New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Wednesday that with one week until the new fiscal year begins, finalizing the budget remains a priority, but he conceded it may not come in on time.
“We're going to try to get it done April 1, but I'm not going to risk public health to get it done April 1,” Cuomo said. “We'll see where it goes.”
Those comments came a day after House Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, announced he tested positive for COVID-19. While the speaker said on Tuesday he felt fine and the governor indicated that as well Wednesday, the positive test “is going to complicate” budget talks moving forward as staff members are now in quarantine.
The days when 15 to 20 people would sit in a room and hash out portions of the spending plan are over, at least during the pandemic, the governor said.
Some progress still was made on the budget Wednesday evening as The New York Post reported after the governor’s news conference that lawmakers and the administration reached a deal to legalize recreational marijuana.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, told the Post the state would levy a 9 percent tax on retail sales. That would bring in about $300 million for the state.
Cuomo talked about that priority during his remarks, saying the time to legalize the drug was years ago.
“It's in New Jersey. It's in Massachusetts,” he said. “To say we're going to stop it is not an option. It is here. The only question is, do we regulate it here? Do we gather the revenue here?”
Before the marijuana deal, Cuomo said there’s about a $4.5 billion funding gap between the administration’s plan and what lawmakers were proposing. Lawmakers are still trying to identify how to get $7 billion for their plan.
For Cuomo, the number for him is about $2.5 billion, but the administration noted earlier this week that the federal money and higher than expected revenues coming in allowed them to restore the cuts they anticipated previously.
The key initiatives left for Cuomo in the budget are rebuilding New York after the pandemic and implementing nursing home and public safety reforms. Budget Director Ron Mujica said the work focuses on identifying revenue sources for those needs.
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