While more than a week late, the State Legislature passed a record $220 billion budget that was full of policy changes and nonfiscal issues that would be politically difficult to pass on their own. New Governor Kathy Hochul emerged from the negotiations largely victorious and put her imprint on issues that are critical to New Yorkers: public safety, rising prices and child care.
The most difficult budget issue turned out to be whether to roll back any of the state’s 2019 changes to the bail law. Those policy changes included restricting judges from imposing bail on all but the most serious crimes and many critics alleged that these changes were a major cause of the increase in crime, especially in New York City where Mayor Eric Adams advocated strongly for these shifts in criminal justice policies. The budget includes new language that would make judges consider whether the alleged crime caused serious harm to anyone. The package also makes certain crimes committed while waiting on an appearance for the previous crime, eligible for arrest.
In response to rising gasoline prices, officials agreed to suspend certain state taxes on gas from June 1st to the end of this year. This will allow New York motorists to save roughly 6 cents per gallon off the rising price of fuel.
Child care options also will expand across the state. This year’s budget includes language to raise the eligibility for subsidies from 200% of the federal poverty level to 300% or $83,250 for a family of four. It will also provide $343 million for child care providers, three quarters of which will go toward increasing wages. Lawmakers hope that the infusion of cash will help rebuild the child care industry that has been so damaged during Covid.
This year’s budget also includes major changes in health care that is intended to set the tone for the state’s troubled health care sector. Among them are:
- $1.2 billion for frontline health care workers
- $7.4 billion to support a $3 wage increase for home health care aides
- $2.4 billion to improve the state’s health care infrastructure
The budget also includes some major initiatives in the area of sports and recreation. New York City moved closer to getting its first full-fledged casino. This year, the state will open a competitive bidding process to authorize three casinos. The two existing “racinos” – at Aqueduct Racetrack and Yonkers Raceway – are seen as favorites to land two licenses which will leave one more license to be awarded – most likely in tourist rich Manhattan. Despite opposition, the Governor also included a deal reached with the Buffalo Bills to allocate $850 million – about $600 million in state funds and $250 million from Erie Country – toward the construction of a new $1.4 billion stadium.