What to know as New York approaches state budget deadline

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One week out from the nominal deadline to approve the next state budget, Gov. Hochul and the Legislature are heading into a few days of furious negotiations, with school funding and tenant protections seen as likely sticking points.

Lawmakers have said they expect the budget talks to conclude before or soon after the April 1 deadline. But the calendar creates challenges even in an election year when Hochul, a centrist Democrat, has seemed careful to avoid policy battles with the left-leaning Legislature.

Lawmakers are scheduled to recess Thursday ahead of Good Friday and the Easter weekend. The governor has expressed doubt that lawmakers will want to stick around with the holidays looming.

Last year, negotiations dragged a month past the deadline, as Hochul successfully pursued tweaks toughening the state’s bail laws and unsuccessfully sought a grand housing program that would have forced municipalities to build more homes.

Here’s what to know about this year’s budget negotiations.

Why is the deadline April 1?

The next fiscal year for the state begins on April 1. So the state is technically required to approve a budget for the year by the end of March. The state Constitution sets the deadline.

What happens if the deadline is not met?

If the budget is not approved on time, lawmakers can approve stopgap measures to keep the state government humming during the extended negotiations.

Will the budget be on time this year?

It’s the million-dollar question, and answers vary in Albany. Some have expressed confidence that an agreement will be brokered by the deadline — or close to it. Hochul has said the holidays could pose a challenge.

“That could kick it into a little bit of overtime,” Hochul told reporters this month. “But I’m striving to get this done as soon as we can. I think there’s a lot of agreement between the houses — the Senate and the Assembly — and my objectives.”

But the state Legislature is hardly known for timeliness.

City & State, a news outlet, has solicited guesses on when the budget will be finalized. The person whose guess is closest will win a bath mat, the news outlet said.

What could hold up the budget?

When the state Senate and Assembly released budget proposals this month in response to the blueprint the governor had outlined in January, the plans revealed some major areas of agreement.

For one, lawmakers were in sync with the governor’s proposal to reserve $2.4 billion for the city’s migrant crisis.

But there are some areas where lawmakers and Hochul do not see eye to eye.

On housing, health care and school funding, legislators and the governor could hit snags in the final week.

The Senate and Assembly included language in their budget plans recognizing the goal of providing more protections to tenants.

Progressive lawmakers want to ban the nonrenewal of residential leases without good cause. The governor has been resistant to the push for so-called good-cause eviction legislation.

Lawmakers are also fighting the governor over proposals that would tighten school funding and end a long-running policy that ensures schools receive at least as much state funding as in the prior year, regardless of enrollment declines.

Her proposals would also alter a formula used to calculate funding for districts. The shift could shortchange New York City by an estimated $130 million, according to officials. The formula hasn’t been significantly altered since 2007.

Overall, Hochul’s proposal would lift school aid by about 2%, according to the governor’s office.

But about half the school districts in the state would lose funding year-over-year, said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

He described the cuts as an “abrupt change in direction from the state” after Hochul proposed giving districts at least 3% funding increases the two previous years.

The governor’s plan has met resistance that has spanned both parties and chambers of the Legislature.

“It’s plainly obvious that many hundreds of school districts will suffer pain if the governor’s proposed cuts go through,” Sen. John Liu, chairman of the New York City Education Committee, said Thursday.

“We understand the governor is in a difficult position,” Liu said, nodding to fiscal challenges for the state, but he added that “the funding cuts proposed in the executive budgets are not notional — they are very real, and will affect students.”

A third sticking point could be funding for health care. Lawmakers have resisted a plan from Hochul that could cut about $1.1 billion from Medicaid programs in New York. Legislators have countered with plans to lift state Medicaid reimbursement funding.

Also at stake: The fate of University Hospital at Downstate, a teaching hospital in central Brooklyn that the Hochul administration has proposed shuttering.

The lawmakers representing the hospital have campaigned furiously against the proposal. And the Senate and Assembly responses to Hochul would keep the medical center open.

“When the next pandemic occurs, we want Downstate to be in central Brooklyn — and be stronger and more resilient and more vibrant,” the local Assemblyman, Brian Cunningham, said recently.