State lawmakers completed a marathon day of voting to finalize a $229 billion state budget late Tuesday night that avoids broad-based increases in the personal income tax, boosts education aid to more than $34 billion and sets in motion a minimum wage increase.
The budget was completed more than a month past its April 1 due date as lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul negotiated changes to the state's 2019 law that limited circumstances in which bail could be required. Hochul was able to win those changes to expand bail consideration for judges, but failed to reach an agreement on her wide-ranging housing plan.
Nevertheless, from a tax credit for young families, as well as a planned ban on natural gas hookups in new construction, the budget approved by lawmakers will have an expansive effect on New Yorkers.
Hochul has indicated she will continue to press for elements of her housing proposal. Top Democrats in the state Assembly and state Senate have also signaled they could be more supportive of efforts to expand housing outside of the state budget, when they would also have more say in molding proposals.
Hochul on Tuesday morning, speaking with reporters, called the final spending plan a success even if it is one of the latest to be completed in more than a decade.
"I think when New Yorkers look back, they don't care so much about the time element involved, because that time element gave me what I needed to get significant issues over the finish line," she said.
Republicans, however, found the final budget less impressive, faulting it for not addressing the needs of New Yorkers on crime and the economy as well as for inflated spending.
"After weeks of negotiations and six budget extenders, the final state budget ended up right where it started: too much spending, too much regulation, too many taxes and too many reasons for people to leave New York," said Republican Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay. "Delays and dysfunction produced another runaway spending plan in the form of a $229 billion budget that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the state’s most pressing issues."
The budget will raise New York's minimum wage in the metropolitan area from $15 to $17 by 2026 while also increasing the upstate wage to $16 the same year and indexing the base pay to the rate of inflation. New York's child tax credit will expand to include families with children under the age of 4.
Lawmakers have agreed to boost school meal spending by $134 million to expand access to low-income school districts, though advocates had wanted a more universal program affecting all schools.
School spending will increase to more than $34 billion, with a record increase in direct aid to school districts also in the final agreement. The budget will allow for 14 charter schools in New York City, dipping into a poll of previously approved licenses.
The budget will not raise the personal income tax, New York's main driver of revenue. The development disappointed progressives who had wanted a tax increase on people who earn more than $5 million a year as well as even higher rates on wealthy people who make $25 million annually.
But the budget also raises a mobility tax to help bolster mass transit in the New York City metropolitan area. New York's cigarette tax will increase by $1 to $5.35 after lawmakers also rejected Hochul's proposal to ban menthol cigarettes.
The budget will also set in motion proposals to address climate change as the state works toward the goal of sharply reducing emissions by the middle of the century. Gas hookups in new buildings and homes in the coming years will be banned, a move that was cheered by environmental organizations.
The New York League of Conservation Voters called the provision "a significant step towards decarbonizing our buildings sector."
But the change was blasted by Republicans for being too potentially disruptive and costly.
"If I was the governor of a state leading the nation in people leaving, I probably wouldn't roll with 'everyone has to buy new appliances' and '$3 billion in new taxes' but that's just me," said Republican state Sen. Jake Ashby.
But the marquee issue has been crime and public safety in the budget debate. Hochul had sought the third set of changes to New York's bail law in as many years as the issue has been a flashpoint in the debate over New Yorkers feeling safe in the wake of the pandemic.
Democratic lawmakers had publicly opposed Hochul's proposal to allow for judicial discretion in serious criminal cases when bail is set by limiting the least restrictive standard in the law.
Ultimately, Hochul was able to win changes, though more expansive proposals for addressing the state's discovery law that accelerated when evidence must be turned over to defense in criminal cases was dropped out of the budget.
The battle over bail has stemmed from supporters contending the measure was necessary to address systemic inequities in the criminal justice system. But rising crime coinciding with the pandemic has led to voter concerns over public safety.
Hochul's election last year included a pitched debate over the measure.
Aside from the bail debate, the budget will add more money to anti-gun violence programs as well as the State Police to expand their ranks.
"I would say when you take out some of the policy stuff, I think this checked a lot of boxes on the things that the members of the Assembly support," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "Maybe not at the levels the members would have liked, but I would say probably this might be the best non-pandemic budget I've seen in my 23 years in the Assembly."