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Final New York State budget draws mixed reactions from lawmakers, budget watchdog groups

Agreement was reached on the New York state budget, nearly one week after the deadline, with voting on bills expected to wrap up 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.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the deal late Thursday afternoon.

“The long-awaited day has arrived,” Hochul said.

One of the reasons the budget talks went into overtime: prolonged talks over changes to the state’s 2019 criminal justice law reforms. Hochul in late March introduced a 10-point plan to amend the laws.

In the end, legislative leaders who had resisted altering bail reform and other statutes agreed to make 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 calls the revisions “common sense changes.”

We’re not undoing bail reform,” the governor said. “We are just saying, ‘Where are some of the weaknesses, what can be bolstered? What offenses would people think should be covered?’”

The criminal justice changes are a win for Hochul, who was increasingly under pressure from political opponents, both Democrats and Republicans, in the 2022 gubernatorial race, to do something to curb the state’s rising crime rates.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who had argued that there’s no evidence linking the criminal justice reforms to rising crime rates, said she’s satisfied with the changes.

“It is a thoughtful package,” Stewart-Cousins said. “That reacts to not just a narrative but actually reacts to the need for people to feel safe, and to address the gun crimes.”

Hochul said there’s also agreement to amend what’s known as 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 multiyear, multibillion-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.

A leading budget watchdog group said the additional spending in the budget, which will reach $220 billion, is a concern.

The Citizens Budget Commission’s Patrick Orecki said Hochul’s budget was carefully designed to prevent outyear budget deficits for the next five years. He said additional spending that might not have a funding source in future years is going to throw the budget off balance.

He said he’s eager to see more details.

A big part of breaking that down will be how much of that is one-time versus recurring (revenue), and does the recurring spending grow,” Orecki said. “Any recurring spending beyond the resources available would open budget gaps, and that’s a concern.”

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, to ease rising prices at the pump 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.

“This budget will put more money back in people’s pockets,” Hochul said.

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 in a state that’s seen more than its share of scandals. It will replace the troubled 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.

Government reform groups said the new commission will still not be free of political influence, and pointed out that lawmakers missed an opportunity to have a truly independent commission. Rachael Fauss with Reinvent Albany said Hochul is not fulfilling her pledge to “blow up” JCOPE.

From our perspective, the ethics box has not been checked,” Fauss said. “This is not the independent commission that the governor promised in her executive budget.”

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.

“There was a lot of passion,” Hochul said. “This is a regional priority for part of our state.”

Gaming companies will soon be able to bid on opening three downstate casinos, two years ahead of the original schedule, as part of the budget agreement.

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.


Syracuse Area State Senator John Mannion and his colleagues were passing budget bills into Friday evening, but he had a few minutes earlier in the day to discuss the $220 billion spending plan with WAER News. He said there’s a lot to like.

“…accelerate the middle class tax cuts," said Mannion. "We are going to suspend the gas tax. We’ve expanded pre-k. We’re continuing our commitment to fully fund public education. We’re investing in child care, we’re expanding broadband…”

Overall, Mannion said he felt good about the overall big picture of the budget and how it focuses on areas of need. That includes a historic 5.4% cost of living increase for human services providers. But Mannion said it still falls short.

“Honestly, when it comes to day services, residential care, and the workforce, we really need to do better," said Mannion. "While that cost-of-living adjustment is important, and I’m proud to have fought for it, we will live to fight another day, because we really need to support the workforce and raise their wages significantly.”

There’s also $1.2 billion set aside for health care worker bonuses and the nearly $7.4 billion earmarked for wage increases for home care aides. Mannion said the budget also includes some tweaks to the bail reform measures of 2019.

“When it comes to issues like reoffending and criminal activity related to guns, those are things that just made sense for us to improve,” said Mannion.

Those are just the highlights, and details will emerge in the coming days and weeks.


Not everyone is pleased with the new state budget. Executive Director of Upstate United Justin Wilcox said it spends too much.

“Governor Hochul and legislative leaders have passed a massive budget that spends too much and does too little to help overburdened taxpayers and employers. At $220 billion – just over $11,000 per New Yorker – this budget fails to address the cost drivers that have driven countless residents out of the state. For millions of New Yorkers who are struggling with the high cost of living, Albany’s tax relief measures fail to overcome the crushing impacts of historic inflation. Our leaders in Albany could have and should have done more to bring back our economy and our people.”

Regarding the Unemployment Insurance Crisis:

“Despite an extraordinary effort by our organization, allies in the business community and support from numerous legislators, this year’s budget failed miserably to deliver unemployment insurance relief. This is especially disappointing considering the state is sitting on billions in federal aid that it could have used to pay the $9.6 billion UI debt to Washington. This failure flies in the face of Governor Hochul’s own pledge to make New York the most business friendly state in the nation. Make no mistake – consumers across the state will ultimately bear the burden of this inaction.”

Regarding Brownfield Cleanup Program:

“We appreciate the efforts of Senator Kennedy and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes to secure a 10-year extension of the Brownfield Cleanup Program. This program has a strong track record of delivering economic and environmental benefits to Upstate communities. However, we’re disappointed and concerned about the inclusion of a $50,000 application fee. Considering the positive impacts of this program, imposing this financial burden is unnecessary and unwise and will likely disproportionately harm Upstate.”

Regarding Digital Gaming Tax Credits:

“The inclusion of a $5 million tax credit for digital gaming companies is one of the few bright spots in this year’s budget. This emerging industry has created more than 10,000 good-paying jobs – many of which are located throughout the Upstate region. We thank Senator Cooney and Senator Breslin for their work on this important issue. Moving forward, our leaders in Albany should consider additional ways to support this exciting sector.”

Regarding Downstate-Only Child Care Tax Credits:

“There’s simply no reason for Upstate businesses to be excluded from the same tax credits as New York City businesses that seek to offer child care on site. This shortsighted measure creates an uneven and unfair playing field.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at