Hochul’s late budget plan worked 2023

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a state budget “conceptual agreement” about a month after the April 1 deadline. After weeks of acrimonious talks with legislative leaders over her policy goals. The state Legislature approved all 10 budget proposals in a few more days, ending the latest budget in over a decade. Hochul declared victory anyhow.

I promised to do the hard things in my state. “I never back down from a fight,” Hochul said as she announced the arrangement. We achieved plenty. I think New Yorkers can be proud of this budget after many heated discussions.”

Hochul has been successful so far by accepting a late budget over an on-time expenditure plan with fewer ambitions. Her housing proposal was scrapped weeks ago, but she gained bail law concessions and an agreement to operate 14 new charter schools in New York City.

The governor finally obtained bail, charter school, and other concessions.

Hochul has plenty to celebrate as she navigates a difficult working relationship with two supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly, including record school funding and a free bus trial program. Political commentators cautioned that her approaches may not be wise in the long run as she adjusts to government.

Like last year, Hochul first held up negotiations to achieve rollbacks to the 2019 bail changes, underlining its importance to the governor. Hochul’s reforms were adopted over parliamentarians’ and parliamentary leaders’ opposition.

“All the insiders may have been upset that the budget was late, but I think it was a calculated decision to, even if they had a late budget, push the budget until they got wins,” said Shontell Smith, former chief of staff and counsel to the state Senate Democrats. “This was good for her.”

After finding a bail compromise, Hochul held firm on charter schools, failing to lift the regional cap for New York City that would have allowed 100 charters but winning up to 14 new schools in the city by reissuing zombie charters from schools that closed or never opened.

Hochul’s budget discussions differed from those of her predecessor Andrew Cuomo, who took satisfaction in delivering “timely” budgets after decades of state politicians submitting budgets months late. Hochul, unlike Cuomo, came office with supermajorities in both chambers.

Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said supermajorities in 2019 drained Cuomo. “It’s hard—she’s using her levers of power—but if the benefits outweigh the risks, why not keep doing it?” He said that previous Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver delayed the budget until July to gain rent law concessions.

Hochul appears to be profiting from her late budget gambits

“She certainly came out of it with an enormous amount of money to spread around the state, not just to advance her own priorities but to meet the needs – political or otherwise – of community leaders from Brookhaven to Buffalo,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. However, Hochul is “a political work in progress.”

Basil Smikle, the former Democratic Party executive director under two governors, concurred. “In this budget negotiation, she seemed like she was on the defensive, but that she was able to get some victories,” he added.

“Going forward, she needs to articulate more of a longer-term vision for what she wants and really find specific items she can highlight to say—similarly as Cuomo did—that there’s leadership coming out of Albany.” Even if some of Hochul’s budget discussions didn’t go as planned, her second budget and first year as governor were net wins. “At worst, it’s still unclear how shrewd a negotiator is and what her ultimate priorities are,” Levy added.

After the state Senate rejected her first state Court of Appeals chief judge nomination, Hochul needed budget wins this year. The Judiciary Committee voted against sending Hector LaSalle to the floor, a first. When the chamber ultimately placed him before all its members, Democrats rejected him, forcing Hochul to choose another nominee, whom the state Senate later confirmed.

After presenting the budget settlement, the governor disputed that the chief judge conflict hurt her power in Albany. Hochul remarked, “I will never shy away from a fight,” while praising the budget. “You’re not always going to win… but the state requires a leader who’s not afraid to get knocked down because I always get back up.”

Hochul, in her opinion, will have a “more defined leadership style”

Political commentators cautioned Hochul that depending on late budgets to fulfill her aims may not succeed. Smith claimed this method worked well this year. “I don’t know if she should use this strategy in future years.” She believes Hochul’s “leadership style will be more defined” so she doesn’t have to exploit late budgets as her main negotiating point.

Given next year’s state legislative, congressional, and presidential elections, Hochul’s approach may be telling. Democrats want to strengthen their numbers after losing several House seats and control of the House in critical regions. Horner predicted that someone will claim Albany can’t organize.

Although Hochul does not face reelection until 2026, vulnerable Democratic lawmakers returning before voters for a third year in a row with a late budget may feed Republican assaults, which have been successful on Long Island and in portions of the Hudson Valley. When Hochul runs again, late expenditure plans may hurt her. Smikle said she must demonstrate that the Legislature is implementing her objectives.

Not everyone thinks sticking to the approach will hurt her. Levy warned against late budgets. “But if it’s a choice between being attacked for missing a deadline that most people don’t understand and delivering major on major political promises that people really care deeply that you keep, I think any politician will choose the latter.” He suggested that a state credit rating drop or a severe effect on school budgets and nonprofit financing may swing the political balances.

Hochul says the late budget benefits her. “When New Yorkers look back, they don’t care so much about the time elements involved because that time element gave me the necessary time to really get signature bills and ideas over the finish line,” she told reporters soon before lawmakers passed the budget. Her victory lap began with bail reform reforms.

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