One cheer for state budget delay

With budget talks between Gov. Kathy Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and their staffs not remotely close to agreement as of the April 1 deadline, New York’s leaders on Monday agreed to short-term “extender” legislation to keep paychecks going out to state employees and so on.

Good — on the late budget, anyway.

The governor in particular is right to hold firm on several of her key proposals. Indeed, if her legislative “partners” keep holding out, she should start insisting that some of them be part of future extenders.

As it stands, the “gang of three” (formerly “three men in a room,” now two women and one man, though Senate No. 2 Mike Gianaris likely counts as at least half another decision-maker) is by all accounts still at loggerheads on just two issues without deeply engaging on many others.

Those two are: housing and Hochul’s proposed fix to the no-bail law.

Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Hochul greets Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie before her executive state budget in the Red Room at the state Capitol on Feb. 1, 2023.
AP/Hans Pennink

On no-bail, she absolutely needs to stick to her guns. She simply wants a change that clarifies to judges that it’s absolutely fine to order remand (bail or jail) when the law otherwise allows it.

Too many jurists are reading the “least restrictive” language (plus some remarks by a single legislator back in 2019) as ordering them to spring perps who clearly shouldn’t be on the streets.

On housing, there’s likely room for some compromise. Lawmakers should agree to at least some no-strings-attached extension of the city’s 421-a tax break, which is responsible for most of the affordable housing built over the last decade or two.

But Hochul’s aggressive zoning proposals (and the Legislature’s “let’s just add more subsidies” counteroffer) likely need more discussion.

And all that leaves a lot to work out. It’d be utterly unconscionable for the Legislature to fully block the gov’s plan to let charter schools expand in New York City, but perhaps they can agree to “lift the cap” by a few dozen, rather than about 100, this year — then seek community (as opposed to special-interest) input over the next year.

Plus, they need to find some way to add funds for the MTA. We’re not fans of either side’s ideas; maybe a simple one-year state grant is the best compromise.

In the meantime, a few extra weeks of not increasing state spending is already a win for the people of New York.

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