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'Conceptual' agreement reached on NY state budget

by WayneTimes.com
April 29, 2023

ALBANY (WHAM) — 27 days after its initial due date, state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul have reached an agreement on a $229 billion state spending plan for the 2024 fiscal year. That's $2 billion more than the budget Hochul originally proposed.

"I promised New Yorkers we'd make our state more affordable, more livable and safer, and this budget delivers on that promise,"Hochul said.

During an announcement Thursday night, Hochul said the new budget will remove the "least restrictive means standard," allowing judges more discretion to set bail for defendants accused of violent crimes.

"They need to hold violent criminals accountable, while still upholding our commitment to a justice system that is fair and accessible to all, ensuring poverty is never treated as a crime," she explained.

Other changes to public safety include a pay increase for attorneys assigned to represent people who can’t afford their own council, and giving $40 million to public defenders to help them enhance services and retain staff.

The agreement will add investments in gun violence prevention, and puts more than $1 billion into the state’s mental health care system. That will be used to create 1,000 in-patient psychiatric beds and 3,500 supportive housing units. It will prohibit insurance companies from denying access to critical mental health services.

The new plan brings a new focus to children’s mental health as well, investing $30 million to help tackle the growing issue.

It expands Medicaid access with a $100 million investment, and includes the largest Medicaid rate increase in two decades.

The agreement also expands access to abortion care in the state, while strengthening protections for these services and committing $100 million to support providers.

In terms of minimum wage, a statewide raise is on the way. Starting in 2024, minimum wage will increase to $16 an hour in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. It will go up to $15 an hour everywhere else. The state will raise the minimum wage yearly until 2027, when they will begin tying future increases to inflation.

The plan includes a $34.5 billion investment into the state’s schools, the largest in state history. That includes $134 million for schools in low-income areas, so kids can eat breakfast and lunch at school for free.

It also provides $400 million for utility bill relief, hoping to protect low-income residents from high energy bills.

Climate change was also addressed, by implementing first-in-the-nation zero-emission requirements for new building construction.

Five extenders were passed since the budget’s original due date to keep the state government funded during negotiations.

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