Budget will be late, Hochul says
Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday that the state budget will definitely be late this year.
She made the announcement in an interview with public radio one day before the deadline.
Hochul said she and the Legislature need more time to work out the details of a budget that she hopes will include an affordable housing package and changes to the state's bail reform laws.
"It's becoming clear that the budget will not be meeting the April 1 deadline," Hochul said. "But as I have said all along, it's not about a race to a deadline, it's about a race to getting the right results."
Hochul said she's working on those "results," including reforming the state's bail laws to give judges more discretion when a defendant is accused of a serious crime, and winning agreement on a ban of flavored cigarettes, including menthol cigarettes.
Democrats who lead the Legislature did not include the governor’s proposal to eliminate a clause in the bail reform laws that requires judges to use the “least restrictive” means to ensure that a defendant appears for a future court date.
Public opinion polls show that most New Yorkers, and the majority of Democrats, agree with those changes. Hochul said it’s something that New Yorkers want.
“Their No. 1 concern is crime, public safety. And there's countless ways to approach that issue,” Hochul said.
She said other reforms are being considered besides bail reform changes, and that it’s not “the only factor.”
“Everyone has been aware that this was important to me, since I put it in my State of the State address, I put it in my budget,” Hochul said. “And so we are working together and meeting as recently as yesterday to talk about how we can get to the right place.”
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said changes to bail reform are still on the table, but she disagrees with a public narrative that has made bail reform the scapegoat for the state’s crime problems.
“This, unfortunately, is a conversation for the most part that is not data-driven,” Stewart-Cousins said. “It is a conversation that is driven by a mischaracterization of what the bail laws actually do. And there was no correlation between an increase in crime nationally and our bail reforms.”
Stewart-Cousins said the budget is going to be late because Hochul put several unrelated policy issues into the spending plan, including the criminal justice revisions, and they are taking longer to work out.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that, along with housing policy, have stalled talks. Democrats in the Legislature have rejected a proposal by Hochul that would allow the state to override local zoning laws in some cases to get more housing built.
“Those two issues are taking up most of the oxygen in the room,” Heastie said.
Heastie said he believes once those two “dominoes” are settled, agreement on the rest of the budget could come more quickly.
Republicans, who are in the minority party in both houses, have been largely left out of budget talks. Senate GOP Leader Robert Ortt blamed Democrats for the delay and said lawmakers missing self-imposed deadlines weakens public confidence in government.
Ortt is in agreement with more of moderate Democrat Hochul’s policies than those put forward by more progressive-leaning Democrats in the Legislature. He said if the budget is going to be late, he hopes Hochul uses it to her advantage.
“I would think as this process goes on, does the governor's leverage increase? Maybe, but she’s got to be willing to use it,” Ortt said. “Leverage and power, however you want to phrase it, it only matters if the person who wields it knows how to apply it, to get what's best, not for them, but for the people of the state of New York.”
Hochul, when asked if she will try to wear the Legislature down through delays to achieve her agenda, said, “That’s up to them.”
She could not predict when an agreement might come.