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New York state budget stalemate continues

Speaker Carl Heastie at Bombardier in Plattsburgh
Pat Bradley/WAMC file
Speaker Carl Heastie at Bombardier in Plattsburgh

Talks over the late state budget are continuing for a third weekend at the New York state capitol in Albany.

It could be a while still before New York Governor Kathy Hochul and fellow Democrats who control the legislature strike a deal for a budget that had been due April 1.

Lawmakers approved a second budget extender on Monday to keep state payroll on target. But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said early in the week there is still significant disagreement over the plan that Hochul wants to use to launch an ambitious housing program and make further tweaks to the 2019 bail reforms.

Heastie spoke with reporters at the capitol.

“There’s no agreement, there’s no conceptual, ‘This is where we are.’ The governor has made her points on what she would like to see and we as a legislature are responding. Would I say progress been made since the last time I was here with you? I’d say slightly. There’s nothing even close to an agreement,” he said.

There is disagreement on a number of issues, according to Heastie.

“I still think that even besides bail there is issues in housing that still have to be dealt with. Including things the governor didn’t have in her executive budget but there is indication that the houses want to see some discussions on those,” he said. “So, what do I think is the bigger domino? Bail is 1a, housing is 1b. Then I think everything else is an easier path in the budget.”

The majority leader of the Senate struck a slightly more optimistic tone a day later. Fellow Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters an agreement is close on the bail reform laws:

“I think we’re close to a general agreement,” she said. “Yeah, I think we’re very close to a general agreement.”

Hochul has been pressing lawmakers to tweak the laws to allow judges more discretion in setting bail for serious crimes. But Democrats like Stewart-Cousins have argued it’s too soon to know if the 2019 laws are working.

“We do not, we continue not to want to criminalize poverty for low level offenses and yet we need to make sure that there is clarity about the law in the judicial system. We need to make sure that it’s clarified. So, the governor has those objectives and we have those objectives. We want to make sure that justice is done and I think we are almost there quite honestly.”

For her part, Governor Hochul traded the capitol for Castleton Thursday to welcome U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to town. She is standing by her mantra that the right budget is more important than an on-time budget.

And we've been working around the clock,” she said. “My team has not left town. We've had many, many meetings ourselves internally — just came from one. Our teams are doing a lot of Zoom calls with others who are not here, and we're going to work hard through the weekend. So I've laid out my priorities, but how to make New York safer, more livable, and more affordable. And that's the budget I plan to deliver.”

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.