It’s the time of year at the New York State Capitol when rumors are running rampant, and trying to grasp onto concrete roadblocks in budget negotiations is like trying to grasp onto smoke.
Although late budgets in Albany are by no means unusual, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy admitted that the negotiation process this year does seem to be moving a little slower.
“First of all, I think they are going a little slower than usual, which is disconcerting,” Assemblywoman Fahy said. “This is the latest for really learning things. And for me, it’s always a frustrating time of year and I know it is for every member.”
Budget negotiations are always shrouded in secrecy.
But this year, COVID-19 restrictions kept lawmakers from meeting in person and most decision making is happening behind virtual closed doors.
Minority leaders in both houses criticized the lack of action and transparency on Thursday.
“You know we have talked a lot in the past about three men in a room. Now we have three Dems on zoom and they still can't get it done,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said.
“The governor is engulfed in scandals and the legislature is trying to take advantage of that by increasing taxes on New Yorkers,” Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt said.
According to sources, the biggest sticking point still is how to increase taxes on the wealthy.
Another added wrinkle? New York is flush with cash.
The state received over $12.5 billion in direct aid from the federal government in the latest stimulus deal, but lawmakers are still pushing for an increased tax rate on millionaires in order to establish a stable future funding stream.
However, the longer negotiations stretch on, smaller policy items are put at risk.
“The longer the big items are not settled, then the ones we think are settled or the smaller items like veterans, education, some economic development, those start to fall apart,” Assemblywoman Fahy said. “So if the whole package doesn’t come together soon, a lot of other ones start to unravel.”
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli also warned that if a state budget is not adopted on Monday, about 39,000 state workers could see a delay in receiving their paychecks.
The Legislature has only voted on one out of the ten budget bills that still need to get finalized.