State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a deal on the state’s $212 billion budget Tuesday, agreeing to tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers and to create a fund for undocumented workers shut out of financial assistance during the pandemic.
Buoyed by a $12.6 billion infusion from the stimulus package Congress passed in March, the budget is New York’s largest financial plan to date. New York’s second pandemic budget arrived nearly a week past the April 1 start of the state’s fiscal year, after an embattled Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers disagreed on a multitude of issues.
Among the most contentious: billions in aid for workers excluded from unemployment benefits and federal pandemic stimulus payments, billions more for financially distressed renters and homeowners, and another $1 billion-plus to jumpstart Cuomo’s Penn Station overhaul.
Bills detailing the intricacies of the proposals were introduced Tuesday evening.
“Thanks to the state’s strong fiscal management and relentless pursuit to secure the federal support that the pandemic demanded, we not only balanced our budget, we are also making historic investments to reimagine, rebuild and renew New York in the aftermath of the worst health and economic crisis in a century,” Cuomo said in a joint statement with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
The massive spending plan will also raise taxes on the state’s million-dollar-plus earners — spurring concerns from fiscal watchdogs who say it risks driving high-earning taxpayers to leave New York. And the deal will legalize online sports betting, adding a projected $99 million in revenue this fiscal year and up to $500 million annually in years to come, lawmakers estimate.
Spending highlights outlined by Cuomo, Stewart-Cousins and Heastie include:
- $2.1 billion for the so-called Excluded Workers Fund
- $2.4 billion in assistance to renters
- $600 million in aid to homeowners
- $1.3 billion for the Empire Station project at Penn Station
- $29.5 billion in schools spending — a $3 billion increase
Governor Cuomo repealed a controversial law that shielded nursing homes and other essential businesses from coronavirus related lawsuits Tuesday night. The measure rolled back the “Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act,” which granted health care facilities and workers liability immunity from negligence suits, and comes as Cuomo’s administration is under federal investigation for covering up some 9,000 COVID-19 related nursing home deaths last year. The scandal — exclusively revealed by The Post — weakened Cuomo politically and led to calls for him to resign as sexual harassment accusations against him swirled in the wake of the report. “As we near the passage of this year’s momentous budget, I am relieved to see corporate immunity, which was slipped into last year’s budget, fully repealed,” Bronx State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, one of the bill’s sponsor said in a statement Tuesday night. “This blanket immunity prevented thousands of families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 from seeking legal recourse, and potentially incentivized nursing home executives to cut corners — endangering staff and residents.”