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New York lawmakers pass late $237 billion budget

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(The Center Square) — New York State lawmakers have signed off on a $237 billion late budget that includes money for migrants and seeks to address retail crime and crackdown on Illegal cannabis operations.

The spending plan approved by the state Legislature, which comes nearly three weeks after an April 1 deadline, includes $2.4 billion for migrant housing, a housing development plan, tougher penalties for retail theft and assaults on state and local government workers, and the creation of nearly two dozen new hate crimes.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, expected to sign the budget, boasted that it includes the “most significant” overhaul of the state’s housing policy in decades and includes “transformative investments” in health care and education that will put New York “on the path to fiscal stability.”

“This budget cracks down on retail theft and gives us new tools to shut down illicit cannabis storefronts,” the Democrat said in a statement. “It helps the children of New York City by extending mayoral accountability for public schools. And we got it all done without raising income taxes by a single cent.”

Democratic House Speaker Carl Hestie said the spending plan will make New York state “more affordable, more accepting and a better place to live” and touted new investments in education, housing and long-term care support.

The budget includes an affordable housing tax break for developers to replace the expired state program. It also includes a “Good Cause Eviction” provision that limits annual rent increases and narrows the criteria under which landlords can evict tenants. Both tenant advocates and the state’s real estate industry criticized the compromise plan, saying it falls short of their demands.

“Despite hard-fought efforts by tenant allies in the legislature to protect renters, Governor Hochul’s Good Cause Eviction is so full of holes that landlords will drive a fleet through it,” Cea Weaver, with the group Housing Justice for All, said in a statement. “Millions of families around the state will be excluded entirely and few tenants eligible for the protections will be able to exercise their rights.”

Legislative leaders also touted new enforcement measures to address retail theft and a proliferation of illegal cannabis shops and an extension of New York City’s mayoral control over public schools, which was sought by Mayor Eric Adams.

The budget was delayed by closed-door negotiations over a housing plan, with Democratic lawmakers pushing for more rental protections and wrangling over Medicaid spending and a proposal by New York Mayor Eric Adams to extend mayoral control of city schools, among other contentious issues.

The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog, said the budget leaves New York with a “massive, future structural budget deficit, likely exceeding $16 billion.”

“Instead of using strong receipt growth to shore up New York’s fiscal foundation, the budget adds unaffordable spending that increases future gaps — taking the State further in the wrong direction,” Andrew Rein, the group’s president, said in a statement.

But Rein praised Hochul for not imposing tax increases on New Yorkers, which he said “would hurt the state’s competitiveness” and for not tapping into the state’s “rainy day” reserve funds.

Lawmakers blew past an April 1 deadline to approve the spending plan, and the state has been running on interim budget bills to keep the government open as negotiations dragged on. Last year, lawmakers approved a $229 billion budget over a month late.

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, who voted against the budget, criticized Democrats for a $2.4 billion “giveaway for migrants who entered this country illegally” and said the budget “fails to do anything to protect the safety of New Yorkers.”

“With families across the state grappling with the effects of rising inflation, Democrats rejected Senate Republican efforts to provide any budget relief to middle-class families,” he said. “Instead, they are sending billions of dollars a day to New York City to hand out pre-paid gift cards to illegal immigrants, costing taxpayers millions of dollars a day.”

The minority leader also blasted Hochul’s housing plan, calling it a “giveaway to socialist tenant advocates” that will “eliminate the rights of small business landlords to control their private property.”

“Even worse, communities outside New York City will get absolutely nothing out of this deal while absorbing all the negatives that will drive up housing costs and devastate small property owners,” Ortt said.