ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, New York State lawmakers are still working to pass a budget for the new fiscal year. And they’re past their deadline.
This year, lawmakers dealt with uncertainty over revenue due to the coronavirus, and with the need for social distancing, they also took to remote voting this year. But even with all of that, many of the Governor’s policy proposals were included in the budget
“They said we have a lot of needs, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, and they stepped up to the plate and they did it,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The Governor praised the state legislature for their work on the state budget during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislative chambers had mostly empty chairs and desks during budget votes that were taken remotely this year.
“You can put that budget against any budget that I have done in any normal year, and it would be a great budget,” Cuomo said. “That it was done this year is really extraordinary.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Gallivan said there should have been more transparency.
He tweeted: “There was little time to review the various bills or to ask questions, let alone to debate the content.”
Included in this year’s budget were measures like the legalization of gestational surrogacy, the approval of e-scooters and e-bikes, and the banning of flavored e-cigarettes.
Environmental issues were agreed on, including $3 billion for the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act to be put on a ballot for voters and $500 million towards the Clean Water Infrastructure Act.
A statement from NYPIRG spokesperson Liz Moran says:
“In the face of the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus, New Yorkers can rest easier knowing state elected officials have made important strides to protect the environment and public health in the state budget.”
One major policy that was left out was recreational marijuana legalization.
There are also tweaks to bail reform. Supporters wanted no changes and others wanted more judge’s discretion. Melissa DeRosa, the Governor’s secretary, said there are additional crimes that are bail eligible.
“I believe the effective date is 90 days from now,” she said. “So it takes into account the current circumstance that we find ourselves in. There were 115 crimes that we moved to be alternate to bail eligible, so things like remote tracking and treatment and other things.”
The comptroller has also released the delayed paychecks to the 120,000 state workers that were affected.