Thursday, April 7, 2022

NY $220B Budget Agreement

Democrats in Albany, have agreed on a record-breaking $220 billion Budget for the Fiscal year that began on April 1st, with a Vote is expected on Thursday, 4/8/2022 afternoon.

Representing divided segments of the State Democratic Party, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35th District), and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-83rd District), came to the Agreement after a bitter Negotiation that ended up almost a week late. Disputes dragged on over Amendments to the 2019 Bail Reform Law and Investing Public Money in a New Stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

The $220 billion Budget for the Fiscal year that stretches from this month to March 2023 is 24% Higher than the $177 billion former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) negotiated just Two years ago. The Budget is reflective not only of billions of dollars in Emergency Funding provided by the Federal Government during the Pandemic, but of the State’s desire to spend more on Social Services and Capital Needs, as New York emerges from Covid-19.

“We’ve had some incredibly difficult years, so the need is real,” said Scott Levenson, President of the Advance Group, a Democratic Political Consultancy. “There are a lot of people hurting out there, and it’s clear the governor is trying to balance that with the importance of stimulating some kind of economic resurgence.”

Democrats were able to agree on several big-ticket Spending items, including Hochul’s desire to Invest $10 billion in the State’s Healthcare Workforce and roughly $1 billion in Tax Cuts, Grants, and Spending to benefit Small Business. Albany Democrats, notably Progressives, were able to secure a victory on expanded Early Childcare, gaining up to $3 billion for a New State Program that will Not be universal.

Hochul pushed through at least $600 million in State Funding for a New Stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, outside of Buffalo, New York, which many Downstate Democrats had seized upon as a Wasteful display. “If the Bills stadium gets built and she has excess cash, then she’s a hero upstate, someone who refused to give into New York City,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a National Political Consultant.

Possibly the most Consequential pieces to the 2023 Budget Agreement, are the Amendments Democrats will make to the 2019 Bail Reform Law, which Eliminated Cash Bail for most Misdemeanor and Non-Violent Felony Charges, and allowed judges to consider an Individual’s ability to Pay.

After New York City and other Cities across the State experienced a rise in Shootings and Violent Crimes in 2020 and 2021, Opinion shifted against the Legislation. Mayor Eric Adams (D) and Gov. Hochul (D) criticized some parts of the Law and asked for Changes. Under the New Amendments, it will be easier for Judges to Hold and Set Bail for Repeat Offenders and those who threaten Persons or Property, and Judges will also be able to consider whether the Charges caused Serious Harm to an Individual or Group of Individuals when considering Bail Terms.

Judges also will be able to set Bail for Additional Gun and Weapons Possession Crimes that had previously been Excluded. Thresholds will be Lowered for the Number of Guns one can be found carrying to be Charged, with First-degree or Second-degree Gun Trafficking.

Political Experts argued that Hochul needed to gain some Concessions from Democrats on Bail Reform, considering that she is Running for Election this year. “Bail reform has become translated by the larger population as the reason for increased crime, and her ability to get elected hinges on the issue,” Sheinkopf said.

Other Items included in the agreed-upon Budget include:

- A Suspension of the Gas Tax from June 1st until the end of the year that saves New Yorkers 16 cents per gallon. It could cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about $100 million this year, Janno Lieber, the MTA’s Chief Executive Officer said, folllowing the Agency’s monthly Board Meeting. State Officials have reassured the MTA that any Lost Revenue from Reducing or Suspending the Gas Tax would be Matched with other State Funds, Lieber said.

- Language to Legalize Alcohol-to-Go for Restaurants, a Measure the Liquor Store Lobby Opposed.

One Item that doesn’t appear to be in the Final Budget: Progressive Advocates wanted $3 billion for a New Excluded Workers Fund to provide Cash to Undocumented Workers who didn’t Qualify for Unemployment Benefits during the Pandemic.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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