Albany Times Union
Hochul’s plans are drawing pushback
ALBANY — Democratic lawmakers want to go beyond Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposals for lifting up human services workers and expanding tenant protections, while rejecting the governor’s proposed revisions to the state’s bail laws, an expansion of charter schools, and tuition hikes for state and city university college students.
The policy statements came from the “one-house” budgets released Tuesday by the Democratic supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly. The budget documents demonstrate political priorities and serve as negotiating tools for the Legislature to use in leaders’ talks with Hochul, who unveiled her own $227 billion spending plan last month.
As the twoweek sprint toward the March 31 budget deadline begins — though lawmakers and the governor have indicated the budget could arrive late — the sticking points remain policies on crime, tenant protections, health care and the downstate Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Democratic lawmakers showed their continued resistance to making any substantial changes to their 2019 overhaul of the state’s bail laws.
Neither chamber included Hochul’s proposal to remove the “least restrictive means to ensure return to court” standard for judges to consider when deciding whether to set bail on a “qualifying” alleged offense, such as a violent felony or a rearrest for a theft.
A Times Union review of state data shows that proposed change could influence the pretrial outcome of thousands of cases in which judges otherwise may have been likely to set bail or send an individual to jail. Prosecutors generally are in favor of the governor’s proposal as a more politically achievable mechanism than the establishment a so-called “dangerousness” standard in bail laws.
The Legislature’s plans add additional funding for public defenders to implement the state’s discovery laws, intended to balance funding that Hochul had proposed for prosecutors. More funding would go to pretrial services — which the Times Union found to be underfunded — and for community-based gun intervention programs and enforcement of the state’s “red flag” laws. Senate Democrats also are advancing so-called “Clean Slate” changes that could seal certain criminal records.
Despite the state Business
Council’s support, a similar measure failed to pass the Assembly last year.
While Hochul’s major policy push is her plan to double the state’s expected housing growth over the next decade — a plan that has drawn the ire of many lawmakers from the suburbs — major elements of her proposal were altered or rejected by the Legislature.
Senate Democrats said they support “advancing tenant protections that align with the core principles of ‘Good Cause’ eviction,” and the Assembly said it would explore ways to protect against “arbitrary and capricious rent increases and unreasonable evictions of paying tenants.” Both the Senate and the Assembly support the “Housing Access Voucher Program” for rental assistance. Both pieces were major requests of tenant advocates. Lawmakers declined to back Hochul’s desire to extend the tax credit program known as 421-A in order to build affordable housing in New York City. Democrats in the city have long panned the program as a handout to developers. The Legislature is seeking to remove the requirement to rezone certain area around MTA stations downstate, whether along the Long Island Rail Road or Metro North.
That chamber’s plan excluded Hochul’s proposals to provide tax incentives for “accessory dwelling units” and multifamily development outside New York City. Instead, they are seeking to provide $500 million to localities to encourage “smart growth.” Hochul’s plan has faced the ire of suburbanites.
The Legislature also left out a proposal to increase tuition for State University of New York and City University of New York students. And they rejected Hochul’s plan to lift a cap on charter school growth in New York City, an increase opposed by teachers’ unions.
Hochul proposed a $1 billion investment in mental health systems, including additional hospital beds for psychiatric care.
Advocates have pointed to their primary concern of funding the workers who would staff that expansion. Lawmakers proposed at least an additional $500 million to fund an 8.5 percent cost of living adjustment for those employees, a sum that mental health advocates say allows a long-underpaid industry to catch up and be more competitive for workers.
Senate Democrats said they are open to further discussions on “supporting harm reduction strategies.” The language is a likely nod to the recommendation of the Opioid Settlement Fund to support overdose prevention centers, which Hochul has avoided.
The Senate proposed an additional $1.1 billion commitment to child care, and want to increase the return for bottles and cans from 5 to 10 cents — another perennial political fight.
The Assembly’s onehouse budget bills began to roll out later Tuesday.