New York State Budget Watch: Tick Tock Goes the Clock

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The New York state budget has already stretched past its March 31 deadline.

But are lawmakers close to a finalized budget deal?

It all depends on who you ask.

What is for certain is that lawmakers did not introduce any new budget bills Thursday or Friday.

There are 10 budget bills in total and as of Friday night, only one has been voted on since Wednesday.

The state Senate majority leader, the Assembly speaker, and the governor continued to hash out budget details behind closed doors, a process that has long drawn criticism for its secrecy.

A group of lawmakers, frustrated by their lack of involvement in the process, camped out inside the War Room in the State Capitol on Thursday night in order to continue to push for big ticket items. This includes increased taxes on the wealthy and tenant protections.

“We’re just waiting for information and I was thinking, how can I have an impact?” freshman Democratic Assemblywoman Amanda Septimo said.

“Hold the line,” advocates called on Twitter in response to videos of the lawmakers’ sleepover.

One of the policy items at risk is the Rent Relief Program. Democratic lawmakers said they want tenant protections for one year and for it to be universally accessible, meaning landlords would not be able to “opt out.”

According to the group of lawmakers camped out, Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for only six months of tenant protections instead of the full year.  

“So we’re talking about real rent relief,” Assemblywoman Septimo said. “Making sure that people’s rent that has been due for over the course of this pandemic, for a year now, gets paid. That includes small landlords, that includes renters and we’re saying that if landlords, if homeowners are going to get this kind of relief, which they deserve, we need to make sure that they’re not going to turn around and put people on the street. So for at least a year, there needs to be an eviction moratorium. There needs to be a rent freeze so that we can know that people are going to have the time and space to truly recover from this pandemic.”

However, the longer budget negotiations are stalled, the more at-risk these smaller policy items are at falling through the cracks.

According to sources familiar with the budget negotiations, the biggest roadblock continues to be the proposal on how to increase taxes on the wealthy.

Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly are pushing for a combined $7 billion in tax hikes on millionaires and corporations. Governor Cuomo, however, is proposing around $2 billion in tax increases. Sources said that number might end up falling in the middle to around $5 billion.

Another major speedbump is the Excluded Worker Fund. Democrats are proposing a multibillion-dollar fund that would provide unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants and former prison inmates who were excluded from federal aid stimulus packages. This is causing a lot of concern for Republicans and even upstate Democrats in slightly more conservative districts.

“This proposal could cost them their re-election,” said one source about certain upstate Democratic lawmakers voting on this bill.

“It’s a massive sum,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said. “Myself, and most members in my conference would be opposed to that. Why are we giving money to people who are here illegally versus every day New Yorkers who are struggling just to keep their heads above water?”

As of Friday night, both the Senate and Assembly expect that voting will not resume until Monday.

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