State

New York lawmakers pass extension on budget deadline amid stalled negotiations

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

The lack of a budget would have shut the state government down and halted the state payroll. The state congress passed a pair of emergency spending bills on Monday to halt that, keeping essential services funded, like schools.

New York state lawmakers on Monday voted to extend their deadline for passing a budget by two months.

The budget was due on Saturday, the start of the 2017-18 fiscal year, and after a weekend “grace period” it still could not be passed due to political differences, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. He said in the statement that raising the age of criminal responsibility and affordable housing are what stalled negotiations, as well as fears about the federal budget, but some lawmakers criticized Cuomo.

“I don’t think he lost his touch; I think he lost his focus,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), the deputy majority leader, in The New York Times. “The focus is no longer on getting a budget. The focus is on his political future.”

DeFransisco was criticizing Cuomo’s reported presidential ambitions, per The New York Times, although Cuomo has denied the claims.

The lack of a budget would have shut the state government down and halted the state payroll. But the state congress passed a pair of emergency spending bills on Monday to halt that, keeping essential services funded, like schools. It also allocated some funding for infrastructure and policy proposals, though ride-hailing services were not included, per a press release from the governor’s office.

The extender allocates $24.6 billion for general spending in the next two months and $16.4 billion for the other “critical” projects, per the release. Cuomo has proposed a total budget of $152.3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

Some senators were frustrated that the extension was so bare bones, but the nearly 1,800 page document was delivered to lawmakers early Monday morning and demanded passage that day, per The New York Times.

“I would argue that this extender is of business-as-usual in Albany, an extender of lack of transparency in Albany, an extender of budgetary dysfunction in Albany,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D–Manhattan) in The New York Times. “We were asked to read the Bible this morning and vote on it.”

The governor said in his statement, though, that he would “not accept ‘half a loaf’” on some key policies that are tied to the budget, meaning he will not accept a budget that does not include them.

Those policies include raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. New York is one of only two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds in court as adults, per the statement. Democrats are in favor of leniency and they want a more narrow definition of violent crime, so that youth do not go to prison for throwing rocks in windows, per The New York Times. Republicans have hesitated, saying they want to keep dangerous people off the streets.

The extender does include funds for well-publicized projects in the Syracuse area, including $70 million for revitalizing the state fair and $35.8 million for the Syracuse Hancock International Airport, per the press release.

During the two-month extension, lawmakers will not get paid, per The New York Times. In New York state law, legislators cannot be paid before a budget is in place for the entire year.

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