ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New York will spend billions of dollars of federal funds over the next year on schools and relief for struggling businesses, tenants and landlords under a spending plan that New York’s Legislature passed Wednesday.
The state Senate passed the revenue bill early Wednesday morning with a 38-25 vote, while the 150-member Assembly passed the bill with a 88-61 vote following hours of debate Wednesday evening. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he’ll sign the budget.
LIBERALS CHEER WINS
Democrats, who won a veto-proof supermajority last year, won passage of their top – and long politically contentious – priorities, including a tax hike on millionaires and a $2.1 billion fund for undocumented immigrants and other workers who have been excluded from COVID-19 assistance.
Supporters hope the tax increase could bring in at least $2.8 billion this upcoming year and prevent the need for spending cuts in years to come. New York also plans to boost school aid by $1.4 billion.
This year’s $212 billion budget is a 9.9% increase over last year’s $194.6 billion budget.
That increase is due in part to extra federal COVID-19 relief that New York won’t get again next year: including an expected $12 billion for state government alone. Freeman Klopott, Cuomo budget office spokesperson, said state spending alone will increase 3.8% under the budget if that extra federal funding is excluded.
GOVERNOR CALLS BUDGET A “COMPROMISE”
The majority of Democratic state lawmakers have called on the governor to resign as he faces multiple investigations over allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to his months-long refusal to release data about COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.
Cuomo has dismissed concerns that he is distracted or that the scandals hurt his negotiating ability this year _ though budget negotiations were late-starting and drawn out this year, and Cuomo in past years has resisted raising taxes on the rich.
The governor said budget negotiators didn’t follow the tradition of meeting in-person this year because Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie tested positive for COVID-19 March 23. Still, Heastie said his “diagnosis and any quarantine of staff” wouldn’t affect budget negotiations.
The budget did include the governor’s proposals to legalize mobile sports betting and to require internet providers to offer a $15-a-month plan for low-income families. Cuomo is also touting a $16 billion plan to expand and reconstruct Penn Station, and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development grants.
“I laid out the priorities that were important to me a couple of weeks ago,” Cuomo told reporters Wednesday. “And all those priorities have been met. The legislature had laid out priorities also, as they do every other year. And there’s always a question of compromise and we did that again here. I don’t think we’ve done a better budget than the budget you see before you today.”
Some Democrats blasted party members for backing down from demands for a larger tax hike on New York’s top earners.
“We acquiesced to a governor who said that we could not afford to ask the wealthiest among us to pay more so the least among us could suffer less,” Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, of lower Manhattan, said.
Assembly Member N. Nick Perry criticized the budget for not setting funds aside for health care workers who have toiled throughout the pandemic, but complimented the governor for working with Democrats.
“He said yes when he could have said no,” Perry said.
LATE PAYCHECKS FOR STATE WORKERS
Lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday to make sure the state can afford to pay workers Thursday even though the Legislature and governor didn’t pass a budget by an April 1 deadline.
Still, the delayed budget process means thousands of state workers may have to wait at least a day longer than usual to receive their paychecks.