By Patrick Donachie
New York state finally has a budget for the coming year, after a week marked by fits and starts in the Legislature and the governor’s office. The announcement came Sunday, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying the agreements made between the Assembly and Senate were worth the blown deadline from a week earlier.
“With this budget, New York is once again showing what responsible government can achieve. The result is a budget that advances the core progressive principles that built New York: investing in the middle class, strengthening the economy and creating opportunity for all,” he said in a statement.
The agreements addressed many issues that had vexed legislators in previous months and caused negotiations to sputter throughout the previous week. The Legislature agreed to raise the age that criminal defendants would be automatically tried as adults to 18. Currently, 16- and 17-year-old teenagers can be tried as adults, one of only two states in the nation where this occurs. Defendants below the age of 18 will also no longer be housed in adult facilities or on Rikers Island.
New York state will also offer free tuition to families making less than $125,000 a year at SUNY and CUNY schools starting in fall of 2017. The agreement also included a $700 million increase in foundation aid to the education budget, part of a $1.1 billion increase in education aid. The agreement will extend the tax rate on millionaires and will work to enact a middle-class tax cut that is projected to save the middle class about $250 on average next year. The New York state’s director of the budget will also have the authority to react to significant federal budget cuts if enacted. If federal support is reduced by more than $850 million, Cuomo’s budget director can institute cuts unless the Legislature passes a plan within 80 days.
The budget does not address ethics reform, which had been raised as a possibility by Cuomo and others in recent months. Assembly Majority Leader Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) touted the budget as a success in his statement.
“This conference is proud that our years-long goal to end the unjust treatment of young offenders in the justice system has finally been realized with this budget, which raises the age of adult criminal responsibility,” he said.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona