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State lawmakers fail to reach a deal on the state budget, now four weeks late

 The New York state Capitol building.
Wangkun Jia
The New York state Capitol building.

New York lawmakers approved a fifth spending extender since April 1 to keep the state running until Friday. With the budget now four weeks late, they are hoping that the fifth time may be the charm.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he’s hopeful that by Friday, there can be agreement on a new budget.

“I think we’re getting closer,” Heastie told reporters Monday morning. “There’s still a few things that have to be worked out. But hopefully the end is near.”

Two of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top budget priorities have been settled or shelved until later in the session, and that’s improved chances for an agreement.

There’s been no announcement of an agreement on changes Hochul wanted to make to the bail reform laws. But Heastie said negotiators have now moved on to other topics, like whether to allow more charter schools to open, and how to crack down on illegal cannabis shops that are endangering the burgeoning legal marijuana industry.

The governor’s plan to build 800,000 new housing units over the next few years has been taken out of the spending plan, after suburban lawmakers objected to some of its provisions.

The delay in passing a budget is starting to take its toll. Sen. Pam Helming, speaking during floor debate, voiced concern over holdups in funding to nonprofit agencies that depend on state support, including child care centers. She said previous grants that the providers considered to be a “lifeline” have been exhausted and the new ones have not yet been established.

“I have heard over the last several days from several child care providers, not-for-profit providers, who are really struggling right now,” Helming said. “They depend upon the stabilization grant funding.”

Assemblyman Ed Ra asked Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Helene Weinstein about funding for Ryan White centers for HIV/AIDS treatment.

The centers, along with some other health care clinics treating vulnerable populations, stand to lose funds because of a change that Hochul made on April 1 to how a Medicaid pharmacy benefit is distributed.

The Legislature is working on a way to ensure that the centers don’t lose money because of the change. But because of the budget delay, much of that money has not materialized yet.

“Can you tell me how that funding being included in these extenders might relate to what the ultimate fate of that transition is going to be?” Ra asked Weinstein.

“That will all be resolved and settled, by the time that we have a final (budget) health bill before us,” Weinstein answered.

The budget delay also could affect many of the state’s school districts that hold votes on their budgets in mid-May. The districts won’t know the exact amount of state aid that they are getting until the budget is approved. That makes it harder for them to present accurate proposals to voters.

As the weeks pass without a spending plan, advocates for issues that were supposed to be taken up in the portion of the legislative session that occurs after the budget is approved are also growing anxious.

Advocates for the Aid in Dying measure, which would allow terminally ill New Yorkers with less than six months to live the option to end their lives at the time of their choosing, came to the Capitol for a march and rally.

The senate sponsor of the Aid in Dying bill, Brad Hoylman- Sigal, speaks at a rally with supporters on April 24, 2023.
Karen DeWitt
New York State Public Radio
The senate sponsor of the Aid in Dying bill, Brad Hoylman- Sigal, speaks at a rally with supporters on April 24, 2023.

Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman-Sigal spoke to the group.

“Folks, we have until mid-June to get this done. We are going to shift course, as soon as we sign this budget, I will be working with you every step of the way,” Hoylman-Sigal said. “I may see you back here. I hope I do.”

Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly sponsor, Health Committee Chair Amy Paulin, said they currently do not have enough votes among their Democratic colleagues to pass the bill.

But they said the measure has been gaining co-sponsors, and they hope to have time to make their case to other lawmakers if the budget gets done soon.

Copyright 2023 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.