New York State legislators and Governor Kathy Hochul have come to an agreement on a $220 billion state budget.
Hochul announced the agreement nearly a week after the budget was due. Lawmakers were expected to begin voting on bills Thursday night and finish those on Friday.
The agreement includes some changes to the state’s bail reform laws, the renewal of a popular pandemic-era rule that allows restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks to go, and a temporary halt to the state’s gasoline taxes.
The changes in bail reform include making several gun-related crimes once again eligible for bail, and to ease some of the timelines on discovery laws, which require that prosecutors provide defendants with evidence against them.
Hochul said there’s also agreement to amend Kendra’s Law, to make it easier for judges to refer mentally ill defendants to mandatory hospitalization or outpatient treatment. The agreement will also include funding for 1,000 additional psychiatric beds and mental health treatment.
The governor agreed with legislators to spend an additional $4 billion in the budget on programs, including expanded access to child care, although it stops short of the universal child care plan backed by some in the Legislature.
Hochul said home health care workers will receive a $3-an-hour wage increase as part of a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar package to raise the pay of health care workers. A plan known as Coverage for All, which would provide government-subsidized health care to undocumented workers, will be limited to those workers who are over the age of 65.
Hochul said the budget will devote 15% of total spending to the state’s rainy-day fund to be used if there’s a future economic downturn.
The budget will also include the suspension of two of the state’s taxes on gasoline, worth 16 cents a gallon, from June 1 until the end of the year. Hochul said the spending plan also includes the continuation of a middle-class tax cut and a property tax rebate.
New Yorkers ordering takeout food will once again be allowed to also order alcoholic drinks to go. The measure, which sunsets in three years, requires that all alcohol be secured in a container with a lid or cap. Full bottles of wine or liquor will not be permitted to be sold.
Liquor store owners, who opposed the measure, will get some concessions, including being allowed to open on Christmas Day.
The spending plan also creates a new state entity to oversee ethics. It will replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, with a new commission that will continue to be appointed by the governor, Legislature and other statewide elected officials. The state’s law school deans will vet the choices.
Lawmakers were also poised to approve a deal that Hochul struck with the NFL and owners of the Buffalo Bills football team to fund at least $850 million in expenses for building a new stadium, in exchange for the team continuing to play in Buffalo for another three decades. Critics say the agreement, which could reach $1 billion when other expenses are counted, is too big a taxpayer giveaway to a well-funded league and the billionaire team owners.
Hochul defended the deal, saying some of the money will come from a gaming-related settlement with the Seneca Nation of Indians.
And voters will have a say in November on whether to approve a $4.2 billion environmental bond act that would help combat climate change.