ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced late Thursday that she and legislative leaders have reached a “conceptual agreement” on the state budget, ending a nearly monthlong stalemate.
The package will include language to remove the “least restrictive” measure so judges can set bail in violent cases; toughen laws on illegal marijuana sales and increase the minimum wage by $1 an hour starting next year, Hochul said.
The overall tab will be about $229 billion, roughly $2 billion more than she proposed in February.
Hochul framed the deal as a win for affordability in the state, but recognized she didn’t get one of her top priorities: A housing deal to force municipalities to build 800,000 new homes over the next decade. The budget will include $391 million in rental assistance, which will largely help the troubled New York City Housing Authority.
“Did we accomplish what this moment called for?” she said in an evening briefing in the Capitol. “Did we make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers? We’re going to be able to answer that question yes.”
When the budget will be finalized and passed by the Legislature is unclear.; legislative leaders did not attend her briefing. Lawmakers have mostly returned to their districts, and no bills were printed at the time of Hochul’s announcement. It will thus likely be several days until the passage of the spending plan that was due to pass by March 31.
“There’s obviously fine tuning that has to be done. That’ll be worked out over the weekend,” Hochul said.
While details will not be known until the bills are printed, Hochul outlined some of the highlights, many of which have been expected and reported.
Those include the third set of changes to the state’s bail reform laws since they were enacted in 2019. This round includes language that gives judges more discretion to hold individuals accused of certain violent crimes.
But a proposal to change the laws on discovery to avoid cases being tossed on procedural grounds failed at the last minute. Hochul placed the blame on district attorneys, who have said that the requirements to quickly share evidence with arrestees is unmanageable. Instead, the courts are getting more money to increase staff and resources, she said.
“We thought we had a plan that met the needs, and the district attorneys decided that was not the path they wanted to go on despite saying so initially,” the Democratic governor said.
The budget will also include language designed to crack down on illegal marijuana retailers, which was one of the final sticking points in the budget. It will be “aggressive” and attempt to penalize those sellers who aren’t paying taxes, but there appears to be more fine-tuning required.
“We’re working on the details of that,” said Hochul’s counsel Liz Fine.
The deal will also include a plan to raise the minimum wage to $17 an hour, starting with $16 an hour next year in New York City, and then indexing it to inflation within a few years.
On transit, the budget will create a pilot program for free service on five MTA bus lines, and the city will be on the hook for $165 million to fund the transit system — rather than $500 million as Hochul originally proposed, as well as limiting a payroll mobility tax only to the city, not the suburbs.
It will also include the largest Medicaid rate increase in two decades, Hochul said, who added the budget “makes critical policy changes” in the area of mental health and funds 1,000 new in-patient psychiatric beds as well as 3,500 units of supportive housing.
The budget includes $400 million for utility relief as well as a requirement that homes constructed after 2025 meet zero emission standard.
As expected, the budget includes minimal language on housing, she noted.
“I believe major action is required to meet the scale of this crisis. The legislature saw it differently,” Hochul said.
But she promised to continue “working hard and fighting” on the topic and teased executive actions which will be announced “in the coming weeks.”
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