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Capital Region state lawmakers react to New York’s new budget

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis
New York state Capitol

New York state lawmakers approved a $229 billion spending plan this week, about a month late.

The new spending plan increases the state’s minimum wage and modifies bail laws, while Governor Kathy Hochul’s housing plan was dropped.

113th district Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner says Hochul's budget is "among the most complex" documents she's ever worked on.

“I was advocating for a little more a little stronger approach on the bail statutes, but I think we ended up in a good spot there. It was a step forward," Woerner said. "The school funding is fantastic. I'm very excited about that. I wish we had been able to do more on the universal meals for students. I think the nursing homes, I'm deeply disappointed that we were only able to secure a 6.5 percent rate increase for the nursing homes.”

Fellow-Democrat D. Billy Jones of the 115th Assembly district says this year's budget was challenging.

"It's been a frustrating process. I will say that. And, you know, I don't know if anybody's raising their hands in the air with this budget. We spent a lot of money," said Jones.

Republican Mary Beth Walsh of the 112th Assembly district says the package contains "too much spending."

“It's increased like $66.7 billion since I started in 2017," Walsh said. "I think if you look at the state's overall financial plan, I think that it's really a lot of unsustainable spending in the long run. We're gonna have out year budget gaps in the billions. And, you know, I think that the governor did resist calls from progressive Democrats to more aggressively tax higher wage earners. But there are taxes, there are increased state excise tax on cigarettes, a business tax rate increase that was supposed to be temporary was extended for three more years. There's an MTA payroll mobility tax on downstate employers.”

Republican Senator Jake Ashby of the 43rd district counts tax cuts for the middle class among missed budget opportunities.

"Some of spending, the aggregate spending that we see, I think is just unsustainable," Ashby said. "We need to start taking a closer and more serious look at ways to attract people to our state and keep people in our state, rather than pricing them out as businesses and families consider where to go or to stay or leave.”

The 108th Assembly District's John McDonald, a Democrat, shares a different perspective:

"We've got a fiscally sound budget, we have a balanced budget, we also have a balance, not only financially but also in regards to policy," said McDonald.

Democrat Pat Fahy from the Assembly’s 109th district says the 32-day late budget was her 11th and "the toughest yet."

"One of the big wins this year is climate change," Fahy said. "For the first time since we adopted climate goals in 2019, we have adopted the most far reaching energy package, including the all-electric bill, all-electric buildings on new construction and nobody is taking away gas stoves."

Republican Senator Jim Tedisco of the 44th district says overall he is disappointed by the spending plan.

"In terms of transparency, you should never do a budget by total messages of necessity. And we know what that is, bringing a budget out at billions of dollars, within an hour or an hour and a half for your elected officials to read it, digest it, for the media to see it, and the public to see it. So it was a failure in several ways," said Tedisco.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.