ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Some say better late than never – the $229 billion state budget was officially passed Tuesday night, around 11:30pm. It includes changes to public safety laws, education funding and more. Our Capitol Correspondent, Amal Tlaige spoke with lawmakers and has their reaction.
“Like with all budgets, there’s some good and there’s some bad and there’s 63 different perspectives out … in the Senate anyways,” said Democratic Senator, John Mannion. He said some things that do work in this year’s budget are changes to bail reform, which include removing the least restrictive means standard, giving judges more discretion and issuing non-monetary conditions for those with addiction or mental health issues. “For me, I was proud to lend my voice into the conversation and represent my constituents, and we have additional changes to those laws that are going to give district attorneys and judges the ability to keep our community safe,” he said.
But Republican Senator Patrick Gallivan disagreed, “I think the changes are really meaningless. It’s a change in language. There are no new qualifying offenses, there are new circumstances where a judge can hold an individual or set bail on an individual, and we remain the only state in the country where a judge is not allowed to consider the danger to the community and that’s a problem.”
Another big push leading up to budget was to fully fund universal school meals, which would require $280 million. The state has instead opted for $134 million dollars for meals in schools with 25% or more students eligible. “What we’re doing is really very responsible in many ways, we’re utilizing the program, the federal governments picking up half of that cost and the status,” said Mannion. But some lawmakers have argued that the state could have fully funded meals with such a large budget.
And as New York continues its recreational cannabis initiatives, law enforcement could increase fines on illegal shops which could also face a complete shut down. “It’s really troubling that we haven’t cracked down on them already,” said Gallivan. He said when recreational marijuana was initially legalized, there were no proper rules in place, “It was passing a bill, checking a box and saying ‘We’ll figure it out.'” New Yorkers will also see a minimum wage increase to $17 an hour over the next three years. In 2027, the minimum wage will be pegged to inflation.