May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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New York State Budget Passes, Finally

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers, Westchester County)

The New York state budget is a document totaling tens of thousands of pages. amassing 10 pieces of legislation, each with its unique topic about New York’s finances and spending.

When Governor Kathy Hochul proposed her version of the budget in mid-January, it totaled $233 billion, a 2.4% increase over the previous year. This year’s budget was not affordable for state lawmakers to bring back dollars to their districts. New York’s budget is larger than the spending of most countries. Yet, state lawmakers still increased Hochul’s spending plan by $4 billion, bringing the total to $237 billion, more than a whopping 4.5% increase over last year’s budget.

Hochul touted the state budget this year for having no income tax increase and being balanced, meaning there is no deficit, although there is a significant unknown debt the state is financing and paying interest for. This year’s budget also squirrels away a mere $24 billion if needed for a rainy day. The budget was nearly three weeks late. Some advocates for a late budget maintain it is better to have a balanced budget than an on-time budget.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda, Niagara County) vehemently opposed the 10-package set of bills that comprises the state budget.

“In my State of the State, I promised New Yorkers we’d fight to build more housing, improve education and protect public safety—and that’s exactly what our budget is going to do,” Hochul said in a prepared statement moments after the budget was passed. “This budget agreement represents the most significant improvement in housing policy in three generations. It includes transformative investments in health care and education that will put our state on the path to fiscal stability. It will end co-pays for insulin, establish first-in-the-nation paid prenatal leave and launch the EmpireAI [artificial intelligence] consortium. This budget cracks down on retail theft and gives us new tools to shut down illicit cannabis storefronts. It helps the children of New York City by extending mayoral accountability for public schools [for four years]. And we got it all done without raising income taxes by a single cent.”

Many critics of the budget charge the Legislature passed a budget filled with extreme policies that will make our state more expensive and less safe. After much haggling over a housing plan and other ancillary issues, the budget passed on Saturday, April 20, which meant at least five members who strictly observe the Sabbath were not entitled to cast their vote for the last of these important measures.

Assemblyman Michael Tannousis (R-Great Kills, Staten Island) slammed the governor and state lawmakers for certain aspects of the budget.

Reaction to the budget from Republicans was fierce.

“In a clear sign that the socialists have taken charge of the Democratic Conferences, this budget includes a radical housing policy that will eliminate the rights of small business landlords to control their private property,” said Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt (R-North Tonawanda, Niagara County). “The housing agreement, which includes the radical ‘Good Cause’ eviction, is a giveaway to the socialist tenant advocates who believe in making it illegal to make money in New York. Even worse, communities outside of New York City will get absolutely nothing out of this deal while absorbing all the negatives that will drive up housing costs and devastate small property owners.”

Ortt went on in his prepared statement to chastise the Democrats for not assisting law enforcement to make streets safer and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

The budget “fails to do anything to protect the safety of New Yorkers,” Ortt said. “Governor Hochul’s strategy to tackle retail theft is to establish a task force and throw money at the problem. The real solution is to empower police officers to throw these criminals in jail and give our judicial system the discretion to keep them there. The Democrats’ obsession with catering to the needs of criminals is the driving force behind the rise in violence against police, including the tragic deaths of three law enforcement officers in the past month. This chaos will continue until Albany makes it clear that they stand shoulder to shoulder with law enforcement to keep the people of this state safe. New Yorkers have made it clear they believe our state is heading in the wrong direction, and this budget will only turbocharge our decline.”

Ortt’s counterpart in the Senate had a positive take on the budget.

Senator Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers, Westchester County), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee

“We cannot let our state slip back to the days of underfunded schools, business opportunities only for the wealthy few, families kicked to the streets during hard times out of their control, people being forced into the shadows for healthcare and our natural resources being treated as landfill,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers, Westchester County). “Budgets are not just fiscal documents, it’s a reflection of our values.”

Hochul suffered some defeats from the budget she proposed for education.

“[We] successfully fought against the devastating cuts the governor proposed to more than half of the school districts in the state,” said Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers). “Under the FY 2024-2025 budget, every district will receive at least as much money as they did last year. We also fought for––and won––a higher inflation factor than the governor proposed, which will result in more school aid flowing to many districts.

“The enacted budget increases school aid by more than half a billion dollars over the governor’s proposal. This win is a testament to the parents, teachers, school board members, superintendents and advocates across the state who made their voices heard over the last four months. This budget reflects a necessary investment in the work our schools are doing to support students post-COVID, both for learning loss and mental health needs.”

Robbers won’t find it so easy now when stealing items from small and large businesses such as grocery stores and bodegas. “It has been clear that New York must take actionable measures to address the ongoing threat of retail theft,” Mayer continued. “This budget includes practical measures that give police and prosecutors additional tools to keep New Yorkers safe, including my proposal to allow prosecutors to aggregate individual instances of retail theft where those crimes are part of a single criminal intent. The budget also includes language to protect our retail workers by creating a new crime of assault against a retail worker. Together, these measures represent a thoughtful and responsible approach to deterring retail theft and protecting retail workers.”

Mayer, who is Jewish, was pleased with the upgraded charges for hate crimes that was part of the budget. “We also took action against the deeply concerning rise in hate crimes throughout New York state, by expanding the list of offenses categorized as hate crimes, including gang assault, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, falsely reporting an incident, to name a few,” she said.

Over in the Assembly, Republicans did not have kind words about the spending plan.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul

“The state budget has seen numerous failures, including not holding MTA fare evaders accountable for their actions by forgiving their offenses and enrolling them in programs that will allow them not to pay their fares,” said Assemblyman Michael Tannousis (R-Great Kills, Staten Island). “Fare evasion costs the MTA approximately $700 million a year. But they [the MTA] are pushing congestion pricing by arguing that it will bring in $1 billion a year, aiming to offset fare evasion costs. Instead of addressing the issue of reclaiming this revenue, the state Legislature’s solution is to impose congestion pricing on residents of Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, expecting them to bear the burden while others are free to utilize the subway and bus without paying the fare. All this, while the MTA’s own environmental impact study clearly shows congestion pricing will lead to an increase in congestion and pollution on Staten Island and the Bronx. The Legislature is not interested in holding individuals accountable for their actions but would rather pass along the cost to the hardworking taxpayers who continue to flee in droves.

“Moreover, the implementation of Good Cause Eviction laws will make it exceedingly difficult for landlords to remove tenants from their properties and does nothing to protect landlords and their rights,” Tannousis continued. “It will cause a mass exodus of property owners away from New York to more property-friendly states. It will lead to a dilapidation of properties around our state as well as a significant decrease in tax revenue. While hurting New York taxpayers, the Legislature has given $2.4 billion to fund the migrants who continue to enter New York, with no end in sight. When it comes to New York State, the working man is a sucker.”

Hochul signed the budget bills and is expected to go on tour around the state in the coming weeks touting how various parts of the budget impact the area she is speaking in.

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