State Legislature Passes $175.5 Billion Budget

The 2019-2020 New York State Budget has been passed.

Because Democrats now control the State Senate, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) participated in the budget process for the first time. Despite this change, however, the process did not seem to change much; it featured closed-door negotiations, last-minute deals, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo getting his own way on almost everything.

The 2019-2020 budget calls for $175.5 billion in spending. Key provisions include:

  • An end to cash bail for defendants accused of misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies;
  • Tolls for drivers entering lower Manhattan;
  • A ban on most single-use plastic bags provided by retail establishments, along with an option for counties to implement a five-cent fee for paper bags;
  • A new internet sales tax;
  • A provision making New York’s property tax cap permanent; and
  • The creation of a commission to establish a system of taxpayer funding for political campaigns.

Thankfully (and despite the efforts of well-funded special interests), the budget did not include recreational marijuana legislation, paid surrogacy, or an expansion of sports gambling. It did, however, include an in vitro fertilization insurance mandate that New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms opposed.

At the eleventh hour of the budget process, Gov. Cuomo asked the Legislature to give him and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul pay increases. Gov. Cuomo currently makes $179,900 per year, but the Legislature agreed to increase his pay to $200,000 this year, to $225,000 next year, and to $250,000 in 2021—provided that the state budget is passed each year in a timely fashion. Of course, the Legislature had an incentive to go along with the Governor’s request; if they failed to pass the budget by the March 31 deadline, they would forfeit the $10,000 increases they are scheduled to receive at the end of this year. As it turned out, it took until the wee hours of the morning on April 1 for the Legislature to finish passing the budget; nevertheless, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli certified that the budget had been passed in a timely manner.