After weeks of intense negotiations, New York State has enacted a final budget for 2022-2023. Governor Kathy Hochul announced the framework of the budget deal late Thursday afternoon, and the Senate and Assembly worked through the night Friday into Saturday morning passing the final negotiated budget bills. The deadline for an on-time budget was April 1. After it became clear the budget would not be done in time, and could disrupt state worker payrolls, the Legislature passed a short-term extender on April 4 that kept New York State government funded through Thursday, April 7. The delay in the budget was caused by several last-minute, high-profile proposals, including changes to bail reform and state funding of the Buffalo Bills Stadium. In the end, the final spending level for the budget is $220 billion, a $4 billion increase from the Governor’s initial proposal, and an $8 billion increase over last year’s budget. The budget does not contain any tax increases.

Here are many of the key issues in the final budget:

Criminal Justice
There are several changes to bail reform, raise the age, and discovery reform in the final budget. While it was thought that bail reform would not be included in the budget proposal, an agreement was reached between the Governor and Legislature to include modest changes to the original law, including allowing judges to consider violated orders of protection, history of gun use, and the harm caused to an alleged victim when setting bail. Also, the following offenses were added to the bail eligibility list: gun possession on school grounds, repeat property theft, altered weapons, gun sales to minors, and all hate crimes.

Regarding discovery reform, the final budget provides that cases will not be automatically dismissed if a prosecutor is acting in good faith but misses the deadline for turning over evidence to the defense.

The final budget provides for increased healthcare spending.  $1.2 billion is allocated to frontline healthcare worker bonuses (maximum of $3,000) for those making less than $125,000. Also, $7.4 billion will go towards a wage increase for home healthcare aides and workers, which will represent a $3/hour wage increase for those workers. Further, $2.4 billion is allocated to improving the state’s healthcare infrastructure.

Buffalo Bills Stadium Funding and Casinos
The final budget includes $600 million to build the new Buffalo Bills stadium. $182 million of that funding is allocated in the budget, and the remaining funds will come from a settlement with the Seneca Nation over casino payments. Additionally, New York will open bidding this year for three new casino licenses in the downstate area.

Gas Tax Suspension
The budget includes a six-month gas tax suspension, beginning June 1 and ending on December 31. The state suspension works out to a combined 16 cents per gallon of savings. An option was added to allow local governments to decide whether or not to also suspend a portion of their gas taxes, which would allow for further savings at the pump.

The final budget transforms the much-maligned Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) into the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. The Commission is tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of the existing lobbying statutes and regulations. The Commission will be comprised of eleven members, selected as follows: three by the Governor, two by the Senate Majority Leader, one by the Senate Minority Leader, two by the Assembly Speaker, one by the Assembly Minority Leader, one by the Comptroller, and one by the Attorney General. An independent review committee, comprised of law school deans, will review the committee nominees. 

Child Care
A total of $5 billion will be spent on child care over the next three years, including the immediate release of $343 million in stabilization grants. A total of $375 million will be spent over the next three years on expanding pre-K programs.

Effective immediately, alcohol-to-go is back. Restaurants, bars, taverns, and other places holding an on-premises liquor license can now sell cocktails and wine to-go. The drinks cannot be full bottles of liquor or wine, and the drinks must be sold with a sealed cap or lid. Also, the sale of the alcohol-to-go must be accompanied by a purchase of a “substantial food item,” which is based on the rule that existed during the pandemic. This provision has a sunset of three years and does not impact the ability of on-premises liquor licensees to sell beer, cider, or mead to-go.

Now that the budget has passed, the Legislature is on break until April 25 for Passover and Easter. The legislative session is scheduled to end on June 2, as the 2022 primaries are to occur on June 28. The final six weeks of session are expected to be busy, as the Legislature will look to move priority issues that were not included in the budget.

If you have additional questions about the final budget, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance:

Amy J. Kellogg
John M. Jennings
Caitlin A. Anderson

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