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Hochul and Legislature to enter a fourth week without a state budget

andrea stewart cousins standing behind a podium with the New York State Senate seal
Karen DeWitt
/
New York State Public Radio
Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins updates the media on the state budget talks on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.

The state budget, now nearly three weeks late, will not be completed this week, and Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature are planning to pass a fourth spending extender Thursday to get the state through the next few days.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there will not be any agreement on a new spending plan until at least Monday.

“Unfortunately, it’s not this week,” she said.

But Stewart-Cousins said they are at “the beginning of the end” of discussions.

“I hope that we are able to just get to a point where I can come in and tell you that it is the end of the end very, very soon,” she said.

The Senate leader said the budget is taking longer to settle because Hochul added many policy issues to her spending plan, including revisions to the state’s bail reform laws.

Hochul is seeking a change that would give judges more discretion to set bail when a defendant is accused of a serious crime. The change would eliminate a clause that requires judges to use the “least restrictive means” to ensure someone will return for a court date.

There were some published reports that a deal had been struck on bail, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — after a meeting with the governor — said there’s no agreement.

“I don’t think anything’s been finalized,” Heastie said. “We’re in reach, but we’re not close.”

Hochul, who has not spoken publicly for several days, issued a statement indicating that another top budget priority for her, housing, may be on the ropes.

The governor is seeking a state law to override local zoning laws as part of a plan to build 800,000 more housing units over the next several years. The Legislature, facing blowback from suburban members, wants to instead offer grants to communities willing to build more homes.

Hochul, in her statement, said "after weeks of negotiations, the Legislature continues to oppose core elements of the Housing Compact.” She said she does not believe that incentives alone will solve the state’s affordable housing crisis, but she’s willing to talk about other parts of her plan instead.

Stewart-Cousins would not confirm that any part of the governor’s housing plan is now off the table. But she said any final deal must include protections for tenants.

“I've always said that within the context of all of this, we have to be very clear that we need real tenant protections,” Stewart-Cousins said. “So I think those things have always been the driving force around how we proceed with housing. And it's a big, big, objective, it's an important objective.”

Stewart-Cousins would not say, though, that the tenant protections must include the Good Cause Eviction bill supported by several lawmakers, including the chairs of the Senate and Assembly’s housing committees.

Earlier in the week, advocates rallied at the Capitol in an attempt to see their issues included as part of the budget.

Home care workers and allies, including Maurice Brown with the health care workers union SEIU-1199, rallied for higher wages.

“We are living through the gravest cost-of-living crisis in 40 years,” Brown said. “And New York faces the worst home care shortage in the nation because the state underpays home care workers.”

Stewart-Cousins said several issues are still being discussed, including raising the minimum wage and indexing future increases to the rate of inflation, funding for the downstate Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Hochul’s proposal to open more charter schools.

But she said nothing has been decided on those issues yet.

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.