New York Daily News
ANDY: YOU CAN BET ON BUDGET DEAL
‘Conceptual’ plan in place that may OK sports gaming
ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo said he and legislative leaders reached a “conceptual agreement” Monday on an already-late state budget that may include mobile sports betting, but the fate of several other big-ticket items remains unclear.
The governor’s vague language did little to clear up questions about New York’s fiscal future a full five days after the April 1 budget deadline came and went without a plan in place.
“The budget is probably the most complicated, the most ambitious and probably the most important budget we have done,” Cuomo said in an afternoon conference call with reporters. “This budget will set the trajectory for the state for the next 10 years.”
The governor appeared confident that a deal will include the legalization of mobile sports betting. However, discrepancies remain as Cuomo favors a lottery-style system overseen by the state, while supporters in the Legislature still back letting commercial casinos that operate in-house sportsbooks pay licensing fees to run the program.
“The way the draft of the bill right now is, as the governor described, the state would contract with entities who would then contract with the state, and we would get the revenue and they would conduct the online gaming,” Cuomo budget director Robert Mujica said.
Cuomo repeatedly lamented how COVID has disrupted and complicated the negotiating process, but made no comment on the multiple scandals engulfing his administration.
The governor is facing an impeachment investigation, an independent inquiry into sexual harassment allegations being overseen by the state attorney general’s office and a federal investigation into the state’s withholding of the true death toll in nursing homes during the pandemic. Recent reports have also raised questions about whether Cuomo gave friends and family VIP access to scarce COVID tests and if he violated ethics rules while writing a book about his handling of the crisis last year.
The governor, who often touts that he has overseen a string of “timely” budgets during his tenure in Albany, predicted last month that negotiations could go long this year.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned last week that roughly 39,000 state workers, including those at health care and correctional facilities, could see a delay in their paychecks if lawmakers don’t reach a deal and pass a budget by Monday evening.
Over the weekend, tentative deals were reached on some contentious issues, including raising taxes on New York’s wealthiest residents.
The roughly $200 billion spending plan being hammered out is likely to feature a $1.4 billion bump in “foundation aid” for school districts, $2.4 billion for tenants and landlords affected by the COVID pandemic and legalization of mobile sports betting, legislative sources said.
Cuomo’s request for $1.3 billion in bonding authority for his plan to transform Penn Station and build 10 massive Midtown towers as part of his Empire Station Complex project is another sticking point for lawmakers.
Some deals were struck Saturday, including $120 million for expanding prekindergarten and a new property tax credit for households earning less than $250,000 annually, which will max out at $350, as well as a three-year freeze on public university tuition.
An agreement to raise taxes on corporations and top earners
“The budget is probably the most complicated, the most ambitious and probably the most important budget we have done . ... This budget will set the trajectory for the state for the next 10 years.” GOV. CUOMO
to the tune of almost $5 billion a year was nearly complete, according to reports.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) had initially proposed a host of new taxes that could have brought in more than $7 billion annually.
The governor’s team has said repeatedly that $12.6 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and better-than-expected tax revenue in recent months negated the need to institute higher levies on the wealthy.
Lawmakers and advocates have said the boost is about setting up the state for the future and creating a level playing field for all, not just filling COVID budget holes.
“This budget process is a major opportunity to help lead New York through the ongoing dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic and lay the foundation to grow stronger in the future,”
Stewart-Cousins said as negotiations got underway last month.
Even at $5 billion, the proposals would mean that New York City’s most well-off residents would be paying the highest combined local tax rate in the country, The Wall Street Journal first reported Sunday.
Much of the plan being considered mirrors what was pitched by Democratic lawmakers last month, including adding new tax brackets for people making more than $5 million and $25 million a year.
It would also raise what taxpayers making more than $1 million a year, or $2 million as a couple, pay to 9.65% from 8.82%, the Journal reported.
Meanwhile, internal conflicts arose within the Democratic-led Legislature as supporters push for a $3.5 billion fund for “excluded workers,” covering undocumented immigrants and the formerly incarcerated who were ineligible for unemployment and other state and federal benefits throughout the pandemic.
Advocates in favor of the measure rallied around the state Capitol on Monday, with some lawmakers joining the crowd and calling out their colleagues for not backing the effort.
Both chambers included a $2 billion version in their one-house budget proposals unveiled last month.
“Even $3.5 billion is nothing compared to what these workers have given to their communities and to the economy as a whole,” said Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) before calling out Assembly members Amy Paulin and Thomas Abinanti, both Westchester Democrats, by name. “If you’re willing to stand against what these workers have more than earned through the blood, sweat and tears they put into our communities every day, you don’t get to do legislation with me. If you stand against them, I will not stand with you.”