Albany passes budget extender as policy negotiations stall | Public Service News

Albany passes budget extender as policy negotiations stall | Public Service News

ALBANIA — The state budget for fiscal year 2024 has been delayed, delayed as lawmakers debate a bold housing development program and a proposal to give judges more discretion to set bail in criminal cases.

On Monday, lawmakers approved a 10-day budget extension bill that would continue current spending plans through April 10.

The budget was due by April 1, but late last week top lawmakers in Albany signaled they had not reached a final deal on the spending package, mostly on policy issues folded into the budget.

Lawmakers in Albany had a deadline of 4 p.m. Tuesday to pass a budget extension to set aside enough money to pay nearly 50,000 state workers on time this week.

Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul, who has a significant amount of negotiating power in the annual budget process, said Tuesday that she intends to continue pushing the issues she addressed in her budget proposal released in late February.

This includes a plan to mandate municipalities at the front end of expanding housing stock by 1% every three years, and municipalities in and around New York City increase their stock by 3% every three years. Local governments that fail to meet these targets will see the state step in and authorize projects rejected by local zoning and citation authorities, or change their project approval rules to allow more housing.

The governor’s proposal also includes a move to change the state’s parole laws for the third time since they took effect in 2020. Gov. Hochul wants to remove the requirement that judges impose the “least restrictive” measures to ensure that the defendant to return to court, which would allow judges to set bail in more cases. Democrats have largely rejected the proposal, arguing it won’t address crime rates and violates the spirit of reformed parole laws.

Finally, the governor has called for lifting the regional limit on the number of charter schools in New York City, allowing more charter schools to open upstate and allowing the licenses issued for the 85 charters already closed throughout New York to be reprinted in new schools. That faces opposition from teachers unions, progressives and public school supporters, who argue that each additional charter school student takes significant funding away from the traditional public school system.

“Any budget deal must make progress on these core issues,” Gov. Hochul said in a statement Tuesday. “I have negotiated in good faith with the legislature, but clearly there is more work to do before we can reach an agreement.”

The governor then introduced stopgap funding legislation, which would allocate $592.5 million for state operations between April 1 and 10.

Most of the money, $215.5 million, will go to payroll, including wages and benefits for state employees, and to pay for mentally ill or developmentally disabled personnel who work in state-sponsored work programs.

Members of the Senate and Assembly are not paid until the full budget is approved.

The lack of a final deal has irked lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, from the leadership to senior members.

Assemblyman Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, said he believes it is important that all lawmakers vote to pass the ban bill while they await the full budget. But he had very strong criticism of the whole process this year.

“It’s absorbed into the optics,” he said.

Last week, lawmakers were held in Albany until Friday as the budget deadline loomed. But by that afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Andrea A. Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said negotiations were only “in the middle of nowhere.”

“Friday was optics,” Mr Gray said. “They knew. We entered the session, we passed a bill. They should have just come out and been honest. This is what creates distrust in the government.”

And now, with the passage of the budget resolution, lawmakers are leaving the Capitol again after the session ended Monday, after returning to the Capitol to vote on a single bill.

“I don’t mind coming back, that’s my job, but what’s important to me is to be transparent with the public,” said Mr. Grey.

State Sen. Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, said in a video message released late Monday that he was disappointed that the Democrats who run New York’s government could not reach a deal. He said the one-week extension was a significant obstacle to paying state workers, but he didn’t have high hopes for a budget deal after April 10.

“I really hope they get their act together,” he said. “However, I understood this, that when we show up on the Monday after Easter there will be no budget.”

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, was similarly critical of the process this year.

“What a shameful display of governance today by the Democrats who control power in Albany,” he said in a statement. “It’s like Groundhog Day all over again; Democrats want to spend more of our money, want to force even more progressive and dangerous policies on us, fail to deliver a budget on time that they had months to prepare, all while pretending to be out of touch with the real crisis with faced by New Yorkers; affordability.”

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