Potential changes to New York's bail law remains the dominate issue in the ongoing budget talks, now 10 days past its due date.
State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters Monday the negotiations continue to center around Gov. Kathy Hochul's effort to make it easier for judges to set cash bail when defendants face serious criminal charges.
"I think everytime a concept is brought up, you actually have to walk through the process," Heastie said. "These are real life situations, this is peoples' lives. You come up with a concept, you walk through it and then you come up with real-life circumstances."
Hochul has said she does not want a budget agreement that fails to include an amendment to the 2019 law that largely curtailed the use of cash bail for most criminal charges in the state. The law has become a lightning rod in New York state politics amid a rise in crime that has also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporters of the law as it stands have argued the measure is necessary to prevent low-income defendants from languishing in jail while awaiting trial. Critics of the law believe it has made the state less safe.
Heastie said the negotiations have been almost exclusively about the bail changes as well as talks around the governor's proposal for a statewide housing plan meant to boost housing by 800,000 units in the next 10 years.
It's possible with both matters settled, a broader deal can be reached on a range of issues like the state's minimum wage, along with tax policy and mass transit spending.
Lawmakers earlier in the day approved a week-long extension of spending for New York that will temporarily fund state government for the next week and ensure 83,000 state workers are paid.
The extension did not include Hochul's desired policy changes, though she has the power and leverage to do so at this point in the budget talks. Lawmakers, for now, do not expect her to do so.
"To use a Star Trek-ism, I have not put up the 'yellow alert' yet," Heastie said. "I'd say there's no acrimony in the discussions. No one's upset. No one's frustrated. We're just having honest conversations."