By Gabriel Poblete, The City
With an April 1 deadline looming, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie are hashing out the upcoming New York State budget, likely in the ballpark of $230 billion.
But a host of differences between the executive’s budget proposal and the proposals of the two elected bodies have yet to be ironed out. The outcome of the budget talks will have far-reaching implications for New York City, with funding for the MTA, public housing and asylum seekers all up for discussion.
Hochul is hoping to use the budget to give judges more latitude to set bail, and to push an ambitious housing development agenda that includes growth requirements downstate.
Items pushed by lawmakers include ending Madison Square Garden’s tax break, approving eviction protection for tenants, and passing a higher minimum wage.
Here are some of the most significant issues to watch.
Hochul Seeks to Roll Back the Bail Standard
The governor has zeroed in on criminal justice, committing nearly $500 million in her budget proposal toward curbing gun violence and reducing recidivism, among other efforts.
Her most controversial measure has been a plan to strike the “least restrictive means” standard for arraignments, which currently allows judges to set bail only if there is no other way to ensure a defendant will show up for trial. Hochul has said the change will give judges more discretion in setting bail for more serious crimes and repeat offenders.
Stewart-Cousins and Heastie, however, have signaled they’re opposed to rolling back the bail standard, and have excluded the governor’s proposition from their two legislative houses’ budget proposals. They are joined by numerous public defenders and law professors, who say it will result in more people getting jailed.
A recently released Siena College poll showed widespread support among a sampling of voters statewide for the governor’s proposed rollback.
With City & State reporting that the issue “stalled three-way budget talks”on Saturday, it’s possible that the least restrictive means standard becomes the main sticking point during budget talks — and could be one of the reasons why the leaders fail to make the deadline.
Creating More Housing, Helping NYCHA
Hochul has set an ambitious goal of promoting the construction of 800,000 homes in the next decade, and she’s pitching several measures in her budget proposal to spur development.
She wants municipalities in the New York suburbs, as well as city neighborhoods, to increase zoning for housing, especially along major transit stops — with affordable housing units counting twice toward development goals set by the state.
The governor’s budget plan also proposes lifting the cap on the height of residential buildings in New York City, which currently allows a building’s total square footage to be no bigger than 12 times the area of the lot it is built on.
Mayor Eric Adams and several other city leaders support removing the cap, but the Assembly and the state Senate omitted it from their budgets. Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) has come out against it, telling Crain’s New York it would accelerate “Manhattan becoming Dubai” — referring to the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, full of supertall buildings.
Last week Manhattan Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Grace Lee co-hosted a City Hall rally in opposition, with Krueger in attendance.
Hochul won’t be taking a crack this year at passing a new law to replace the expired 421-a tax abatement. But she’s looking to extend the time given to developers to complete construction who had qualified for 421-a, from June 2026 to June 2030.
Meanwhile, New York City Housing Authority tenants owe their landlord a collective $466 million in back rent but are at the back of the line for relief from the federally supported Emergency Rental Assistance Program — and have received nothing so far.
The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has estimated that only $347 million is left in the program, all of which will be disbursed to private-sector renters.
The Assembly is proposing another $385 million for rental arrears, while the Senate is raising it to $389 million for the program and $350 million for NYCHA capital projects.
Funding the MTA
With the MTA staring at a fiscal cliff, the transit authority is banking on Albany to help address deficits it projects will balloon to nearly $3 billion by 2025, when federal emergency funding dries up.
MTA CEO Janno Lieber has indicated he favors the governor’s plan, which consists of a bump on the payroll tax for businesses in the New York City area, as well as calling on City Hall to fork over another $500 million to cover the MTA’s paratransit costs and student MetroCards.
Adams has come out against the proposal, saying that the city already contributes about $2 billion to the MTA. The Assembly and the Senate leaders aren’t keen on Hochul’s MTA plan, leaving it out of their budgets.
The budgets from the respective houses did, however, include other ambitious proposals. The Assembly proposed nearly $200 million for the MTA to prevent the agency’s proposed 5.5% fare hikes and a $50 million zero-fare bus pilot that consists of making two bus routes in each borough free. The Senate is proposing a parking permit system for the city that’ll generate dollars for the MTA — although it would also require city approval.
Gov: More Charter Schools in City, CUNY tuition hikes
Hochul favors doing away with the 275 limit on the number of charter schools in the city while maintaining the statewide cap of 460 statewide. In addition, her budget would free up roughly 20 charters issued to schools that either closed or had their charters revoked.
Those changes would open the door to increasing the total number of charter schools in the city, with more than 80 charters up for grabs.
The governor is also proposing increasing tuition for CUNY schools by 3% starting next fall (and from 3% to 6% for SUNY schools). The proposed hikes have already drawn condemnation from students, and both houses excluded the proposed increases from their budgets.
Senate Favors More Money for Migrants, Ending MSG Tax Breaks
Still recovering from COVID, in the past year New York City’s budget has been walloped by the surge of asylum seekers entering the city, many of whom have been staying in about 100 emergency shelters the city has had to open.
When Mayor Adams made the rounds in Albany earlier this week, he stressed that he needs more money for the migrant crisis, which he said will cost $4.2 billion between this fiscal year and the next.
While Hochul has proposed appropriating $1 billion this year to help with the migrant crisis, the state Senate wants the state to reimburse New York City for 29% of claims, even if it surpasses the $1 billion.
Meanwhile Manhattan’s world-famous Garden arena has enjoyed a tax break to the tune of $42 million yearly. The state Senate budget would end the tax exemption and force MSG to pay property taxes, which would go toward the MTA.
Hochul has not said if she favors repealing the tax cut. MSG Entertainment CEO James Dolan, who has recently landed in the news for the use of facial recognition technology, has contributed hundreds of thousands to the governor’s reelection campaign.
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