Our Town State budget passes, city’s under way by Madeleine Thompson
Nine days after the March 31 deadline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal passed the Legislature on Sunday. Though a stopgap measure was put in place, extending last year’s budget until a new one was approved, the delay dented Cuomo’s reputation of generally on-time budgets.
“It is a blow to the image he’s created of himself as the hands-on, under-the-hood governmental mechanic of a guy who makes the engine run well,” Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told Politico. The extended weeks of debate may come back to haunt the governor if, as is rumored, he plans to enter the presidential race in 2020.
Some of the spending plan’s most contentious items included a provision to raise the age at which teens can be prosecuted as adults from 16 to 18, the ability of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft to operate upstate, and an extension of the 421a tax abatement for developers until 2022.
Funding for education was increased by $1.1 billion, bringing the total amount of education aid to $25.8 billion. Cuomo’s plan to make college tuition free for households making less than $125,000 annually will be phased in over the next three years. To combat the opioid epidemic, the budget devotes $200 million to prevention, treatment and recovery programs.
The $153.1 billion budget represents a roughly $2 billion decrease from last year’s spending plan. As news of its passing broke, state legislators and elected officials began issuing statements detailing their takes. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance called the increase age of adult prosecution a “major step forward for criminal justice reform.” “The adult criminal justice system is not developmentally appropriate for most adolescents — we can, and we must, do better,” he said.
State Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district includes lower Manhattan, broke the budget down by good, bad and “big ugly.” The last, he said, was caused by a lack of transparency in passing the “wacky, dysfunctional” budgeting process, and by the Senate’s failure to pass substantive ethics reforms.
Locally, the City Council recently released its response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed budget, for which the deadline is July 1. The 47-page report follows a month of budget hearings by each Council committee, and concludes that de Blasio’s proposal was “overly conservative” and seeks to make adjustments that “better align with more realistic expectations.”
Some of the projects the Council wants to see prioritized are air conditioning in public schools, moving adolescents off Rikers Island and funding the East River Esplanade project. Council Member Ben Kallos, in whose district most of the esplanade is located, said the problem is “bigger than anyone ever thought it was.”
The Council asked for $169 million to be included in the city’s 10-year capital plan for the esplanade, which stretches from 41st Street to East 124th Street. Several phases of the project have been completed so far, such as landscaping, railings and ramps.
The Council’s response to de Blasio’s budget also acknowledged the uncertainty the city faces under President Donald Trump’s administration, and advocated for protecting immigrant communities as well as boosting infrastructure spending.
“The Council’s proposals, as laid out in this response, express our view that in these challenging times, it is critical to budget in a way that is both cautious and compassionate,”the report reads. “The budget must also signal that, no matter the climate in Washington, the City will continue to stand with and raise up all New Yorkers, providing them with essential programs and services that ensure access to opportunity and better their lives.”