NYS Budget Finally Passes

A legislative column by Assemblyman Michael Montesano (R,C,I-Glen Head)

I am relieved to announce the budget has passed for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The budget, which was agreed upon after days of negotiation and debate, was due on midnight of April 1 but wasn’t passed until the early morning hours of April 3.

It is disappointing that not only was the budget late, but it was also weighed down by many policy-related issues which had no place being in our state’s budget, especially during a public health crisis. Passage of the budget comes with some highs, such as making desperately needed changes to bail reform, adjusting prescription drug pricing and banning flavor vaping products in New York. Sadly, it also comes with some lows, including no increase to funding for our schools, $2.5 million cut to our libraries and a questionable surrogacy law that’s left us with more questions than answers.

While I am somewhat satisfied that there has been some significant changes in the bail reform law and discovery law, we could have gone further. The changes still did not restore a judge’s discretion to consider a person’s dangerousness to the community or their prior record, which can often be an indicator in repeat offenses or if the person is a flight risk. I think an adequate job was done in adding a large number of previously concerning offenses to the list of those which are now able to be considered for bail, but we still could have done more and, honestly, it should have been done much sooner.

I’d have to say the biggest issue I have with the budget is the fact that it is not set in stone, and the governor maintains the right to change these numbers as he sees fit. This means he can take away or give more to certain programs or initiatives, which could be both a blessing and a curse given our current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak. Overall, I have mixed feelings about this year’s budget. There were some bad policies and funding cuts included, but I am also pleased we were able to restore some funding to things like veterans’ services, such as the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Support Project and make some necessary changes to bail reform.