State of State-New York

New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (from left), Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie are seen Jan. 8, 2020, before Cuomo delivered his State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y.

(The Center Square) – New York officials announced Tuesday afternoon that they reached a formal agreement on a $212 billion budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The agreement comes six days after the fiscal year began, with remote negotiations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic blamed as a primary reason for the lengthy delay.

The state’s spending plan includes a record $29.5 billion in funding for the state’s schools. Other priorities include $2.4 billion for rent and homeowner relief, another $2.4 billion for child care, $2.1 billion for an excluded workers fund and $1 billion for small businesses.

“This budget continues funding for the largest-in-the-nation $311 billion infrastructure plan, establishes a groundbreaking program to provide affordable internet for low-income families and enhances public safety through police reforms, all while continuing to provide relief to New Yorkers and small businesses as we recover from the pandemic,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The budget will also include an increase in taxes on high-wage earners, with the state establishing new brackets for those earning more than $5 million and $25 million. For those living in New York City, it means they will likely be paying the highest income tax of anyone in the United States.

“I am proud of the strides we have made in funding our schools, helping businesses rebuild, and protecting New York's most vulnerable,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said in a statement. “Working and middle-class taxpayers will receive the relief they desperately need, while the wealthiest New Yorkers will help their neighbors. This budget makes New York better for all.”

The budget also clears the way for New York to legalize mobile sports betting. While some high-level details are known at this time, specific details about the initiative remain to be resolved.

Both lawmakers and Cuomo had mobile sports betting in their proposals, although they varied in their approaches. Lawmakers wanted to issue licenses with operators tied to casinos, while the governor wanted a state-run system where New York would receive a larger share of the proceeds.

In the end, the budget includes Cuomo’s approach, with a competitive bid process to identify two operators. However, State Sen. Joe Addabbo, D-Queens, told The Center Square that it also includes about 60 percent of the legislators’ language. That includes additional operators, up to four each, that will be selected by the winning bidders.

“The fact that both sides were willing to negotiate almost like a hybrid compromise bodes well and benefits the people of our state,” Addabbo said.

According to the nonpartisan think tank Empire Center, the budget includes also more than 1,050 capital projects, with $385 million earmarked for the State and Municipal Facilities Program. Founder and Senior Fellow E.J. McMahon noted that lawmakers will now have access to about $2 billion in funding, which lawmakers and Cuomo can tap into for community projects like school athletic fields and skateboard parks.

It’s the first time in three years that the state has added funds to the program, McMahon noted.

“Perhaps the governor and Legislature expect to push more pork out the door in the year ahead, and are afraid of running out of appropriations authority as they approach the 2022 elections,” he explained in a blog post.

While lawmakers will be working Tuesday evening to get the spending bills approved and over to Cuomo’s desk, it remains to be seen if it will impact thousands of state workers expecting to receive their paychecks this week.

Last week, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned lawmakers and Cuomo that not passing by Monday could affect workers for this week.

Jennifer Freeman, communications director for the state comptroller, said Tuesday afternoon that lawmakers are expected to approve a temporary appropriation later in the day that would cover payroll for all those due their check on Friday.

The delay could keep about 5,000 workers who receive paper checks from getting their wages by Friday, she said. It’s also possible that some who receive direct deposit may still endure a delay as well.

“We're waiting to see what time they pass the bill and what happens,” Freeman told The Center Square.