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NYS lawmakers extend budget talks through April 16

The state capitol building in spring.
File photo
The state capitol building in spring.

New York State lawmakers plan to meet again on Thursday to pass another spending extender that will last until April 16. The budget was due April 1.

State Senate Majority Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she had hoped that the budget, now ten days late, would have done by now, but she says talks have been slow, and there have been other distractions, like a major celestial event on Monday.

“The eclipse has come and gone,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We didn't make that deadline, but we continue to work towards concluding the budget as quickly as possible.”

Stewart-Cousins says the Senate will break for the Muslim holiday of Eid that marks the end of fasting during the month of Ramadan, and then return briefly on Thursday to pass another extender through Tuesday, so that state workers and state contractors can continue to be paid.

The major issues that are unresolved in the budget include a housing package. It would build more affordable housing, offer tax breaks to developers who agree to add affordable units, and strengthen rights for tenants.

Stewart-Cousins says talks are “progressing” on how to crack down on the growing retail theft, although so far democrats in the legislature have not signed on to Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to increase penalties for robbers who also assault a store employee.

Earlier this month, Governor Hochul signaled that she might be willing to drop a controversial budget proposal that would have resulted in half of the state’s school districts receiving significantly less money from the state than they did in previous years. Hochul wanted to end the provision known as hold harmless, which guarantees that no school gets less funding than it did in the budget the year before. The governor told reporters she was leaning instead toward a study to change the state’s foundation aid formula going forward, putting off any potential cuts until at least a year or two into the future.

“We talked about putting a process in place, so that by this time next year, giving everybody the notice and warning that they all asked for, that there will be a different formula,” Hochul said. “And I'm just deciding with the leaders, how that mechanism will work. But I think it's going to put us in a much better place.”

Stewart-Cousins says she thinks the final budget will include restorations for the hundreds of districts that would have had to scramble to make up for a sudden drop in funding.

“We are looking at mitigating the pain that half of the school districts in this state were going to experience,” she said.

The Senate leader says while budget talks are progressing, and meetings will continue among the governor and the top leaders in the legislature, she can’t guarantee that there will be a spending agreement by the time the next extender runs out, on Tuesday. She says budget talks are at “the beginning of the end,” but she says the end is always the hardest part.

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.