New York to Change Minimum Wage and Security Deposit in $229 Billion Budget Deal

ALBANY, NY – Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday that she and state lawmakers have reached an agreement on a state budget of about $229 billion that will change the state's bail laws, increase the minimum wage and provide much-needed funding for the transit system New York City .

The deal ends weeks of contentious negotiations that divided governors and the Democratic-led State Legislature, delaying expected passage by nearly a month – the latest budget in more than a decade.

The outline of the “conceptual deal” was unveiled by the governor at an impromptu news conference at the State Capitol on Thursday night; some details, said Ms. Hochul, still “fine tuned”.

Representatives Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the majority leader in the State Senate, and Carl E. Heastie, speaker of the Assembly, confirmed the deal. Lawmakers, who have left Albany for a week because they did not anticipate a deal, are expected to vote to approve the budget as early as next week.

“I know this budget process takes a little extra time, but it's our commitment to the future of New York that drives this,” said Ms. but a race for the right result.”

The negotiations pit Hochul, a moderate Democrat in his first full term, in an ideological tug of war against a more progressive-minded legislature in which Democrats hold a supermajority. The result was a series of simple wins for both sides, bitter bargains and failed plans.

The governor, who narrowly won last year's election on a promise to crack down on crime, has one of his top priorities: changing the state's bail law to give judges greater discretion to detain people pending trial.

But protracted discussions over the bail law, one of the most politically explosive issues in Albany, impacted other policy issues, forcing Ms. Hochul to compromise heavily to claim victory.

The governor has been seeking to remove restrictions that would allow more than 100 new charter schools — privately run, but publicly funded — to open in New York City, a proposal that drew swift reaction from top Democrats, as well as teachers. labor union. In the end, Ms. Hochul received 14 new charter schools in New York City by reviving “zombie licenses,” or permits granted to schools that have been closed, and a total of 22 statewide.

Democrats also found common ground on a plan to raise the state's minimum hourly wage by two dollars to $17, up from $15, by 2026 in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. It will reach $17 by 2027 statewide, and future statewide increases will be pegged to inflation.

Movement riled Republicans and some business groups who said it would lead to job loss, and was annoyed Progressive Democrats and big unions which is seeking an increase of up to $21.25, saying the city's minimum wage would still be lower than other cities, such as Seattle and Los Angeles.

It appears that the budget deal will result in another jumble of Democratic priorities, from natural gas ban in a new building for funding free food for school children, until the pilot program made five free bus routes within the city.

The deal also includes a lifeline to save the finances of the city's transit system, which projects a deficit as a result of declining subway passenger rates post-pandemic.

The budget, his office said, provides new funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority through a $300 million lump sum payment from the state, increased payroll taxes paid by large city-based businesses and a portion of future revenue from soon-to-open casinos. In a partial victory for Mayor Eric Adams, representatives for the governor said the city would need to contribute $165 million, far less than the $500 million annual payment proposed by Ms. Hochul.

Ms Hochul also said lawmakers had accepted her proposal to significantly overhaul the state's approach to mental health in part by freeing up 1,000 psychiatric beds for the mentally ill, a move the governor described as “a monumental change.”

The deal, he said, also gave countries more tools to fine and shut down illegal shop selling weed that took root in New York City during the slow issuance of licenses to dispensaries.

On the other hand, the governor's priorities are unraveling.

This includes his ambitious housing plan, which calls for building 800,000 new units over the next decade by allowing states to waive local zoning laws. Lauded by experts who say it will help reverse the state's housing shortage, the plan met stiff resistance from lawmakers, forcing Ms. Hochul to back away from him during the negotiations.

Lawmakers managed to tear down other divisive ideas, including a proposed increase in Ms. Big Tobacco and has divided Black leaders. However, lawmakers agreed to increase the tax on cigarettes to $5.35 per pack, up from $4.35.

Ms Hochul, for her part, managed to fend off proposals that have been championed by the Senate and House Democrats, including efforts to increase income taxes on the super-rich and tenant-friendly measures opposed by the real estate industry that would have restricted landlords. the ability to raise rents.

The governor has made crime a cornerstone issue since taking office in 2021, but took on even more importance after his Republican opponent, Lee Zeldin, used it to fuel his campaign — narrowing Ms. Hochul into single digits.

The governor's change to the bail law, which he has repeatedly said is his biggest priority, builds on an adjustment he won last year, when he allowed judges to consider factors such as the gravity of the crime, and whether or not defendants have access. gun, when making a decision whether to hold the accused on bail.

The effect of the changes is limited, as New York law says judges can use the “least restrictive” means to ensure defendants return to court. But changes proposed this year would, for the first time, allow judges to set bail with public safety in mind.

A bright spot for progressive Democrats is the inclusion of two climate actions favored by environmentalists.

The first will ban the use of natural gas in new buildings from late 2025. The ban, which does not apply to current gas stove owners, is seen as an important step in reducing the country's dependence on fossil fuels, and meeting emissions. – reduction goals. The second step will allow the New York Power Authority to build and own wind and solar projects to increase clean energy generation.