Stopgap passed, a few 'minor' issues holding up state budget

Apr 4, 2017

New York State will avoid a government shutdown after lawmakers approved a two-month stopgap spending plan Monday.

The short-term budget passed, as lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a one-year budget.

The budget was supposed to be approved before Saturday, when a new fiscal year began. However, negotiations over the more than $150 billion spending plan bogged down over juvenile justice reform, education spending and an affordable housing tax credit for New York City.

Buffalo Assemblymember Sean Ryan said the major issues for Western New York are about settled.

Assemblymember Sean Ryan says the NFTA will be happy with the transit funding in the NYS budget once approved.
Credit File Photo / WBFO News

"We have our transportation funding in place for both roads and bridges and the NFTA," he said. "We have our health in place, which is good for all our hospitals. School funding is pretty much there, but none of these go together until they're all together." 

He was not ready to confirm dollar amounts, but on specific issues, Ryan said the NFTA and Buffalo Public Schools will both be happy with the budget and "state workers will get paid."

Ryan also confirmed a statement issued by Republican Senator Chris Jacobs that funding for Buffalo Billion II has been agreed upon. Jacobs said that includes improvements to the Scajaquada Expressway, extending Metro Rail to the DL&W Terminal, redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel site, $10 million for Say Yes to Education, $20 million to expand class sizes at the University at Buffalo medical school and $20 million to build a Visitor Welcome Center on Grand Island, among other capital projects.

However Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the budget extender allocates only "$400 million in capital funding toward the $500 million Buffalo Billion Phase II."

"But make no mistake: we are far from done," said Cuomo in a statement. "We must finish the job and pass a responsible budget that makes college tuition free for the middle class, fully funds our public schools, cuts taxes for the middle class, Raises the Age of criminal responsibility, combats homelessness and moves New York forward. We will work until we accomplish it all."

State Senator Chris Jacobs says the NYS budget will include funding for improvements to the Scajaquada Expressway once approved.
Credit WBFO News

Ryan said there are different ideas about Raise the Age - a campaign that does not want 16- and 17-year-olds prosecuted as adults - in "urban vs. non-urban backgrounds," holding up agreement in the budget.

Southern Tier Republican Senator Catharine Young said she was disappointed "New York City-controlled Assembly Democrats are holding out on passing the final state budget because of their version of Raise the Age."

Young said she agrees "that juveniles who commit serious crimes should be in separate secure facilities and not adult prisons, and that troubled youth should have counseling to get them on the straight and narrow. However, we never will agree to decriminalizing violent crimes including rape and murder, which is what the Assembly Democrats are pushing."

Ryan said another sticking point is a tax exemption called 421a.

"It's a public subsidy to build houses and apartments in New York City," said Ryan. "That, of course, has no impact out of the five boroughs, but it's one of the items in the budget that's being held up right now."

Cuomo said, under the budget extender, New York becomes the first state to cap the growth of prescription drug spending in its Medicaid program, which he said has grown 25 percent over the past three years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says NYS will become the first state to cap the growth of prescription drug spending in its Medicaid program once the NYS budget is approved.

"The agreement provides the Department of Health with a range of tools to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including the ability to drive down the cost of certain drugs whose price is high relative to its therapeutic benefits‎," Cuomo said. "This unpreceded agreement enables the Medicaid program to allocate more resources for other essential health services and ensure high-quality care across New York State." 

Also included is an agreement to provide the state's 120,000 direct care professionals a 6.5 percent raise over the next two years," Cuomo said.

The short-term spending plan runs through May 31, though lawmakers hope to strike a deal on a long-term budget sooner than that. Ryan said he is optimistic the remaining outstanding issues can be decided within the next day or two.