State Budget Update

March 29, 2022

As state leaders continue budget negotiations, we have a few odds and ends to share with members.

Timing: Since no budget bills were introduced overnight, the Legislature will need a message of necessity from the governor if they want to approve a new state budget before Friday, the start of the new fiscal year. A message of necessity would truncate the 3-day waiting period that is ordinarily required before a budget bill can be signed into law.

The Big Issues: Issues currently at the forefront include health insurance coverage for undocumented immigrants, criminal justice reforms, and specifically bail reform and now (as of last night) the announcement regarding a new Buffalo Bills Football Stadium that is estimated to cost taxpayers between $600-800M.

You will recall that recently the Governor came out with a 10-Point Safety Plan. Over the weekend, the members of the Black, Latin, Hispanic and Asian Caucus responded with their own plan that pushes back on any proposed changes to the state’s bail laws.

Opioid Funds: Based on our information, names of the individuals chosen by the Assembly to represent the body on the state’s Opioid Advisory Board have been put forward, rounding out the list of New Yorkers identified by various government agencies/bodies (Senate, Gov’s Office, AG’s Office, Association of Counties, etc.) to serve on the Board. It should be noted that the NYS Association of Counties was given 7 seats for appointees representing various regions of the state. All names put forward must clear a background check and other screenings before being confirmed. We think that is the primary hold up that is delaying the first meeting of the Advisory Board.

COLA: As you know, the goal is to get the Senate and the Governor’s Office to agree on an 11% COLA (as proposed by the Assembly) for the Human Services sector. On this point, it is important to recall that before negotiations began, the Governor made it crystal clear she was not willing to take on recurring ‘out years’ debt that the state can’t see a way to pay for given current economic circumstances and significant uncertainty. What we are asking for is a one-year COLA with a renewed COLA statute that is tied to the July CPI-U. We urge you to continue to make phone calls to compel legislative leaders to deliver 11% in order to stabilize provider organizations. We also urge you to refrain from making plans on how to implement a COLA until the ink is dry on a deal.

The Governor has on several recent occasions noted her desire to ‘turn down the heat’ that usually accompanies the last few weeks of budget negotiations. Right now it feels as if there are several brush fires burning. Here’s an article from Politico that describes what’s happening in Albany at the moment:

An on-time budget in Albany grows increasingly unlikely

03/29/2022 04:59 PM EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. — There had been little hope in recent days that the state budget would pass by the deadline this Thursday, but most legislators had been optimistic that they would come to a deal by then and pass bills in a day or two thereafter.

As the deadline looms, there’s a growing consensus that even that is overly ambitious.

“Things are moving much slower than they should be,” said Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris (D-Queens).While the state constitution requires budgets to pass by March 31 each year, there’s always a bit of leniency before a tardy spending plan starts to cause significant problems. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office says this year’s would need to be passed by Monday, April 4, to avoid disruptions in the state payroll.

With six days to go until that date, more legislators were beginning to grumble that discussions on their priorities were being drowned out by pushes from Gov. Kathy Hochul on issues like criminal justice, funding for a Buffalo Bills stadium and replacing the 421-a tax credit for developers with a new “485-w” program.

“The governor is being absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion, with … the number of things she’s thrown at us at the last minute, which gets in the way of other things that we wanted to focus on,” said Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn). “Now we’re talking about bail nonstop, we’re talking about 485-w, we’re talking about the Bills stadium. We had other things we wanted to talk about, and now we’re just doing this.”

Sen. Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) held an event with Communications Workers of America and AARP calling for more careful oversight of funds for broadband expansion proposed by Hochul in the budget. He wants to ensure quality and cost requirements are included for any funds spent.

“I fear that we’re waiting too long to engage in these conversations because it’s a highly complex set of issues,” said Ryan, who pointed to open issues like this, SUNY and CUNY funding, and child care that he thought weren’t receiving the level of discussion they deserved.

Even some of the issues that have dominated headlines appear to have made little official progress. Members of the majorities in each houses of the Legislature said they still didn’t know any details of how the Bills stadium might be funded.

“We haven’t been briefed on it, we haven’t conferenced it,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester). “Except for what I’ve read in the newspapers, I know very little.”

Legislative leaders and Hochul appeared to be continuing to debate whether to expedite three casino licenses for downstate rather than wait until 2023 when the current moratorium on new casinos expires.

One of the negotiating points is how much local approval would be needed for a casino to be sited in a community, but Senate Racing and Wagering Committee Chair Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens) said he was hopeful an agreement would be part of the final budget.

Both the Senate and Hochul have expressed support for moving ahead with the three downstate licenses, while the Assembly has been more circumspect.

“Don’t forget, this is something that wasn’t even in” the Assembly’s one-house budget, Addabbo said Tuesday.

“So the fact that they were engaged is actually a good sign, number one. Number two, the fact that they are all discussing it leaves me to be optimistic that it’ll be part of the final budget when the dust settles.”

The only clear movement in recent days has been on issues that have been presumed unlikely to pass in the budget that are now being declared officially dead, such as extending mayoral control for New York City schools, which doesn’t expire until June.

It now appears to be an after-budget issue.

“The issue of school governance and mayoral control is actually pretty important, and we should be having a full discussion about it with our heads clear from the thousands of other issues that actually have a budget impact,” said Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), who heads the Senate Committee on New York City Education.