach agreement on billions of dollars of spending and revenue,” said Krueger. “Since we are planning to go home today, with Good Friday tomorrow and Easter on Sunday, it is not realistic that we will get a complete budget done by April 1.”

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters (on Wednesday), that while discussions continue, there is no agreement on the major issues. 

“We’re in the middle of the middle,” she said. 

Sticking points include Governor Hochul’s proposal to alter school aid distribution and end what’s known as “hold harmless,” which guarantees that all school districts do not receive less aid than they did the previous year. The Senate and Assembly oppose the plan. They want to instead have the State Education Department conduct a study to change the state’s foundation aid formula at a future time. They say the sudden cuts would be too disruptive to schools.
 
Lawmakers also want to restore Hochul’s cuts to the Medicaid budget, including to home health care programs. Senator Stewart-Cousins said lawmakers want to seek a federal waiver, similar to one granted to California, that could yield $4 billion over the next three years and avoid cuts. She said the affordability of health care is a national crisis, and the temporary waiver would help plug gaps until a long term solution is reached. 

“It's not it's not easy. It's not within reach,” Stewart-Cousins said. “And that's why these creative solutions are what we use as part of the strategy to make sure that New Yorkers have access to quality affordable care.” 

The governor and legislature have also not yet worked out an affordable housing plan which would include a new tax credit for developers and stronger tenant protections. And they have yet to agree on a plan to crack down on retail theft. 

The governor and lawmakers had raised the possibility of a conceptual agreement on the budget before breaking for the holidays, but that hope was fading, said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. 

“ I can't predict a handshake deal,” Heastie said. “I use the analogy that when the government does a budget and resolutions that we're in the same galaxy. I think where the budget negotiations are now, I feel like we're on the same planet.” 

Lawmakers, before adjourning for a long weekend, approved an extender bill sent by the governor to keep government running and pay state workers through Thursday, April 4.

Hochul, in a statement, said she believes a final budget agreement “is within reach.”

Last year, the budget was more than one month late.

 

 

 

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.