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New York’s budget season starts with friction over taxes and education funding

by Assoicated Press
March 16, 2024

Maysoon Khan & Anthony Izaguirre
Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Democrats who control the state Senate and Assembly have released their budget proposals for the year, setting up potential battles with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office over education funding and income taxes.

The spending plans mark the start of the state’s budget negotiations, a process that will play out behind closed doors between the governor, Senate leader and Assembly speaker ahead of the budget’s April 1 due date.

Hochul said she thought the budget could be wrapped up on time this year, appearing keen to avoid the kind of intraparty squabble that delayed it last year, when she sparred with lawmakers over a housing plan and a change to bail laws.

“Everything that we need to have is on the table now,” Hochul, a Democrat, said.

Hochul unveiled her own budget proposal in January, pushing lawmakers to spend $2.4 billion to address the city’s migrant influx as well as new programs to combat retail theft — both sensitive political issues for Democrats ahead of a contentious congressional election year in New York.

The Assembly and the Senate are on board with the governor’s plans on migrant spending, which would include short-term shelter services, legal assistance and health care.

But both chambers have rejected a proposal from the governor to increase criminal penalties for assaulting retail workers.

At a news conference, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Democrat, said increasing penalties for assaulting retail workers is “not particularly a fiscal issue” and should be discussed outside of the budget.

Another potential sticking point between Hochul and top lawmakers is a plan from the governor to adjust how the state doles out education funding to local districts.

Hochul’s proposal has been criticized because it would pull state funding from some districts, but the governor has argued it would better direct money to schools that need additional funding. In response, both the Assembly and Senate Democrats are pushing to instead study how the state’s funding formula could be improved.

Democratic lawmakers also want to raise personal income taxes for people making more than $5 million. Hochul, who said she didn’t want to conduct negotiations in public, told reporters that “raising income tax is a nonstarter for me” when asked about the plan on Tuesday.

The budget bills will now begin to move through the legislative process and will eventually be hammered out through private talks, where many details could change before an agreement is finalized in the coming weeks. Or — as Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins put it to reporters on Tuesday — “We are close to the end of the beginning."

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