Here’s What You Need to Know About the 2022 State Budget
Gov. Kathy Hochul meets with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie shortly after being sworn in as governor, on August 24, 2021. | Kathy Hochul/Twitter

Here’s What You Need to Know About the 2022 State Budget

How the three budget proposals from the governor, Assembly and Senate stack up.

Over the next two weeks, New York state lawmakers and the governor will hash out an agreement on the most important item of the legislative session: the state budget. The budget — which at over $200 billion is larger than most countries’ national budgets — will lay out the state’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. It also often serves as the vehicle for major non-fiscal legislation in areas ranging from criminal justice to education.

In January, the governor released her “executive budget,” her proposal for this year’s budget. A week ago, each house of the legislature released its own budget proposals, known as the “one-house budgets.” The executive and one-house budgets form the basis for a frenetic period of negotiations between the governor, legislative leaders, and their staff, leading up to an April 1 deadline for a final budget agreement.

Both legislative chambers have proposed about $7 billion more in spending than the governor this year, most of which would come from putting less money in the state’s reserves. (Unlike last year, when both chambers proposed raising about that amount in new taxes, neither chamber is proposing tax hikes, mindful that they might play poorly in this year’s elections.)

Here’s an overview of some of the most important items contained in the three budget proposals, and where they differ.

  • Total spending (Executive: $218 billion, Assembly: $225 billion, Senate: ~$225 billion)
    • Buoyed by federal stimulus spending and revenue from last year’s tax hikes, any of the three proposals would amount to New York’s largest budget ever, breaking last year’s $212 billion record. As of writing, the Senate had not published an estimate for the total cost of its budget proposal, but it is likely in the same ballpark as the Assembly’s, said Patrick Orecki, director of state studies at the Citizens Budget Commission.
  • Rainy Day Reserves
    • Hochul has proposed saving more for a future rainy day, while the legislature wants to spend more on present priorities. Hochul’s proposal would boost the state’s two reserve funds by $920 million and a somewhat nebulous “economic uncertainty” fund by $4.1 billion. The Assembly agreed to the deposit to the reserve funds, but rather than adding to the economic uncertainties fund, proposed withdrawing $1.1 billion, to be used to pay for its spending plans. The Senate has not published its plans for the reserve funds, but Orecki said that “the numbers most likely closely align.”
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
    • Both the Senate and the Assembly included a proposal to increase the state Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax rebate for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. The expansion would cost $731 million, the Assembly estimated. Hochul did not include this proposal.
  • Public Campaign Financing
    • Starting in 2024, New York State will have a publicly financed campaign system for candidates for statewide office and the state legislature, intended to reduce the influence of large donors in politics and make it easier for less financially connected candidates to run for office. It will function similarly to New York City’s public campaign finance system, with all small dollar contributions matched several times over by public funds. Hochul’s budget proposal allotted $10.5 million to the system, which is set to begin operating at the end of this year, and the Assembly approved that amount. The Senate upped the figure to $40 million, a move that was cheered by good-government groups such as the Brennan Center for Justice, which said in testimony in February that the higher amount would “build candidate and voter confidence in the program” and “provide assurance to campaigns that they can plan their fundraising strategies around [it]”.

  • Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP)
    • Last year, the federal government gave New York $2.3 billion for rent relief, and the state added $100 million of its own funds on top of that. This year, Hochul again requested billions of dollars for rent relief from the federal government, but was rebuffed: in two rounds of awards, New York received less than $150 million. The Senate and Assembly are seeking to have the state make up much of that shortfall with its own funds, out of a $2 billion cash pot set aside by Hochul for coronavirus relief. Hochul left the legislature to determine what programs to spend the $2 billion on, and the legislature chose to focus on housing-related measures, including rent relief, for which the Senate proposed a $1 billion rent relief program, and the Assembly proposed $1.25 billion. The requests have been cheered by advocates for both low-income tenants, hundreds of thousands of whom remain behind on the rent, and landlords, the direct recipients of the relief dollars.
  • Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP)
    • For the first time, both the Senate and the Assembly included $250 million to create a voucher program to subsidize apartment rentals for homeless or recently homeless New Yorkers, modeled on the federal Section 8 program. Voucher holders would pay up to 30% of their income in rent, with the voucher covering the rest of the tab. A similar program was included in the Senate’s budget proposal last year, but was not supported by the Assembly or then-Governor Cuomo. Hochul’s executive budget did not include the program.
  • Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA)
    • Both the Senate and Assembly proposed a $150 million program to fund nonprofits who convert hotels or commercial properties to affordable housing. Hochul’s proposal did not include this program.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units
    • Hochul’s budget proposal in January included a bill, sponsored in the legislature by Sen. Pete Harckham (D-Putnam) and Asm. Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan), to legalize accessory dwelling units — small, independent units on single-family home lots — across the state. But after sustained criticism from rival gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-L.I.) and other Long Island politicians, Hochul scaled back the proposal to legalizing such units only in New York City. Even this much more limited measure did not make it into the legislative budget proposals — neither the Senate nor the Assembly included any moves to increase the feasibility of legal ADUs. Hochul also withdrew another proposal meant to overcome local exclusionary zoning preventing housing construction, which would have spurred construction near transit stations in New York City’s suburbs.
  • 421a/485w Real Estate Tax Breaks
    • The 421-a tax break is nominally meant to encourage the construction of multi-unit affordable housing in New York City. It’s a longtime bȇte noire of affordable housing advocates, who charge that it is a giveaway to real estate developers and does little to provide additional housing. Hochul promised to end it — but suggested replacing it with a largely identical program. The 485-w tax break would continue 421-a’s tax cuts, with slight increases to affordability requirements and wages for construction workers. New York Focus reported in February that Hochul’s proposal faced significant opposition from legislators, and indeed, neither the Senate nor the Assembly included 485-w in their proposed budgets.
  • NYCHA Funding
    • Both the Senate and Assembly boosted planned state funding for the New York City Public Housing Authority to $1.25 billion, up from Hochul’s proposed $750 million.
  • Good Cause Eviction
    • Notably absent from all three budget proposals was so-called “Good Cause” legislation, a measure to limit year-over-year rent increases and require landlords to renew tenants’ leases, except in specific conditions such as non-payment of rent. The bill is a top priority this year for tenant advocates and for progressives in the legislature, though some tenant advocates said that the proposal has the best chance of passage after the budget is passed, in the rest of the legislative session.

  • Essential Plan
    • Both houses of the legislature proposed spending $345 million to include undocumented immigrants in New York’s “Essential Plan” health insurance program. The Essential Plan is open to New Yorkers who make up to 200% of the federal poverty level—$55,000 for a family of four in 2022—and offers coverage including preventative care, vision and dental benefits, and prescription drugs, generally for a low premium or no premium at all. Hochul did not include this expansion in her proposal, though she did suggest expanding eligibility for New Yorkers who are not undocumented to 250% of the federal poverty level.
  • Excluded Workers Fund (EWF)
    • None of the proposed budgets included another top priority of immigrant advocates: continuing the excluded workers fund. Last year, New York was the only state in the country to pass significant cash relief for undocumented immigrants shut out of federal coronavirus stimulus, allocating $2.1 billion for the purpose—an amount which was quickly depleted. This year, despite a mounting activist campaign to refill the fund’s coffers, no additional funding has so far been allotted.

  • Bail Reform Rollback
    • The highest profile conflict in this year’s negotiations could be over a Hochul proposal that wasn’t included in her executive budget: On Thursday, the New York Post reported that Hochul plans to introduce a legislative package to allow judges to order pretrial detention for a greater variety of crimes and for repeat offenders, in a walkback of a 2019 law limiting pretrial detention. That will likely face stiff opposition in the legislature, whose leadership has recently rebuffed calls from Mayor Eric Adams and others to revisit the law.
  • Clean Slate 
    • Hochul proposed a version of what criminal justice advocates are calling the “clean slate” bill, which would seal most criminal records by default after a certain length of time has elapsed. Hochul’s proposal would seal misdemeanor convictions three years after a person’s maximum sentence  elapses, and seven years after for felonies. The Senate’s version of the bill would more quickly seal the convictions of people released on parole or community supervision, sealing a misdemeanor record three years after release from incarceration, and seven years after for a felony. The Assembly’s budget did not include the clean slate bill.
  • Assigned Counsel
    • Both the Senate and the Assembly budgeted $210 million to increase the pay rates for lawyers who defend New Yorkers who are accused of crimes but lack the means to pay for their own legal counsel. “Assigned counsel,” as such lawyers are known, are paid $75 an hour—a rate that hasn’t changed since 2004, and is less than half the amount paid to lawyers who do similar work at the federal level. Among other effects, that has led to a severe and growing shortage of rural family lawyers, New York Focus reported last month.
  • Other Criminal Justice Initiatives: 
    • Free Prison Phone Calls
      • The Assembly’s budget included nearly $10 million towards free phone calls for people incarcerated in state-run prisons and juvenile detention facilities. Last year, New York Focus reported that people incarcerated in New York’s prisons and jails pay some of the highest rates for phone calls in the country.
    • IDs on Leaving Incarceration
      • Hochul’s proposal included a measure to facilitate access to ID cards and other records such as birth certificates for individuals leaving incarceration. Absence of ID is often a major obstacle to obtaining employment, housing, and government benefits after being released from prison or jail. The Senate and Assembly did not include this proposal.
    • Oversight of Prison Medical System
      • The Assembly included a bill to expand the state Department of Health’s oversight over prison healthcare provision to include women, transgender people, people with chronic health conditions, and the elderly. The bill passed the legislature in 2019, but was vetoed by then-Governor Cuomo. Neither Hochul nor the Senate included the proposal.
  • Not Included: Parole Reform
    • Two other top priorities of criminal justice reform advocates were excluded from all three budget proposals: Fair and Timely Parole, and Elder Parole. The former bill would widen the criteria that make incarcerated people eligible for parole, and the latter would increase opportunities for parole release for people over 55. 

  • Mayoral Control
    • In a move that could have a significant impact on the balance of power between New York City and Albany, the legislature’s proposals would not renew the city’s control over its public schools for another four years, as Mayor Eric Adams has requested. Hochul had included so-called “mayoral control” in her budget proposal, and Adams said that its exclusion from the legislature’s plans was “disappointing.” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that he was open to reconsidering the policy before the legislative session ends in June, but only after the budget is passed.
  • Public Higher Education
    • Both the Senate and Assembly proposed about $1 billion more in funding for the State and City University of New York systems than Hochul did. The Senate proposed $500 million in additional funding for CUNY on top of Hochul’s $3.2 billion of funding, and $600 million for SUNY on top of Hochul’s $10.6 billion. The money would be used to hire additional full-time faculty, decrease attendance costs, and increase adjunct instructor pay, among other uses. The Assembly’s proposal would boost funds for public higher education (across both university systems) by $900 million over the governor’s budget, largely for the same purposes as the Senate.
  • Child Care
    • Since January, state funding for child care has been a source of dispute between Hochul and the legislature. Both agree that it should increase, but differ on how much. Hochul’s proposal would boost state funding for child care by $1.4 billion, with some of that spending spread over the next three years. The money would be used to support increased wages for child care workers, widen eligibility for tuition subsidies, and subsidize providers. Both the Senate and Assembly proposed a significantly higher spending increase: The Senate proposed $2.2 billion this year, rising to $4.1 billion by 2024, with a significant share of the money being used to make child care free for families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty line, and greatly subsidized for families earning up to 500%. The Assembly proposed an additional $2 billion per year, with most of the funds used to subsidize the cost of care for families making up to 400% of the federal poverty level.
  • Home Health Care Wages
    • The Assembly included nearly $1.2 billion in funding to raise the minimum wage for home health care workers to $22.50 an hour, up from wages currently as low as $13.20 an hour. The Senate also included $625 million for home care wage support. Hochul proposed a one-time $3,000 bonus for home care workers instead of a permanent wage boost, a measure that many advocates said was insufficient to stem New York’s statewide home care worker shortage.

  • Gas Ban
    • Hochul’s budget outline included a proposed ban on the use of fossil fuel heating systems in new buildings by 2027, with heating to be powered by cleaner electric systems instead. But the Senate proposed a more aggressive timeline for the ban: fossil fuel heating would be banned by 2023 in buildings under seven stories tall, and by 2027 in buildings over seven stories — the same timeline as a ban passed this winter by New York City. The Assembly did not include either proposal.
  • Environmental Bond Act
    • Hochul’s other major climate proposal was increasing a previously planned environmental bond issue, which Governor Cuomo’s administration had removed from voters’ ballots, from $3 billion to $4 billion. The bonds are set to fund adaptation projects such as building flood barriers and increasing state buildings’ energy efficiency, as well as some programs to reduce carbon emissions. Both houses proposed a bigger expansion — the Assembly to $5 billion and the Senate to $6 billion.
  • Utility Debt Relief
    • Both houses proposed significant funds to aid New Yorkers in paying off a collective $2 billion in utility bill debt. The Senate proposed $400 million in relief, and the Assembly proposed $500 million. Utility debt relief was not included in Hochul’s budget.
  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Raid
    • In a continuation of a Cuomo-era policy that environmentalists had hoped Hochul would abandon, Hochul’s budget outline proposed diverting about an eighth of the $160 million Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative fund — the state’s only cash pool dedicated solely to green energy — into the general treasury. Both the Senate and the Assembly rejected this transfer, with the Assembly saying that the money should instead be spent on projects such as electric vehicle charging stations.

Correction: The Assembly's one-house budget did not include any proposal to ban fossil fuel heating systems.