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NYS Budget Agreement Reached Nearly One Week After Deadline

WAER file photo

Six days after it was due, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State’s legislative leaders announced final agreement on $212 billion budget deal. The Senate and Assembly held a marathon session that was expected to last well into the night to approve the budget bills.

The budget increases taxes by $4.3 billion, and includes higher personal income tax rates on New Yorkers who make more than a million dollars. It adds two new, higher, tax brackets for those making over $5 million, and those earning over $25 million. Corporate taxes will also be going up.

The revenues, along with $12.5 billion from the  federal stimulus package, will be used to create a $2.4 billion rent relief program to help renters who lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and have fallen behind on rent. Those with incomes who qualify would be eligible to up to 12 months of rent payments, retroactive to March of 2020, and three months of future rent payments. The fund will also be available to undocumented workers.

Undocumented immigrants who lost their jobs during the pandemic will have access to a $2.1 billion fund to provide retroactive unemployment relief payments.  Many paid New York State taxes and unemployment taxes, but have been unable to access the benefits.

One billion dollars will be made available to help struggling small businesses harmed during state mandated shut downs. 

School aid will increase by $3 billion to $29.5 billion. A phased in plan will, by the 2023 school year, provide enough money to finally fulfill a 2006 order from the state’s highest court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case. It said the state needed to spend more to guarantee every child’s constitutional right to an adequate education.

Jasmine Gripper, who leads the pro school funding group Alliance for Quality Education, was jubilant.

What some people thought was impossible, what we were fighting for years for is finally, finally, finally coming to life,” Gripper said.

Governor Cuomo had sought a lower level of spending and just a fraction of the tax increases in the final budget.

Cuomo, who normally holds a lot of power in the budget making process, was at a disadvantage during talks this year as he struggles with four major scandals. They include sexual harassment charges by multiple women, and a federal investigation into whether he and his top aides hid the total number of nursing home residents who died during the pandemic. Also, there are questions about whether the governor gave family and politically connected associates improper access to Covid tests, and whether Cuomo broke the state’s public officers law by having staff help him write a book about his management of the pandemic.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has called for Cuomo’s resignation, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie launched an impeachment inquiry.

But Cuomo put the best face on the plan  in an event at a vaccine site at the Javits Center in New York City.

Credit Governor Cuomo's Flickr page
Gov. Cuomo tours the mass vaccination site at the Javits Center in New York City.

We’re working on a budget up in Albany that’s going to be the  biggest and best action plan for the state of New York ever,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo  could have been speaking of what he hopes will be his own political trajectory when he talked of  how the budget and other actions will help New Yorkers get back on their feet after being struck down by the pandemic.

Something will happen in your life time that will knock you right on your rear end,” Cuomo said. 

He says what’s important is what a person does next.

Do you give up, do you stay down, or do you stand up , better and stronger?” he continued “That’s what New York tough means.”

The governor did not offer details, and the event was closed to media, so he did not answer any questions.

The budget also includes a plan to make high speed internet available and more affordable to those in urban and rural internet deserts. Mobile sports gambling will be expanded, creating an estimated $500 million in annual revenue from the state, and there will be more funding for child care subsidies.