Hochul announces preliminary agreement on $237B NY state budget — with new measures on shoplifting

Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders announced a handshake deal on a $237 billion budget with new measures to crack down on shoplifting – including beefed-up penalties for assaulting retail workers.

The preliminary plan would also allow prosecutors to hit repeat retail thieves with felony charges, and includes measures to crack down on illegal pot stores and kick start housing production in New York City with limits on landlords

“I’m pleased to announce that we have the parameters of a conceptual agreement,” Hochul told reporters on Monday.

Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul rebuffed proposals from the legislature to raise taxes on high-income earners in the state budget.

Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) will now have to iron out final details of the spending plan in the next few days. Barring a major implosion, the governor could sign off on the budget as early as the end of the week.

Hochul, Heastie and Stewart-Cousins had gotten on board with a version of a massive housing deal on Friday, but lawmakers took issue provisions of the deal involving “Good Cause Eviction” tenant protections and rent-stabilized apartment upgrades.

In her remarks Monday, Hochul called the updated housing deal, “a transformative deal to reverse the downward spiral on housing stock all while protecting our tenants.”

The updated proposal that would exempt apartments above 245% fair market rent–around $6,000 for a one-bedroom apartment–from effective caps on yearly rent rises under the “Good Cause” tenant protections law. The law stipulates that tenants renting units below that threshold may not raise rent year-to-year more than 10% or 5% plus core price inflation, whichever is less.

There are still several details that were being worked out as part of the housing deal, including whether to include an exemption to good cause for landlords with 10 or fewer units in their portfolio.

Though details are still sparse – Hochul said the deal will include measures allowing local law enforcement to crack down on illicit cannabis shops as well as a package of measures meant to spur the wave of retail theft.

Hochul said the deal includes language to increase criminal penalties against people who assault retail workers – something that Heastie had publicly rejected.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Legislative leaders were instrumental in pushing back against Hochul’s inclusion of Eric Adams’ call for a 4-year-extension of mayoral control in the state budget. AP

“I insisted on increased penalties for those who assault a retail worker and we got it done,” Hochul said.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also secured a significant last-minute win, getting a two-year extension of mayoral control for New York City schools.

Massive education cuts that had originally been proposed by Hochul are largely off the table, including one provision that would’ve seen almost half of the districts in the state get a cut in funding.

After pushback from the legislature, negotiators settled on contracting a study and implementation plan to be conducted by the Rockefeller Institute that sources said will suggest changes to be put into effect ahead of next year’s budget.

Hochul secured a slight decrease in how much inflation is weighted in the formula when the state determines how much school aid to deliver to each district. That means some schools will see less funding than expected under the existing formula, but not a reduction in funds year-to-year. 

The deal is not expected to include new taxes, a line Hochul held despite calls from both houses of the legislature to make millionaires pay more. Those calls were particularly easy to rebuff though, especially with updated revenue projections padding the budget with another nearly $1.3 billion during the middle of talks.

“Even though there were many loud voices pushing us to raise taxes we accomplished all of this without raising taxes on New Yorkers,” Hochul said.

Hochul and the legislature also had little debate, sources said, of her inclusion of an additional $2.4 billion to support New York City as it grapples with thousands of migrants. Adams who had asked Albany to chip in more.