LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Highlights of the State Budget in the Era of COVID-19

Philip Weiden | April 2020

COVID-19 notwithstanding, New York State is required to have a budget for the ensuing fiscal year in place by April 1st.

The state budget has been agreed to by the governor and the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently signed it into law. The budget dealt with the numbers before everything completely collapsed in the economy so it could very likely need to be revisited. The governor has received executive authority to cut the budget quarterly if the budget falls below revenue projections.

Education aid was held at pretty much at the same levels they were at in 2019. This is the first time in seven years that the city will not see an increase in education aid nor will school districts outside of New York City. Normally this would be controversial but not in emergency times.

The budget is about $177 billion to $178 billion and remains flat at last year’s levels. Citizens Budget Commission Director of State Studies David Friedfel stated in a report in City & State New York. “This makes it likely the state budget director will use new authority included in the budget to enact rolling cuts throughout the year.”

Thankfully, because of the crisis the legislature did not act on making independent contractors’ employees. Doing this would be devastating to Realtors in the first place; doing it now would have been be another major setback for the industry especially with the economy currently at a virtual standstill. We were seeking to keep real estate exempt from this bill.

The other issue which Albany did not act on was “Good Cause Eviction,” which we vigorously opposed as it would prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant if the tenant did not pay their rent. This would force the landlord to go to court and get a court order by a judge to evict the tenant regardless of any misdeeds by the tenant. It also turns a lease into a month-to-month rental even if the landlord wishes to rent out the apartment and put it on the market. It is, in actuality, universal rent control disguised in a benign name.

Thankfully the legislature decided not to raise any taxes this session, which is a positive development. New York has gained a reputation as a high-tax state making it problematic to attract new development. Stay tuned for future updates on the state budget.

Philip Weiden
Legislative Affairs columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.