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New York State budget expected to be late: ‘We’re in the middle of the middle’

Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, speaks with reporters after listening to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul present her 2025 executive state budget in the Red Room at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, speaks with reporters after listening to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul present her 2025 executive state budget in the Red Room at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
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Weeks of cautious optimism that New York lawmakers might approve the state budget on time have faded to the reality that talks will drag past the April 1 deadline, with differences over housing, health care and education policy delaying a deal between the governor and the state Legislature.

The Democratic majority leader in the , Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester County, said Wednesday that she intended to send legislators home Thursday for the holiday weekend, essentially ensuring the next budget will not be approved before next week at the earliest.

“We’re in the middle of the middle,” Stewart-Cousins told reporters, referring to three-way talks between her chamber’s leadership, the Assembly leadership and Gov. Hochul’s office.

Talks will continue over the weekend, according to Stewart-Cousins’ office. Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature, and the Executive Mansion. But the three sides can still differ on key policies, and the Legislature has sought to spend more aggressively than the centrist Hochul.

In January, Hochul proposed a $233 billion budget plan. The two chambers of the Legislature responded with plans that each would lift  But some of the trickiest differences in negotiations touch nonfiscal policies, which are included annually in the budget negotiations.

Lawmakers, who are not paid after the deadline is missed, have indicated they believe the budget could be approved by early April — a relatively timely result given Albany’s typical tardiness. Last year, the state budget came together a month late, with Hochul ramming a plan to toughen the state’s bail laws through the left-leaning Legislature.

Despite the bail battle, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of progressives, Hochul has been seen as a more amenable budget negotiator than her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Kathy Hochul at the State Capitol in Albany on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)
Gov. Hochul sought to avoid big fights with lawmakers in the budget negotiations. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Hochul has pursued a cautious agenda in this year’s budget talks, steering clear of lightning rod policies in an attempt to dodge Democratic Party infighting in an election year.

But this year’s budget deadline falls on Monday, after Good Friday and Easter, a wrinkle in the calendar that has created a crunch for Hochul and the legislators. Hochul said Wednesday that she would send a so-called extender bill to lawmakers to keep the government open through April 4.

“While I believe a final agreement is within reach, I recognize many New Yorkers would like to spend the holiday weekend with family and loved ones,” she said in a statement.

The touchiest topics in this year’s negotiations include school aid, Medicaid funding and — perhaps most of all — tenant protections. Left-leaning lawmakers are pushing the governor to sign off on broad tenant protections that she has resisted in the past.

Disagreements over pay scales for workers on housing construction jobs delaying the rest of the negotiations. But the Assembly , Carl Heastie, has hinted the Legislature and the governor’s office have found some common ground on housing and other hot-button issues.

“Sometimes in the budget, you might be in a different galaxy,” Heastie, a , told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t know if we’re in the same country yet. But I think we’re at least on the same planet.”

The governor “understands what needs to be done” around housing, Heastie added.

Assemblyman Tony Simone, a Manhattan who has pushed for tenant protections that would limit landlords’ ability to , said by phone Tuesday that he believed “the momentum has shifted and that we can have a housing compromise with tenant protections.”

“It may not be the form I would love,” he acknowledged. “But I think we can get close.”

Lawmakers have also been at loggerheads with Hochul over changes she proposed to school aid that would cause about half the districts in the state to lose funding year over year, according to projections. Sen. John Liu, the who is chairman of the New York City Education Committee, is “optimistic” funding will be restored in the final budget, said his spokesman .

Carl Heastie, Amy Paulin
Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin returned to Albany on Tuesday.
Hans Pennink/AP
Speaker Carl Heastie has said the Legislature and the governor are on the “same planet.” (Hans Pennink/AP)

Lawmakers have also opposed a proposal from Hochul that could cut from Medicaid programs in New York. Legislators have countered with plans to lift state Medicaid reimbursement funding.

“We do not believe that this is the moment to be cutting that program,” Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a who is chairman of the Health Committee, said in an interview Wednesday. “We believe that we should not only restore these cuts — they are not savings; they’re cuts — but actually invest.”

One state budgetary proposal from the Hochul administration that has drawn a furious response in the city appears to be inching toward a resolution. Under Hochul’s budgetary , central Brooklyn’s University Hospital at Downstate would be shuttered, with some services moved into the city-run Kings County Hospital across the street.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on a frigid February day to protest the plan. And the local state senator and assemblyman have staged an impassioned fight to save the 342-bed East Flatbush .

The assemblyman, Brian Cunningham, vowed Tuesday to vote against any budget that would close the hospital. But the expressed confidence such an outcome would be avoided.

“I think things look really good,” Cunningham said of the negotiations about the hospital’s future. “We’re in a good place.”

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