Nearly a week after it was due, New York state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul have reached an agreement on a $220 billion state budget that would include a suspension of the state's gas tax, an increased investment in child care, changes to the 2019 bail law and an alcohol to-go option for bars and restaurants that was utilized in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers are continuing to hammer out some of the details and voting on various budget bills should begin soon. The budget was due last Friday. Lawmakers late last week passed a stopgap "extender" that lasted through the end of the day Thursday. A final agreement is expected in the coming hours.

With gas prices above $4 in many parts of the state, lawmakers have pushed for weeks to include some sort of relief for consumers. The budget deal would include a gas tax suspension from June 1 to the end of the year, a source told Spectrum News 1. On averageNew Yorkers pay about 47 cents to 48 cents per gallon of gas in total taxes. The move will require transit systems, including the MTA in the New York City region, to be reimbursed due to the lost revenue. 

On child care, a total of $5 billion will be spent over three years, starting with $343 million in stabilization grants that will go out immediately, according to sources. The eligibility will be 300% of the federal poverty level, or a family of three making $70,000 annually or below.

Lawmakers and Hochul have also agreed to invest $125 million in pre-K, with more school districts being eligible as a result. Funding will total $375 million over three years.

The option for alcohol to-go, while perhaps popular with restaurant goers and the public at large, has been opposed by the retail liquor industry in the state. Still, lawmakers and restaurant industry officials have pointed to having take-out drinks with take-out meals an essential lifeline for restaurants during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The option ended last year, but is now part of the final budget deal, with restrictions placed on full-size bottles and the size of the food order. The budget will include a commission to study the state's alcohol and beverage control laws.

One of the late wrenches thrown into state budget talks was proposed changes to the state's bail law that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges. Hochul and lawmakers agreed to expand the situations in which cash bail would be required.

“We are looking at the factors with which a judge sets bail,” Gov. Hochul said Thursday evening, including a defendant’s history of gun use and if the crime harmed people.

The state is also focusing on ongoing recovery from the pandemic and the sectors that the pandemic helped bring to the forefront. In the budget is $1.2 billion for frontline health worker bonuses and $7.4 billion for wage increases for home health care aides.

A tax credit is also being offered to farmers concerned about rising the threshold of the state's overtime hours. State officials are considering final approval of a lowered threshold plan that would stretch over the next decade. It's a proposal that's been cheered by labor unions and farmworker advocates. Under the plan, the threshold for overtime pay would be lowered over a decade starting in 2024 from 60 hours a week to 40 hours.

The tax credit in the budget is aimed to offset the cost of paying workers the overtime.

The budget will include the authorization for the Environmental Bond Act. The measure will total $4.2 billion, with the money going toward bolstering water and sewer systems against the effects of climate change. 

There is also $600 million included for a new Buffalo Bills stadium.


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