After the state budget being a week late, Gov. Kathy Hochul finally announced last Friday that an agreement was struck. Here’s the key parts, and what Mayor Eric Adams and advocates have to say about “gaps.”
The total state budget is currently estimated at $220 billion and the spending plan will include $2 billion for pandemic assistance, said the governor’s office. The state budget prioritizes things such as gas tax suspensions, support for small businesses by authorizing the sale of to-go cups, funding for child care, investment in a five-year transportation infrastructure plan, clean energy, and cracking down on gun trafficking, among other things.
“This agreement brings us closer to an enacted budget and makes good on our promise of a stronger, safer, more inclusive and more prosperous New York State,” said Hochul in a statement.
Within the state’s adopted budget, New York City gets things such as the expansion of the city’s Earned Income Tax Credit, property tax abatements to building owners, funding for more childcare centers, and a $1.1 billion investment in New York City Housing Authority.
However, there’s a palpable disapproval from lawmakers and advocates who fought to keep bail reforms, passed in 2019, in the budget as well as investments in the Housing Access Voucher Program and the passage of the Clean Slate Act.
Clean Slate is a bill that creates an automatic process for sealing conviction records after the requirements of the criminal legal system have been met, and previously had Hochul’s support. About 2.3 million people have been shut out because of a previous conviction record, said lawmakers. “Criminal convictions create lifelong barriers to employment, housing, professional licenses, childcare, and other necessities that New
Yorkers need to rebuild their lives with dignity,” said Jared Trujillo, policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “These very barriers trap New Yorkers in cycles of poverty and reincarceration.”
In Adams’ statement about the adopted state budget on April 8, he said that huge components of his plans centered around helping the working class. He said that the city will review the budget fully and continue to advocate on behalf of students and affordable housing.
“While I commend the legislature and the governor for making some progress on public safety, it is also evident that a good deal more work will be needed on this issue, as well as on mayoral accountability, housing, and other city priorities in the ongoing legislative session, which is only half over,” said Adams.
In another statement on April 9, Adams added that the state budget keys in on funding for public safety measures, from his ‘Blueprint for Public Safety,’ including improvements to the discovery process, gun and mental health laws, and “judges’ ability to keep repeat offenders off the streets.”
Others were much harsher in their criticisms of the state budget.
In response to proposed changes to the bail law, Brooklyn Defender Services, Center for Community Alternatives, New York Communities for Change, VOCAL-NY, The Legal Aid Society, Envision Freedom Fund, The
Bronx Defenders released a joint statement:“We are saddened and deeply disappointed by the reactionary and ill-informed changes elected leaders are currently trying to push through the budget. The facts are clear: bail reform has not caused the increase in gun violence in New York. And yet, our elected leaders are considering capitulating to fear and politics by rolling back provisions of a successful policy instead of addressing the very real problems that our communities are facing, including a mental health crisis, gun violence, and poverty.”
Staunch Clean Slate Act supporters and sponsors are still urging the legislature to pass the bill when they return to session.
“It is frustrating and deeply disappointing to see that despite momentous support and enthusiasm, Clean Slate was not included in the final budget,” said Sen. Zellnor Myrie in a statement. Myrie said that the Senate is poised to get back to work to pass the Clean Slate Act and that there is “no reason” New Yorkers who have fulfilled their justice-system obligations should continue to suffer perpetual economic punishment.
Assemblymember Catalina Cruz said that the state budget version of Clean Slate included protracted timelines that would have rendered the bill “useless to those who need it most.” The budget version has a 3-year waiting period for misdemeanors and a 7-year period for felonies, which would “dramatically” add to the waiting period to get a person’s record cleaned. In the legislative version, the waiting period begins when a person is released from custody.
“The Assembly is ready to move forward as soon as possible to pass OUR VERSION of the Clean Slate Act and give millions of New Yorkers a real second chance. Clean Slate can’t wait,” said Cruz in a statement.
Kate Wagner-Goldstein, director of NY Reentry Initiatives for the Legal Action Center, stated that Clean Slate is essentially a jobs bill, housing bill, and an economic and racial equity bill. She pointed to Hochul’s
“failure” to include it as a representation of “a squandered opportunity.”
Kim Smith, VOCAL-NY’s political director, added in a statement that the state budget is a “disregard” for investments to meet the basic needs of New Yorkers and that Hochul refused to listen to her state leadership, the caucus, and experts. “On the contrary, we saw giveaways for billionaires and real estate, while our demands for housing, violence intervention and services were unmet,” said Smith. “New Yorkers require more.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w