Agreement reached on NY's $220B state budget
Joshua Solomon is reporting for the Times Union that Gov. Kathy Hochul announced April 7, a deal had been reached on the state's $220 billion budget, one week past deadline. "The long-awaited day has arrived," the governor told reporters at the Capitol. This is her first budget negotiation since taking office in August. The spending plan is supported by federal post-pandemic aid and designed to help the state move beyond the two-year health crisis. With that in mind, Hochul said 15 percent of state funding will be kept in reserve, up from four percent. The governor said under the agreement reached, judges would have greater discretion to impose bail for gun charges that were previously subject to release, though additional details were not immediately available. She said a new ethics enforcement body, the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, will replace the embattled state Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The commission members will still be selected by elected officials, though the list of nominees will be vetted by a panel of law school deans. Good-government groups have criticized that arrangement as insufficient to achieve genuine independence. Key items of the budget agreed to earlier in the day included allowing takeout cocktails and suspending the state gas tax. A suspension of the gas tax will go into effect from June to the end of the year. It would strike the state's sales and use tax on gas and allow local governments to suspend their share of the tax. The governor said the state will invest $32.8 billion in infrastructure over the next five years, a plan that represents a 40 percent increase over the previous five-year plan. The budget also includes an accelerated tax cut for middle-class families and small businesses, pay increases for health care workers, and tuition aid for part-time students. Read the full story in the Times Union.