ALBANY — Legislative leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul have yet to reach an agreement on a budget of more than $200 billion, and lawmakers and their aides faced a long to-do list Wednesday afternoon.
The Legislature held a brief session Wednesday without voting on budget bills, and lawmakers extended hotel stays as negotiations dragged six days past the April 1 deadline. Sen. Joe Angelino, a Republican from central New York, said he plans to find an air mattress for his office just in case.
Negotiators have yet to finalize the details of the seven remaining spending plans, including infrastructure, local aid and education. It takes hours to polish and print each of these plans, and lawmakers also need to be informed and hold debates.
But House Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo, said the main sticking point remained criminal justice reform. She did not expect negotiations to drag on over the weekend, but could not say whether lawmakers could announce a budget deal on Thursday or Friday.
“I would say we are close, closer than yesterday” Peoples-Stokes said. “But there is a long way to go.”
If the Legislature fails to pass a budget this week, lawmakers may have to vote again next week on a stopgap measure to fund state employee payrolls.
Lawmakers have remained at odds over possible bail reform and other policies some want to push through the budget. A 2019 New York law eliminated cash bail for many non-violent offenses following outcry over dozens of people being held behind bars awaiting trial because they could not afford to pay a caution.
Some law enforcement officials, along with Republicans and some Democrats, want New York to allow bail in more cases following high-profile shootings by people released under the Bail Act. bail. But other Democrats and criminal justice advocates have pointed out that many states with fewer bail limits are also seeing signs of increases in violent crime.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called Hochul’s proposal to allow judges to determine whether a person may pose a danger to the public in bail decisions.
Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris said Tuesday lawmakers also agreed to change a New York law that sets out how courts deal with discovery in criminal cases.
Another question that remains unanswered: should New York make it easier to allow mental health professionals to seek longer involuntary hospital stays for individuals.
Senator Diane Savino, a Democrat from Queens, and Senator George Borrello, a Republican from Western New York, are sponsoring such legislation and say the 72-hour hospitalization period is not enough to stabilize patients. .
But critics say such proposals violate the constitutional rights of people with mental distress who do better with community programs.
New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services CEO Harvey Rosenthal said he and others with mental illness are more likely to experience violence: “We’ve had a couple of high profile incidents and it’s really set off a torrent of lock-and-swipe approaches, and that’s really reprehensible.”
Governor Hochul proposed a budget of $216.3 billion in January, but lawmakers keen to leverage strong tax revenues expect the final amount to be higher.
The public won’t be able to see the final details – including a potential gas tax suspension and increased spending on overdue utility bills and COVID-19 rental relief – until shortly. long before lawmakers take their final votes.
Legislators usually have to wait three days before voting on a bill, but the governor can waive that requirement.
Republicans and some Democrats want to see details from Hochul’s office on exactly how New York will fund its promised $600 million share to subsidize a new football stadium in a Buffalo suburb. It is possible, for example, that Hochul could fund the project without legislative approval by diverting casino revenue from the Seneca Nation.
Some Democrats and good government groups have called the deal a corporate giveaway that would enrich Bills’ supplier, Delaware North, which employs Hochul’s husband, William. Hochul promised not to use his position to benefit Delaware North, and the company banned William from working on state issues.