ALBANY — Gov. Hochul and legislative leaders made clear on Thursday that disagreements over changes to the state’s bail law and housing are holding up budget negotiations.
The governor admitted that she sees talks continuing well past Saturday’s deadline as she and her fellow Democrats in charge of the Legislature hammer out the details of contentious policy proposals she wants included in the state spending plan.
“It’s becoming clear that the budget will not be meeting the April 1 deadline,” Hochul told North Country Public Radio’s Karen DeWitt. “But as I’ve said all along, it’s not about a race to a deadline, it’s about a race to getting the right results.”
Hochul’s latest proposed bail reform rollback, included in her $227 billion budget blueprint, would remove the “least restrictive” standard judges are meant to follow when setting bail for serious crimes.
The governor claims the clause, which predates the 2019 reforms that limited pretrial detention for most nonviolent crimes, has led to confusion among judges after changes included in last year’s budget directed jurists to weigh a host of other factors when considering bail.
Both Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) have expressed reservations about revisiting the bail issue after altering the law twice in the past two years — but indicated a willingness to seek a compromise.
“We cannot support a system that basically keeps you in jail because you’re accused of a misdemeanor because you don’t have the money,” Stewart-Cousins said. “That’s what we did. And so we want to keep the integrity of that … We’re trying to again, make sure that we keep the integrity of the law while we clarify the judges discretion.”
As far as where negotiations stand at the moment, with a day to go before the state’s fiscal deadline, Stewart-Cousins characterized the process as in the “middle of the middle.”
Heastie, likewise, said discussions have centered on Hochul’s bail proposal and her plan mandating municipalities meet housing targets, both of which were left out of the Senate and Assembly budget rebuttals last month.
”I would say those two issues are taking up most of the oxygen in the room and I’d say a few days ago it was probably taking up just about all of the oxygen in the room,” Heastie said. “Discussions on other subjects are ongoing.”
Dems in both the Senate and Assembly agree with Hochul’s ambitious plan to build 800,000 new housing units over the next decade in the Empire State. However, they disagree with the governor’s approach. Legislators favor tenant protections and incentives for localities, while Hochul’s plan would override local zoning rules.
Both leaders admitted that a budget extender — which prolongs the current budget — is likely to be approved in the coming days so that state workers can still be paid.
Several other issues remain unresolved, including whether lawmakers will agree to lift the cap on charter schools, as Hochul has proposed, and whether the three sides can find common ground on raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents.
Backers of boosting taxes on top earners to fund social programs have faced arrest throughout the week as they’ve attempted to camp out in the State Capitol.
Several competing plans to address the MTA’s dire financial situation and avoid fare hikes for subway and bus riders, including increasing payroll taxes and adding a surcharge to streaming services, are also being discussed.
Republicans, in the minority in both chambers, unveiled a countdown clock Thursday for the looming budget deadline as they called on their colleagues across the aisle to back the governor’s bail proposal and get a fiscal plan in place as soon as possible.
“I just think we owe it to the public to be serious, to be up here, to get a budget on time or close to on time,” said Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt (R-Lockport). “The idea that it would be weeks or months late — I think that should bother all New Yorkers just on the principle.”
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