Gov. Kathy Hochul announces $229 billion budget including bail reform, mental health care, MTA investments

NEW YORK — New York lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul have agreed on a tentative new budget.

It’s nearly four weeks delayed, the latest budget in over a decade, and it includes changes to things like bail reform, minimum wage and money for the MTA.

The $229 billion budget is still likely a week away from a vote. The governor calls it a conceptual budget — in other words, not quite a done deal.

One of the biggest budget battles was over bail reform, and now Hochul says judges will have greater authority to set bail and hold dangerous defendants.

“We’ve made improvements to our bail laws. The agreement removes what is known as the ‘least restrictive means standard,’ which many judges have said tied their hands. It gives judges discretion. They need to hold violent criminals accountable while still upholding our commitment to a justice system that is fair and accessible to all, and also ensuring that poverty is never treated as a crime,” Hochul said.

The minimum wage will be going up in 2024 to $16 in New York City, Long Island and Westchester. There will be 50-cent increases in 2025 and 2026, and starting in 2027, the minimum wage will increase annually tied to the consumer price index.

“In other words, if costs go up, so will your wages,” Hochul said.

The state’s child tax credit will be expanded to children under 4 years old, there will be more than $1 billion for mental health services, and the cigarette tax is expected to rise $1, making it the highest in the nation.

Additionally, the MTA will get an infusion of money, some $1.1 billion with an increase in the payroll mobility tax for New York City’s largest businesses, and there are plans to encourage more bus ridership.

“They’re launching a two-year pilot program in New York City to offer free bus service on five different lines, one in each of the boroughs,” Hochul said.

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber released the following statement after Hochul made her budget announcement Thursday evening:

“MTA riders have no better friend than Governor Kathy Hochul. Since day one of her administration, she has been working to make sure that New Yorkers have safe, reliable, and frequent service on subways, buses, commuter railroads, and paratransit. We are incredibly grateful to the Legislature, along with the Governor, for this effort to assure the MTA’s long-term financial stability, and we look forward to working with them as we deliver essential mass transit service for New Yorkers.”

But the governor’s plan to boost affordable housing, central to her agenda, fell apart when no agreement could be reached.

“We are not walking away from this issue, and I won’t stop working hard and fighting until we make housing more affordable for New Yorkers,” Hochul said.

The budget also includes a plan for 14 charter schools.

This is not a done deal until the bills are printed and voted on, so there could be more back-and-forth. A vote could come next week.

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