On Time State Budget – Progressive Agenda Advances

Despite the challenges of a new Senate Majority Conference and accommodating the priorities and agendas of 15 newly elected Democratic Senators with that of the Assembly and the Governor, the Legislature worked through the weekend and was able to pass the 2019-20 NYS Budget in the early hours of Monday, April 1.

The $175 billion spending plan includes many high-level progressive policy priorities, including codification of elements of the Affordable Care Act, criminal justice reforms, voting reforms, congestion pricing, a ban on plastic bags, a permanent 2% property tax cap, new taxes (mansion tax, opioid tax, and internet sales taxes), and a commission charged with creating a plan for publicly financed political campaigns.

Several highly publicized progressive initiatives such as the legalization of adult use marijuana did not make it into the final budget, despite a massive last-minute push by activists.

Numerous elements of the Affordable Care Act were codified in the Budget, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, and a prohibition on limiting annual and lifetime coverage. Insurance companies will also be required to provide coverage for infertility services.

The Budget eliminates cash bail for all but certain violent felonies, guarantees speedy trials and forces prosecutors to reveal possible exculpatory evidence to the defense much earlier in the discovery process.

Funding for early voting and paid time off to vote are components of the voting reform package.

A first- in- the- nation tolling or “congestion pricing” program is authorized in the Budget which will institute electronic tolling devices south of 60th Street in Manhattan.

A ban on single use plastic bags that provides an opt-in for localities to enact a five-cent fee on paper bags was also included in the Budget.

Finally, public financing of campaigns was deferred to a new commission tasked with recommending a plan to advance a Statewide public finance election campaign system.

The Governor acknowledged the challenges of this year’s Budget negotiations: “The hard ones are the good ones – by definition,” Cuomo told reporters in a Sunday evening press conference. “This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done.”