The deal ended a months-long budget fight in Albany that went haywire in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the state — killing more than 2,300 and crippling the economy.
The document promises to touch on many facets of life in the Empire State such as: tightening eligibility for a key health care program for the poor, legalizing e-bikes popular with delivery workers, banning flavored e-cigarette products and tweaking the bail reforms rammed through in the last budget.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Westchester) addressed the state Capitol’s upper chamber, which was abandoned due to COVID-19 fears.
“As I look around this chamber, this nearly empty chamber, it really is surreal. For me, it’s chilling in many ways, it’s upsetting,” Cousins said.
“This is not a normal budget. It’s not even the budget we envisioned a month ago.”
Cousins’ Senate easily approved the final budget bills Thursday and the Assembly followed suit, though debate stretched into early Friday morning despite little doubt in the eventual outcome.
The budget foresees tax revenues plunging by at least $10 billion and OKed up to $11 billion in short-term borrowing to cover shortfalls while New York officials pray the feds provide more aid.
The budget crunch means that an expected $826 million boost in public education spending won’t happen — $321 million was supposed to go to the city’s schools.
New York City dodged one bullet as Cuomo abandoned plans to shift as much as $1.6 billion in Medicaid costs onto the Big Apple. Instead, Cuomo will take $200 million from the city and $50 million other counties for a “distressed” hospitals and nursing homes fund.
But other Medicaid changes outraged liberal lawmakers — especially the tightening eligibility rules for the state’s elderly and disabled to qualify for home care.
“Large numbers of frail elderly and people with disabilities will be deprived of home care by these restrictive standards,” said longtime Assemblyman Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan) who chairs the chamber’s healthcare committee. “This is unjustified cruelty.”
Gov. Cuomo managed to get his controversial overhaul of the state’s election laws and campaign-finance regulations included in the sprawling $177 billion budget, effectively ending a court fight that had tied the proposal up for months.
The overhaul will make it significantly harder for third parties to maintain their lines on the ballot, including Cuomo’s bête noire, the liberal Working Families Party.
All political parties will now have to score at least 130,000 votes in a statewide general election to remain on the ballot, more than double the current requirement of 50,000. It also imposes new limits on New York’s famously loose rules for fundraising.
In exchange, candidates will be eligible to receive public funding for their campaigns.
The overhaul was first proposed by a panel commissioned by lawmakers and Cuomo in the 2019 budget, which included Cuomo ally and state Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs.
The group issued their recommendations in November, which would have the force of law unless lawmakers vetoed them. However, the WFP and Conservative Party sued, claiming that Cuomo and lawmakers abrogated the proper legislative process, and won.