ALBANY, NY — New York City's minimum wage workers will do just that get salary for the first time in five years. Overseas students at city and state universities will face increase in tuition fees. And smokers have to pay an extra dollar in taxes per pack.
New York State lawmakers approved a $229 billion state budget late Tuesday that will touch the everyday lives of New Yorkers, after concluding protracted negotiations with Governor Kathy Hochul that delayed passage by more than a month.
Since this is Albany, of course, the closed-door negotiations centered less on state finances than on the controversial policy changes that were baked into the final budget bill.
Democrats, who control the triad of powers in the State Capitol, amended the state bail code, issued new fines for unlicensed marijuana stores and imposed a ban on gas stoves and stoves in new buildings, making New York the first state to pass such a measure. That. .
Here's what to know.
The judge will have more discretion
For the third time since 2019, New York changed its bail law to make it easier for judges to hold people accused of crimes while they await trial.
This year's amendments remove language requiring judges to set the “least restrictive” conditions needed to ensure defendants do not flee prosecution, instead urging them to vote for what they believe is “necessary to ensure” a defendant's return to court, as they did previously. 2019 changes to the warranty law.
And while the law maintains a 2019 ban on setting bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent crimes, it will invite judges to set tougher acquittal conditions for all crimes—higher bail for crimes where guarantees may be specified, and more stringent provisions, such as monitoring, where these cannot.
It is not yet clear how much impact this revision will have in practice: Judges are still constrained by language that defines bail as a means of ensuring defendants return to court. The judge must also consider the ability to pay the defendant.
But some opponents believe that judges looking for excuses to keep people in prison may see these changes, and the gestures of governors around them, as justification for doing so.
The minimum wage will increase
State minimum wages rose by a few dollars, gradually, over several years. This would then be pegged to inflation, mimicking the approach in a growing number of states.
The minimum wage in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, currently $15 per hour, will increase to $16 in 2024, and by 50 cents each year thereafter to reach $17 in 2026. In other states, the minimum wage wages will reach $16 in 2026, up from the current minimum of $14.20.
Starting in 2027, wage rates will increase according to the federal government's Consumer Price Index. There are some exceptions: Wages won't rise if the country loses jobs or faces poor unemployment.
The number of increases disappointed unions and progressive Democrats who are seeking to raise the minimum wage above $20, arguing that inflation has made it increasingly difficult for poor and working-class New Yorkers to survive.
Republicans in the minority oppose minimum wage increases, as well as most policy items included in the budget.
Illegal weed shops will face a crackdown
The state will have new tools to tackle the proliferation of shops selling cannabis without a license, a conundrum officials are grappling with as a legal market for cannabis slowly takes shape.
State tax authorities will now have the power to inspect the location of any business, including vehicles, that sell cannabis, giving them the powers regulators say are needed to effectively crack down on illicit shops.
Fines for retailers possessing non-taxable weed start at $7,500, with additional fines of up to $100,000 depending on the amount of weed sold. Retailers can also be fined two to three times the amount of tax that is supposed to be collected. Landlords who allow unlicensed shops on their premises can be fined $10,000 a day.
Unlicensed smoke shops, including those practice giving gifts or established as a membership club, may also be subject to civil tax fraud charges.
The state passed the gas ban and leaned on renewable energy
Democrats agreed to two broad proposals aimed at ending the country's dependence on fossil fuels and aggressively tackling climate change.
The first would ban the use of fossil fuels for heating and cooking in new construction. The law, the country's first statewide ban, will apply to buildings under seven floors from 2026; larger buildings must comply by 2029. This will not affect gas stoves in existing homes and includes exemptions for manufacturing, emergency generators and hospitals, among others.
Another measure allows the New York Power Authority to build, own and operate renewable energy facilities to help New York meet its goal of reducing emissions by 85 percent by 2050. Progressives, particularly democratic socialists, have championed the move, which they say will control consumer costs and help ensure favorable working conditions.
The measure would allow the Electricity Authority to partner with private developers, as long as the state owns the majority of any project. It would also require New York City to close its so-called peaker factories still in operation by 2030, if possible.
Industry has vehemently opposed both proposals, saying they would increase costs for consumers and stress grid electricity.
MTA will get more money and five free bus routes
Leaders in Albany approve funding to help avert a catastrophic cash crunch for New York City's subways and buses.
Given the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's impending $3 billion budget deficit, lawmakers are seeking one-time payments from Albany of $300 million and $165 million annually from New York City. It also includes money from increased payroll taxes on big New York City-based businesses, which are expected to generate $1.1 billion, and from tax revenue from casinos that are set to open in the near future.
The agreement will help prevent one proposed rate increase, though another is imminent.
Riders will likely welcome the inclusion of a new pilot program which will offer five free bus routes, one for each region. Lines will be chosen based on a range of factors including passengers and if the area serves a commercial centre.
And in an effort to make the service more efficient, the bus will be equipped with a camera with the ability to issue tickets for traffic violations.
A new charter school is about to open
Fourteen charter schools will be allowed to open in New York City, and eight elsewhere in the state, partially fulfilling one of Ms. Hochul.
The decision to revive so-called zombie licenses, which were granted to schools that were later closed, reignited an enduring debate in Albany over charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated.
The final deal is far from what Ms. Hochul to lift restrictions to allow more than 100 new charter schools to open, a proposal that angered many Democrats and teachers' unions who had supported the governor.
What didn't work
This year's budget is as important as policy aspirations that failed at the negotiating table.
The governor opposed Democrats seeking to raise income taxes on millionaires. And lawmakers disagree with Ms. Hochul to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.
But the biggest casualty will be the governor's ambitious housing plan, which seeks to build 800,000 homes over the next decade through a new construction mandate. The plan unraveled following opposition from many lawmakers and local officials in the suburbs.
On Tuesday, Ms. Hochul said he would continue to pursue the plan, though he suggested the effort might need to wait until next year's budget.
The only major housing policy development was a $391 million injection of rental assistance that could help residents in public areas and other types of subsidized housing.
Ashley Southal And Mihir Zaveri reporting contribution.