Large spending cuts to schools and hospitals as a result of the pandemic-induced recession would be difficult for the Democratic-controlled Assembly to swallow, Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said, even as lawmakers in Albany hope their colleagues in Washington will send billions of dollars in aid to shore up the state's budget.
But without that money, Heastie would not rule out tax hikes on the rich to help make up the billions of dollars in lost revenue as a result of the crisis.
"We'll know soon if the federal government is going to bring us some help," Heastie said during a news conference. "If that doesn't happen, there's going to have to be a deep discussion amongst our members. We have a menu of things that we'll probably look at."
Governor Andrew Cuomo has not provided specifics on the spending reductions, but has said broadly there would be 20 percent decreases in spending to schools, health care and to local governments.
"Twenty percent cuts to education and health care -- it's something that in my wildest imagination that I could never see the Assembly accepting," Heastie said.
New York is seeking billions of dollars in direct pandemic relief after losing billions in sales tax revenue and spending heavily to respond to the health crisis. Millions of people nationally have lost their jobs and the economic shutdown that started in March is slowly beginning to ease.
Assembly Democrats have proposed tax hikes in the past even when times were relatively flush to help provide a boost in spending in the state budget; Cuomo has generally resisted broad-based tax hikes.
But the options may be limited.
"I think at this point everything is on the table because we can't have these kinds of cuts to schools and hospitals," Heastie said.