It is not surprising that the state budget for the next fiscal year is huge.
With a windfall of federal money, surprisingly high tax revenues — and no doubt great political incentive for Governor Kathy Hochul to carve out voter-friendly political victories ahead of the next election — the Legislature passed a massive $220 budget. billion this month.
Let’s take a look at some of the good, bad, and questionable things in the new budget.
As usual, there’s a lot to unpack. This package not only includes a complex web of spending, but a variety of policy changes – ranging from criminal justice reforms to expanding restaurants’ ability to offer take-out cocktails. According to the Gothamist, members of the state legislature attempted to separate Hochul’s non-budget policy proposals from the budget, but not all of them were removed.
Including politically difficult policy issues – especially complex ones like criminal justice reforms – in budget negotiations is simply not the right way to do things. We believe that political issues should be treated separately, and not integrated into budgetary negotiations.
Another point to mention: the budget was late. Although a few days might not seem like a big deal, it could translate into late payments to government employees.
If taxpayers are wondering if the state is really going to spend $600 million in public funds to help build a new Buffalo Bills stadium — after billionaire Bills owner Terrence Pegula threatened to move the team elsewhere — the legislature has answered. Yes. The state agreed to spend not just $600 million for construction, but an additional $250 million over the next 30 years to maintain the stadium. Not to mention the additional $250 million contribution from Erie County taxpayers. There is clearly a public benefit to keeping the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, but the question begs to be asked: why are the taxpayers footing the bill for a private project, especially one where a billionaire is involved? We haven’t heard a real answer yet.
The new state budget sets aside $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, which this year includes $8 million to address the impacts of hiker traffic in the wilderness areas of Adirondack and Catskills parks. The state has also allocated more than half a million dollars to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to establish a “Visitor Usage Management Framework.” That’s good news in theory, but we hope to find out a lot more about what, exactly, all that money will be spent on.
A $4.2 billion environmental bond act for clean water, clean air and clean jobs was included in this year’s budget, though voters will have the final say on it in November. .
The budget also includes $7 billion to be spent over four years to help subsidize child care for families earning up to $83,000 a year, The New York Times reported last week. Again, this sounds like good news in theory – child care funding is certainly needed, but needs to be spent carefully to ensure those who need it most see a real benefit.