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Is there really a NYS budget deal? Assembly speaker says not so fast

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie meets with reporters on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
Karen DeWitt
New York Public News Network
New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie meets with reporters on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

One day after Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that there’s a conceptual deal on the state budget, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that announcement was premature.

He said many lawmakers have yet to be briefed on all the details, and that nothing is set in stone.

Heastie said it is true that Hochul and Democratic lawmakers are generally on the same page on key issues, including easing the affordable housing crisis, a study to make future changes to the school aid formula, and increasing penalties for retail theft.

But he said it’s too soon to say there’s an actual budget deal.

“The pencils weren't fully down,” Heastie told reporters. “But I would say conceptually we probably were close on a lot of things.”

Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said late Monday that “there is no agreement yet” but Hochul and the Legislature “are getting close.”

Heastie has used the analogy of the governor and Legislature being in the same state, and then the same town, to describe how close they are to agreement. Now he said, it’s inched a bit closer.

But he said he’s still hearing back from his Democratic majority members in private meetings, and many have questions about the proposed spending plan.

“I think we were in the same ZIP code,” Heastie said. “But I always have to brief members before I can ever say, a deal is a deal.”

Heastie said the biggest questions his members have are related to the tentative housing deal. Hochul on Monday night announced a new tax break would be created for developers who include affordable housing in their projects, known as 485x. It would replace the former tax break 421a, which expired two years ago.

“These new measures represent the most comprehensive new housing policy our state has seen in three generations,” Hochul said.

The housing package also includes more rights for tenants, and Heastie confirmed that the measure — known as the Good Cause Evictions Act — would be mandatory in New York City, but localities outside of the city could choose whether to opt in.

The housing package has been criticized by both progressive groups and Republicans, who are in the minority in the State Legislature.

Heastie said perhaps it is a good sign that the deal pleases no one.

“Everyone who had an interest in this was probably going to not walk away happy,” Heastie said. “ And I think we've accomplished that mission.”

The budget was due April 1. Since then, the governor and lawmakers have approved five spending extenders as the weeks have dragged on. The current one runs out on Thursday.

Heastie could not say whether a sixth extender will be necessary or if the budget will be finished by then.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.