A $177 billion state budget passed by New York lawmakers Friday leaves leeway for spending cuts of as much as $10 billion as the full financial toll of the coronavirus outbreak becomes more clear.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have not decided yet where to find cuts and are seeking more federal funding to help make up a potential loss of $10 billion to $15 billion in state tax revenue.
“The budget was difficult because the state has no money,” Cuomo said Friday.
Cuomo's administration can cut spending on its own if lawmakers do not come up with their own plan within 10 days. Lawmakers have largely agreed that the ongoing pandemic calls for expanding the governor’s role over state spending and response efforts.
For now, schools that are already considering layoffs and have bare-bones budgets are receiving nearly the same amount of funding as last year — about $28 billion. Cuomo had proposed $800 million in extra school aid in January. New York will lose out on extra federal education aid if funding falls further.
The budget also allows Cuomo’s administration to reduce health care spending and make it harder for New Yorkers to enroll in some Medicaid programs this or next year.
The potential delay of some Medicaid reforms could allow New York to receive billions from Congress’ emergency Medicaid aid package, which prohibits states from restricting Medicaid during the outbreak. But a coalition of several health consumer groups said cuts during or after the pandemic will devastate hospitals shouldering the brunt of it.
A host of new laws were approved in the budget, including the legalization of paid surrogacy, a ban on plastic foam containers, a sweeping new paid sick leave law, an expansion of prevailing wage mandates, a ban on flavored vaping, a new small-donor public financing system and making it harder for third parties to qualify for the election ballot.
A group representing New York hospitals won a new law that provides immunity for health care facilities, workers and administrators from civil or criminal liability during the COVID-19 outbreak.
New York will legalize e-bikes and e-scooters, add E Pluribus Unum to the state’s coat of arms, seize weapons from certain individuals linked to possible domestic abuse, establish a new “domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate” felony, and ban high-risk sexual offenders from riding the MTA.
New York is also tweaking a law allowing immigrants living in the country illegally to apply for drivers’ licenses. The measure drew a rebuke from President Donald Trump’s administration, which had halted the import and export of used vehicles in New York and cut residents from “trusted traveler” programs.
New York can now share certain state motor vehicle records that federal officials say are needed to import and export vehicles and vet New Yorkers applying to trusted traveler programs. The law aims to ensure that data can’t be used for immigration enforcement.
A dozen new crimes also will be added to charges that are eligible for cash bail. The move changes a state law that eliminated cash bail for 90% of crimes.