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New York lawmakers approve $237 billion budget with policies to boost housing market – Saratogian

FILE – The New York State Assembly Chamber is seen during a legislative session after Governor Kathy Hochul presented her 2025 state executive budget at the Capitol on January 16, 2024 in Albany, NY. New York lawmakers passed a $237 billion state budget Saturday, April 20, that includes plans to boost housing construction and crack down on unlicensed marijuana shops. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

By MAYSOON KHAN and ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE (Associated Press)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York lawmakers passed a $237 billion state budget Saturday, including plans to boost housing construction and crack down on illegal marijuana shops.

The package also includes a range of other measures, such as speeding the closure of some state prisons, addressing the recent influx of migrants and continuing the pandemic-era policy of allowing people to buy take-out cocktails.

The state Senate and Assembly completed consideration of several budget bills on Saturday after hours of debate. The spending plan now goes to Governor Kathy Hochul to be signed into law, which is what she is expected to do.

The negotiations, conducted privately between the governor and key legislative leaders, were based largely on a sweeping proposal to boost the state’s housing market.

The plan offers developers a tax break if they agree to rent some of the apartments in new buildings below market price. The deal also includes measures to protect some tenants from unreasonable rent increases and evictions, although it was not as comprehensive as many advocates would have liked.

“This budget deal represents the biggest improvement in housing policy in three generations,” Hochul said in a statement.

The state previously had a similar tax break, but that expired in 2022. Hochul and other supporters have long said such an incentive is an essential draw for development, though critics say it is too expensive and too beneficial to developers.

“Governor Hochul has not solved the housing crisis – instead she has pushed through a housing deal written by the real estate industry to ensure they continue to get richer on the backs of hardworking renters,” said Cea Weaver, the coalition director for Housing Justice for All. in a statement.

Lawmakers also acted to address the explosion of unlicensed cannabis stores in New York City. Bureaucratic hurdles have made it difficult for the state to close the stores, which have become ubiquitous in the Big Apple.

To help solve the problem, the budget includes policies that would allow local law enforcement to more easily close stores accused of illegally selling marijuana while their business is open. Previously, most enforcement could only be done by the state, and such stores could remain open while a lengthy appeals process was underway.

State officials have also set aside $2.4 billion to deal with an influx of international migrants that have overwhelmed New York City’s homeless shelters. The money goes to housing, legal services and health care for the migrant population.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt criticized the measure during floor debates, saying it would encourage more migrants to come to New York.

“We’ve made a lot of tough decisions in this budget,” Ortt said. “But $2.4 billion is a long shot, and I wonder what that could have done in other parts of the budget for legal New Yorkers.”

In addition, New York will expedite the closure of up to five state prisons in an effort to save money amid the state’s declining prison population. The governor has until March of next year to choose which prisons will close. The state has closed two dozen correctional facilities because of vacant beds since 2011, saving about $442 million annually, according to the state corrections department.

The budget also included measures that would provide paid leave during pregnancies, allow New York City to lower speed limits and expand access to booze, with proposals to expand alcoholic beverage sales during the pandemic and allow movie theaters to to provide the opportunity to sell alcoholic beverages.

The budget was finalized about three weeks after its original April 1 due date and came after a cyberattack hampered the state office that drafts bills for the Legislature.