Legislature moving toward passage of new $168B state budget
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers struck a $168.3 billion state budget deal late Friday night that includes surcharges on Uber and taxi rides in Manhattan, a tax on opioid makers and a new sexual harassment policy crafted following the launch of the #MeToo movement.
Also included: new money for public schools and water quality and several tax changes intended to help New Yorkers negatively impacted by the new federal tax law.
Lawmakers worked late into the night Friday to complete their work on the budget before the state’s new fiscal year begins Sunday.
In detailing the deal, the Democratic governor cited the sexual harassment policy as one of the budget’s best provisions.
“We have a national scandal,” Cuomo said of the wave of allegations of workplace sexual harassment and misconduct in recent months. “New York should lead. That’s our role.”
Here are some of the final proposals and complications that emerged in the final hours of negotiations:
NYC TOLLS: In an effort to address traffic congestion and raise money for mass transit, the state will impose surcharges of $2.50 on taxi rides south of 96th Street in Manhattan. Rides on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services in the same zone would come with a $2.75 surcharge. Supporters see the surcharges as just the first phase of a plan to roll out new congestion tolls on private vehicles in future years.
The money will go to efforts to repair and upgrade New York City subways.
NEW HARASSMENT POLICY
The uniform policy includes protections for employees of state and local governments, as well as state contractors and freelancers. It also prohibits secret harassment settlements involving state officials, and directs state labor officials to create a new standard for sexual harassment policies for private companies. Cuomo said the policy is the first of its kind in the nation, and a powerful response to the recent national attention on sexual misconduct in the workplace.
The new policy was a priority for lawmakers in both chambers.
“That’s a major victory for all New Yorkers,” said Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, one of the authors of the sexual harassment provisions and the Senate’s budget chairwoman. “It has several provisions in it that are going to protect everyone across the board.”
Some in the Legislature say the policy doesn’t go far enough in protecting workers from inappropriate workplace behavior.
Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has been pushing for her colleagues to crack down on sexual harassment in state government, said she was “very disappointed” with the final measure because it wasn’t broad enough.
Deeming the legislation a “really good try,” Krueger added: “I just wish we had gotten farther here today.”
OPIOID TAX: Opioid manufacturers and distributors will pay a fee expected to raise some $100 million annually for efforts to combat addition. The specific fee for each company would be based on market share.
TAX CHANGES: Cuomo pushed to include some tax measures to help ease the pain of the new federal tax code for homeowners expecting to see their taxes go up. The new federal law caps a deduction for state and local taxes that is especially popular in high-tax states like New York. Under Cuomo’s plan, the state would offer tax credits to individuals who make charitable contributions to public education or health care programs. The state also will allow companies to pay a payroll tax in lieu of their employee’s income taxes. Salaries would be adjusted accordingly.
EDUCATION SPENDING: The new budget deal calls for $1 billion in additional spending on K-12 education, for a total of $27 billion.
One budget provision will create a new legislative pay commission to determine whether members of the Senate and Assembly deserve a pay raise.
Lawmakers now make a base salary of $79,500 and haven’t seen an increase since the late 1990s. Many lawmakers — particularly Assembly members from New York City — say their salaries haven’t kept up with inflation.
A commission created in 2016 ultimately voted against a pay increase.