Senate, Assembly propose to increase spending above Gov. Hochul’s budget

The New York State Assembly and Senate began passing their versions of the state budget on Monday — and both houses, led by Democrats, are proposing to spend more than $6 billion above Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul’s spending plan.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said his house was adding another $3 billion to help fix a broken child care system and revive the economy. He said that includes money to pay workers higher wages and subsidize costs for low-income parents.

“The expansion of childcare services is very important,” said Heastie, who added that without adequate childcare, many women have to choose between caring for their children and going to work.

The Senate is proposing more than $4 billion in additional funding for child care, saying the goal is to provide “universal” access.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger said both chambers also want to address chronic shortages of home health care workers by raising salaries that are often at the poverty line.

“We need to be able to pay them a salary that even provides them with enough money to pay for a car to get to work,” Kruger said. “And right now the wages are so low that they can’t even afford to take the jobs.”

Hochul’s $216 billion budget plan has already increased state spending by more than 5% from the previous year. She was able to do this thanks to generous federal relief programs at the start of the pandemic and higher-than-expected tax recoveries, including a new income tax surtax for the wealthy.

Budget watchdog groups have warned that the final budget should not spend more than the governor has proposed.

Patrick Orecki of the Citizens Budget Commission said that with the additional funds, Hochul and the legislature had a rare opportunity to finally end New York’s chronic year-over-year budget deficits.

Orecki said the governor’s plan is carefully balanced to contain projected deficits through 2026. He said any additions would lead to higher future budget gaps by then.

“Any new spending that you layer on top of what was already in the executive’s budget is only going to create a gap in the years to come,” Orecki said.

Both chambers say their plans are balanced for the next two years, but cannot say whether their spending plans will create deficits thereafter.

Orecki also said lawmakers should set aside more money in reserve funds. He said the governor’s budget proposed that $5 billion be set aside, but the Senate and Assembly budgets cut that amount by $1.8 billion.

He said New York’s finances are more precarious than in many other states.

“New York State has a fairly volatile revenue stream, relying heavily on very high income earners and stock market performance,” he said.

The Legislature’s budget plans, unlike past practices, leave out many items the governor said were important to her, including allowing take-out liquor for restaurants across the state, an overhaul the troubled state ethics commission and statewide term limits. elected offices.

Over the past few decades, governors have increasingly included political elements in their budgets that are not directly related to state spending, as they have more influence with legislators during the budget process than during the budget process. rest of the year.

Heastie said the Democratic conference in his house wants to end this practice and separate the state spending plan from other issues.

“I’m not trying to send a message to Governor Hochul, I’m just relaying the sentiments and sentiments of the conference,” Heastie said. “They just want to present a tax document.”

The speaker said he expects budget discussions over the next few weeks with the governor to go smoothly. He said Hochul had set the tone by extending an olive branch to the Legislative Assembly, over the actions of past governors. She left a pool of $2 billion from federal relief funds so the governor and legislature could decide together how best to spend it.

The budget is expected on April 1.