Bedtime Delayed: Overdue Budget Prompts New York Lawmakers To Stay Up Late

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ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – State lawmakers hoped to finish the budget overnight, one day after the deadline, after  an agreement reached with Governor Andrew Cuomo will give the governor broad new powers to add or subtract   spending throughout the year , as the state continues to cope out with the fall out from the corona virus.

Cuomo says it’s a “remarkable” achievement that the budget was agreed to at all, when he and state lawmakers are under such  stress dealing with the steeply rising cases of COVID 19 in the state.

The legislature agreed to give the governor special temporary powers to amend the spending plan several times throughout the fiscal year, based on how much revenue the state is actually collecting.

Cuomo and his budget officials have said the state’s deficit could be as high as $15 billion dollars, and they may need to make cuts mid year to schools, health care providers, and local governments. But Cuomo says if the economy rebounds and there is more revenue coming in, then they might be able to increase aid.

“If money comes in during the course of the year, we’ll spend it. If we actually lose money, we have to adjust it. That’s life,” Cuomo said. We can’t spend what we don’t have.”

Money to schools will remain flat, and will match the same amount given to each district last year. Schools have rising fixed costs though, like pension payments, so will likely feel the squeeze. Schools are getting some money from the federal bailout plan.

The legislature also authorized the state to borrow money on a short term basis for the next three months, since the  April 15th tax collections are postponed until July 15th.

Advocates had pressed for increasing taxes on the wealthy, but the final spending plan does not include any new taxes on the rich.

The governor says with the exception of the plunging revenue he believes it will be a “robust” budget, with many unrelated policy items that the governor proposed in January included in the spending plan.

“With everything going, on we did not scale back our efforts or our ambitions,” Cuomo said. “You look at this budget, you would never know that anything else was going on.”

Those items include a $3 billion dollar environmental bond act that will go before voters in November. Also, single use Styrofoam take out containers from restaurants and fast food outlets will be banned, beginning in 2022.

Lawmakers were on track to approve a partial roll back of the state’s bail reform laws, after law enforcement groups said the end to cash bail on January 1 for non violent crimes in New York led some potential criminals to be set free.

Bail reform advocates held a last minute news conference via Zoom to condemn a plan that would make it easier for judges to order defendants held pre trial.

Marvin Mayfield, who spent 11 months in Riker’s Island  because he could not meet bail, says the measure would lead to the mass incarceration of another generation of black and brown New Yorkers.

“What the governor is proposing will incarcerate an additional tens of thousands of New Yorkers across the state,” Mayfield said. “And take away the justice we fought for and won.”

The legislature also agreed to create a new crime of domestic terrorism, in response to the mass stabbing last December at a Hanukah celebration at a Rabbi’s house in Rockland County. One person died and several were badly injured.

And, lawmakers  enacted a controversial publicly financed system for political campaigns that weakens the ability of third parties to become eligible for the ballot.