New York Democrats and Republicans squabble over fiscal priorities as budget talks kick off in Albany

ALBANY — Republican lawmakers pushed their Democratic counterparts on spending, debt and public safety Thursday as the Senate and Assembly passed their one-house budget resolutions.

Democrats have defended their fiscal priorities and touted investment in social services, education and environmental initiatives as talks with Gov. Hochul begin and the state budget deadline remains just two weeks away.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul

Senator Tom O’Mara (R-Elmira) questioned Democrats about plans to cut rainy day funds and increase spending given the uncertain economic outlook in the coming years.

“Of course my point of view, and I think those who are on my side of the aisle here, being generally more conservative financially, is that it would be wiser and safer … to protect these reserves rather than increase spending. the percentage we’re talking about. “, O’Mara said during the debate on Thursday morning.

Democrats, who retain veto power in the Senate and Assembly, have put forward budget plans that will increase spending over Hohul’s original executive budget proposal by $227 billion.

The Assembly’s plan will increase the price by $5 billion, and the Senate proposal, which includes more policy issues, will add a total of $9 billion to the governor’s plan.

Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, objected to O’Mara.

“Research shows that governments that actually invest in spending during economic downturns are actually better at managing change once they get out of bad times,” Krueger said.

Senator Liz Krueger, NY, debates in favor of the wage increase approval bill during a special legislative session in the Senate Chamber at the State Capitol on Thursday, December 22, 2022, in Albany, NY.

Republicans also opposed the Democrats’ plan to increase taxes on the state’s richest residents, arguing that it could lead wealthy New Yorkers to flee to other states. Krueger noted that the state has seen more millionaires in recent years, despite tax hikes on the top earners in 2019.

Much of Thursday’s debate centered around Democrats’ rejection of Hole’s calls to revisit the state’s bail laws, which Republicans have been pushing for in recent years.

Democratic leaders have accused Republicans and other opponents of fear-mongering the issue, as the Republican Party has repeatedly linked the state’s 2019 bail reform to rising crime.

Hochul wants to amend the statute to remove the “least restrictive” standard meant to ensure a defendant’s return to court, arguing that the measure conflicts with other elements of the law and has led to inconsistencies in how and when judges set bail.

Assembly Speaker Carl Histie (D-Bronx) on Thursday reaffirmed his belief that opponents are playing politics as they bang the drum for bail.

“I said this argument was political all along,” Histie told reporters. “You’re not going to put people in jail to fight crime.”

Speaker of the Assembly Carl Histi

Republicans loosely praised their colleagues across the aisle for rejecting the governor’s plan to spark a statewide housing boom as lawmakers on both sides raised questions regarding Hochul’s proposals.

The Governor, hoping to start building 800,000 new housing units over the next decade, has called for new housing targets and for a state commission to allow local zoning decisions to be overturned if cities or towns fail to meet certain targets.

The plan faced bipartisan opposition from suburban legislators. Instead, Hole’s Democratic colleagues are calling for community incentives to help lower the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to build additional housing.

In the coming weeks, Hochul, Histie, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​(D-Yonkers) will seek common ground as they work to reach an agreement before the March 31 budget.

Despite glaring disagreements that threaten to delay a timely budget, Hochul is hopeful that a deal will be struck.

“They called me the iron fist in the velvet glove,” Hochul said on Fox 5’s Good Afternoon New York early Thursday morning. “I have a lot of respect for legislators. They represent their views in their constituencies. I represent all of New York State and we’ll work it out.”

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