Let's face it — this is a weird budget year.
Usually, the state Capitol building is filled with lawmakers, advocates, lobbyists and bewildered tourists tromping through a very loud and frenized space. That's not the case this year due, of course, to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many lawmakers aren't even in town, or they are across the street in their Albany offices to appear in the legislative session through the magic of video conferencing. The governor, embroiled in multiple scandals and calls for him to resign, is staying put for now.
But the perennially contentious issue of taxes — namely increasing taxes on New York's very richest residents — remains alive as ever.
Democrats in the Legislature want a combined $7 billion in tax hikes, largely falling on upper income earners and the financial services industry. Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal would increase taxes by about $2 billion.
The differences, on paper, seem easy enough to resolve. But budgets aren't just about priorities and the intersecting politics; they're also about whose ox will be gored.
New York state has some of the highest personal income taxes in the country. Texas has oil, New York has rich people. And a large percentage of New York's revenue comes from the taxes raised on a small number of very wealthy filers.
The concern Cuomo has is one he has voiced for a decade now: Rich people can easily move, underscored more dramatically in the last 12 months by the pandemic.
But Democrats in the state Legislature have taken a longer view. Yes, New York got $12.5 billion in federal stimulus funds. But that's a one-shot deal and won't be in the mix this time next year.
Lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly have had a long wish list to fund, namely boosting spending for schools as sought by public education advcoates. More revenue over more years will get them there.
Most New Yorkers are probably not stopping and thinking about the budget clocking in 36 hours late and counting. And the 39,000 state workers who are at risk of having their paychecks delayed could be given a reprieve come Monday if lawmakers approve a budget extender that grants emergency spending to keep the government funded absent a bigger deal.
Polling though shows New Yorkers are most animated about vaccinations, jobs, and their kids' educational futures. As the governor's top budget aide Robert Mujica told NY1 this week, this budget is about rebuilding.