State lawmakers this week are set to propose billions of dollars in spending meant to bolster struggling New Yorkers, including aid renters, making homeownership more affordable and increasing access to higher education and child care services.
The budget resolutions being proposed by the Democratic-led state Senate and Assembly amount to roadmaps for lawmakers, laying down public markers for the posture they are taking with Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The budget is expected to pass by the end of the month.
In the state Assembly, Democrats are calling for a replenishment of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program with $1.25 billion in order to provide support to struggling tenants after a ban on evictions for those facing pandemic-related financial hardships was allowed to lapse this year. The budget plan also calls for $400 million for the Landlord Rental Assistance Program.
Lawmakers are also seeking $500 million that would help people who are behind on their utility bills.
The Assembly is also seeking $250 million to create a Housing Access Voucher Program to provide rental assistance to people who are risk of becoming homeless.
And the budget resolution backs the creation of a new five-year housing plan every five years. It would add $1.7 billion to the governor's initial proposal, reaching $6.2 billion in spending.
An additional $15 million would be added to the Homeowner Protection Program, reaching $35 million if approved.
“Too many of our families across our state struggled with homelessness and finding access to affordable housing prior to the pandemic,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “This budget builds on the work done during the pandemic to keep New Yorkers in their homes, while creating and investing in programs that will give more families access to safe, affordable housing.”
Lawmakers also want $48.8 million for the State University of New York and $59.6 million for the City University of New York to end the so-called gap in the Tuition Assistance Program. Both systems would receive more than $1.6 billion in expansion capital spending.
Support for higher education
The budget resolution also provides a $60 million increase for SUNY and CUNY community colleges in order to adhere to a statutory obligation of having 40% of state support for community college-based aid.
Democrats in both chambers are expected to seek billions of dollars in additional aid for child care programs.
Progressive lawmakers like state Sen. Jabari Brisport have called for a universal child care program. He has called for $5 billion.
"With the support of my colleagues, I know we're going to see a drastic expansion," he said.
To pay for the spending, New York has been awash in federal aid and tax revenue from rate hikes on upper income earners. New York is projected to have multi-billion surpluses in the coming fiscal years.
But there are potential roadblocks facing the Legislature and Hochul as the budget remains under negotiation.
Gas and fuel prices are reaching historic prices, inflation has driven up the cost of many consumer goods and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to global economic uncertainty.
There have been bipartisan calls for the Legislature and governor to address the gas price increases, either through a suspension or cap on the taxes New Yorkers pay at the pump.
Hochul last week told reporters she is not yet adjusting her own $216 billion spending plan proposed in January, but pointed to the proposals to set money aside in the state's reserve fund to gird against a potential recession. For now, she is yet to embrace calls for reducing the state's per-gallon gas tax.
Republicans in the state Senate, meanwhile, have called for tax and spending restraint. GOP lawmakers last week called for property tax relief as well as reductions in costs for small businesses while also boosting support for manufacturing.
Republicans have blamed Democratic control of Albany for the problems facing the state.
"From witnessing a corrupt former governor engulfed in scandals during a pandemic, enduring authoritarian mandates affecting people’s everyday lives, and now struggling to pay for fuel and essential groceries, the people of this state have had enough," Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said. "It is our job to provide financial relief responsibly. Our Take Back New York Agenda has common sense proposals that will restore our economy and people’s faith in government.”