© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New York state lawmakers extend budget talks through April 16

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.

New York state lawmakers plan to meet again Thursday to pass another spending extender that will last until April 16.

The state budget was due April 1.

Senate Majority Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Tuesday that she had hoped the budget would have been completed by now. But talks have been slow, she said, and there have been other distractions — like a major celestial event on Monday.

“The eclipse has come and gone,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We didn't make that deadline, but we continue to work towards concluding the budget as quickly as possible.”

Stewart-Cousins said the Senate will break for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of fasting during the month of Ramadan, and then return briefly on Thursday to pass another extender through Tuesday so state workers and contractors can continue to be paid.

Among the major unresolved budget issues is a housing package. It would build more affordable housing, offer tax breaks to developers who agree to add affordable units, and strengthen rights for tenants.

Stewart-Cousins also said talks are “progressing” on how to crack down on the growing retail theft, although so far Democrats in the Legislature have not signed on to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to increase penalties for robbers who also assault a store employee.

Earlier this month, Hochul signaled that she might be willing to drop a controversial budget proposal that would have resulted in half of the state’s school districts receiving significantly less money from the state than they did in previous years.

Hochul wanted to end the provision known as “hold harmless,” which guarantees that no school gets less funding than it did in the budget the year before. The governor told reporters that she was leaning instead toward a study to change the state’s foundation aid formula going forward, putting off any potential cuts for at least a year or two.

“We talked about putting a process in place, so that by this time next year, giving everybody the notice and warning that they all asked for, that there will be a different formula,” Hochul said. “And I'm just deciding with the leaders how that mechanism will work. But I think it's going to put us in a much better place.”

Stewart-Cousins said she thinks the final budget will include restorations for the hundreds of districts that would have had to scramble to make up for a sudden drop in funding.

“We are looking at mitigating the pain that half of the school districts in this state were going to experience,” she said.

The Senate leader said while budget talks are progressing, and meetings will continue among the governor and the top leaders in the Legislature, she can’t guarantee that there will be a spending agreement by the time the next extender runs out.

Stewart-Cousins said budget talks are at “the beginning of the end” — but noted that the end is always the hardest part.

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.