Why Governor Hochul is not expecting a late state budget

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Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 Credit: New York NOW

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday that she’s planning to reach a deal on the state budget with leaders from the state Legislature by the time a final spending plan is due at the end of the month.

That might not sound like news, but it’s a signal that Hochul doesn’t plan to return Albany to the days of blowing past the budget deadline, sometime for months, before reaching a deal.

“My expectation is that we’ll be on time,” Hochul said. “We’re very close to that time. And I don’t have any intention of it going much beyond that.”

The state budget — which controls how New York spends more than $200 billion in public funds — is due at the end of March. That’s to make sure the state government is funded at the start of the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.

But there have been times in the past when a deal on the state budget isn’t reached until months after that deadline, sometimes coming together as late as August.

That’s largely been avoided over the past decade. The state Legislature, in part through pressure from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has approved a final state budget by the end of March, or early April, since 2011.

Hochul told reporters in an Albany suburb Tuesday that she plans to continue that trend to support the fiscal stability of the state, but also to help local governments plan their own spending.

“Localities need certainty,” said Hochul, who started her political career as a town board member in Hamburg, a small locality in Erie County.

“I suffered as a local town board member when the budgets from the state, which had significant revenues for our communities went all the way through May, June, July, and we were in a limbo not knowing how much we had. So, we’ll never do that to the people of this state.”

Negotiations on the state budget are expected to ramp up in the coming days as leaders from the State Senate and Assembly prepare rebuttal spending plans to Hochul’s executive budget proposal, which was laid out in January.

That’s right on schedule for a typical budget season in New York. Lawmakers wrapped up a series of hearings on the state budget in February.

Hochul has also struck a more collaborative tone with the state Legislature than her predecessor, leaders from the Assembly and Senate have said.

That could make budget negotiations easier than past years, when Cuomo was known to use the budget as leverage for his policy priorities. That often led to late-night dealmaking outside the public eye.

New York is also flush with cash for this year’s state budget, thanks to federal aid during the pandemic and stronger-than-expected tax receipts.

It’s unclear if that will make negotiations easier — because there’s more money to work with — or harder — because everyone will want a piece of the pie. The budget is due March 31.