State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are yet to reach a finalized agreement for a state budget, though smaller deals are in place to provide for property tax relief for middle-income homeowners as well as a tuition freeze at public colleges and universities in New York while increasing taxes largely on wealthier New Yorkers and corporations by more than $4 billion.
Snags remain over legalizing mobile sports gambling, a fund to aid people like undocumented immigrants who did not receive boosted federal unemployment aid during the pandemic, and how to fund an expansion of universal pre-kindergarten statewide.
The budget, now five days late, is also entering a new form of crunch time. An estimated 39,000 state workers could have their paychecks delayed unless the Legislature acts by today with final passage of the remaining nine budget bills or approves an extender resolution providing temporary funds to the state government.
Here’s where things stood as of the weekend:
- Lawmakers have agreed to a “circuit breaker” property tax plan that includes $500 million in relief for homeowners who earn less than $250,000 — about 1.3 million New Yorkers.
- The budget includes a restoration of $400 million in personal income tax cuts aimed at middle-class income earners.
- Direct aid to schools will be increased by $1.4 billion over the next three years, a major victory for education advocates.
- Tuition increases at the state and city university of New York colleges and universities will be frozen.
- Increase taxes on upper income earners and corporations by about $4.3 billion.
But there are snags that will have to be either untangled or abandoned in order to reach a final deal for the budget.
Mobile sports betting
Lawmakers are yet to reach a final deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to legalize sports bets taken on mobile devices. Cuomo wants to centralize the activity under the Division of the Lottery, but that move will leave out the commercial casinos that operate brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
At the same time, tribal casinos have raised objections due to geographic exclusivity agreements in place for their casinos. Without a resolution, large swaths of upstate New York would be cut out of mobile sports betting.
Excluded workers fund
Advocates are seeking a $3.5 billion fund to provide benefits for workers affected by the pandemic who did not receive federal aid under the last year’s worth of stimulus packages from the U.S. Congress. These workers include undocumented immigrants as well as people who were incarcerated. The fund has caused an uproar among Democrats from suburban and upstate legislative districts who could face competitive re-elections next year.
Suburban lawmakers are not pleased with the current level of funding for the proposed expansion of universal pre-kindergarten in New York, a provision that had appeared to be locked down on Saturday evening.
When and if resolved, the budget stands to be a reflection of the Democratic supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly. It would provide new levels of funding for schools and education, provide millions of dollars in relief for renters and small landlords affected by the pandemic, and boost revenue for the state in the process for placing taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents.