Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Thursday night announcement of a budget framework came as a surprise to many in Albany, but according to Shontell Smith, a veteran of budget negotiations as the former chief of staff and chief counsel to the Senate Democratic Conference, and currently executive vice president for Tusk Strategies, what happened wasn’t new or unusual.

“This is typical,” she told Capital Tonight. “We forget that…Gov. Cuomo would do it via press release, (announce) that there was a conceptual agreement amongst the leaders.” 

Gov. Hochul called a last-minute Red Room press conference early Thursday evening after both legislative leaders had left Albany to return home to their districts.  

When asked about the optics of the governor holding such an important announcement without her negotiating partners, Smith said she expects that the governor was simply excited to announce the framework, and that the legislative leaders were exhausted.

“I think the [Assembly speaker] wanted to go back to the Bronx. Same with the [Senate] majority leader. They just wanted to get out of dodge because they’ve been here for so long,” Smith said.

The budget was due April 1.

Politically, according to Smith, both the governor and the Legislature came away with significant victories.

“For the governor, I think it was important for her to get some wins and reset the conversation. The conversation has been the Legislature’s in charge, not the governor.  The governor is saying, no, I’m here. I’m in charge,” Smith said.

Hochul is now able to say she garnered a major victory on bail, which was her number one priority. At the same time, she didn’t get everything she wanted, which can be considered a victory for the Legislature.

“This was a budget where the speaker and the majority leader — and people don’t focus on this — they had to play a lot of defense in the budget. You look at the governor’s original executive budget proposal. It was heavy on policy, policy the conferences would not have agreed with. What the speaker and the majority leader did was spend the past two months fighting the policy and getting it to a place where people felt comfortable,” she said. “Sometimes the win is not getting the policy.”