New York State has been functioning on a so-called extender budget for nearly a week since lawmakers failed to agree on a 2017-2018 fiscal spending plan last weekend.
The start of the fiscal year 2018 began on Saturday, April 1, but lawmakers could not agree on several key issues in the proposal and allowed the budget to lapse without a replacement.
The governor had said that “political and ideological differences” were behind the stalemate.
In order to avoid a government shutdown, the State Legislature passed a $40 billion extender budget on Monday, which gives Cuomo and lawmakers until May 31 to agree on a comprehensive budget plan while allowing the government to operate and ensuring that about 200,000 state employees continue to get paid. Members of the Senate and Assembly, however, do not get paid until they pass a full-year budget.
Since then, Cuomo said lawmakers have come to agreement on a number of issues, including an extension of the millionaire’s tax, a plan for tuition-free college at state schools, and expansion of ride sharing upstate, The New York Times reported.
On Friday, Senate Republicans were expected to decide on whether to accept a final budget deal, a Senate leader said. Senators who had already left for Passover-Easter break may come back over the weekend for a vote, according to Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, or they may wait until the Legislature returns on April 24.
Among the key points of impasse are:
Raise the age
New York is one of two states in the country (the other being North Carolina) that prosecutes and imprisons 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
Arguing that the current system does not effectively discourage teens from future crime, lawmakers introduced a bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, “so that youth who are charged with a crime may be treated in a more age appropriate manner,” according to the legislation. Anyone accused of a nonviolent crime under the age of 18 would then be processed in Family Court.
Democrats hailed the measure as giving the state’s youth a second chance, but Republicans who oppose it say it puts public safety at risk and demanded stipulations on when a youthful offender would be prosecuted in which court.
After days of negotiations, it appeared lawmakers had come to an agreement on raise the age. A summary of the legislation in the Assembly said that all 16- and 17-year-olds facing misdemeanor charges would be dealt with in Family Court, while nonviolent felony suspects would be handled in a new youth section of Criminal Court, per The New York Times.
Many of those cases would eventually be sent to Family Court unless the district attorney could prove “extraordinary circumstances,” The Times reported. Violent criminal cases would still be referred to Criminal Court, but some could end up back in Family Court depending on three things -- use of a deadly weapon, significance of injury and criminal sexual conduct, the Times reported.
One major sticking point, however, was whether correction officers or the Office of Children and Family Services would be responsible for juveniles after their incarceration, according to published reports.
Affordable New York
The Affordable New York proposal is intended to replace the 421a tax abatement program that expired in January 2016.
In the simplest of terms, the program offers significant tax breaks to developers who set aside units for affordable housing.
While organizations like the Alliance for Tenant Power have called the measure a “corporate welfare program” that prioritizes wealthy developers while offering little in the way of actual affordable housing, it appeared that lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether the measure should be linked to rent regulations, which would expire in two years.
Cuomo said during a news conference Wednesday night that the program should last more than two years, The Real Deal reported.
School aid distribution
Each year, lawmakers divvy up how much each school district will receive in funding; but a squabble over who should get how much is not what’s holding up this end of the budget. Instead, the issue appears to be the federal government.
Cuomo introduced a 3.9 percent increase in state aid for school districts, which must act on their own budgets by mid-May. While legislators are expected to approve the increase, Cuomo expressed concern over the possibility that New York would fall victim to cuts in federal aid and expressed an interest in waiting until President Donald Trump’s administration presents its budget in May.
“It’s very important that we not put our financial feet in cement,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
Since the budget extender lasts through May 31, Cuomo may get what he wants on this matter.
As the state inches closer to the expiration of a law that froze tuition increases for charter schools, Democrats and Republicans are at odds on how to move forward.
When the law expires in June, charter schools will receive a $1,500 tuition bump per student, paid by the school districts, according to The New York Times. The cost to New York City would amount to a whopping $200 million, the paper reported.
While Senate Republicans are in favor of allowing the freeze to expire, Democrats are against a huge aid boost at the expense of public schools.
On Thursday, it appeared lawmakers had found a way to break the impasse. The deal would tie funding for charter schools to annual aid increases for school districts. In exchange, lawmakers would allow the charter school funding freeze to expire.