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Long Island News

Talks continue over late New York state budget

Michael Gianaris.jpg
Courtesy Office of Senator Michael Gianaris
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New York state Senator Michael Gianaris, D-Queens

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers inched closer to a budget agreement on Wednesday — six days after the spending plan was due — but they didn’t cross the finish line.

After being in session for just over five minutes, the Senate adjourned until Thursday morning, ensuring that there won’t be any budget bills ready for the chamber to vote on until at least then.

Hochul and the Legislature are keeping details of the budget talks close to the vest, but Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris confirmed that one major sticking point is close to being settled. He said there’s consensus on making some changes to the state’s landmark 2019 criminal justice reforms that ended most forms of cash bail.

“It’s as close as you can get to an agreement without the bills being printed,” Gianaris said. “We are moving on from those issues onto the rest of the budget.”

Gianaris did not divulge specifics, but proposals that were being discussed include adding back some gun-related crimes to the list of offenses where judges can set bail and easing discovery laws. Those laws permit defendants to see evidence that prosecutors hold against them. District attorneys say the 2019 reforms set shorter timelines to turn over evidence that are too onerous, and as a result, they’ve had to drop the prosecution of some criminal cases.

A measure to make it easier for judges to order mandatory hospitalization or outpatient treatment for mentally ill people accused of crimes was not yet settled.

Democrats, who control the Senate and Assembly, were still holding closed-door party meetings on many of the spending items. They include whether to mandate that home health care workers get a significant pay increase, and whether to create a universal child care plan.

Also likely to be approved is some kind of gasoline tax holiday to help ease rising prices at the pump, and a temporary measure to allow restaurants to offer alcoholic drinks along with takeout food.

Details of a plan to speed up the timetable for the siting of three new casinos in downstate New York were being worked out, as local elected officials in New York City called for more control over where the gaming centers might be located.

And a plan to help fund a new Buffalo Bills stadium, announced by Hochul in late March, continued to draw opposition. Opponents say the state and local governments could have to pay for more than a billion dollars in costs.

Hochul, speaking on Monday, defended the stadium deal, saying that the NFL and the Bills’ owners will finance more than half of the deal. The governor spoke as home health care advocates chanted in the background.

“It is not majority taxpayer-funded, I just want to be clear on that,” Hochul told reporters. “The state’s share is 43%.”

The governor and lawmakers have already approved a spending extender that’s good through Thursday. If the budget remains unfinished after that, they will likely have to approve another extender so that New York can continue to make its payments and deliver checks to state workers.