NY’s 2023 budget: The good, the bad and the questionable

It’s no surprise that the state’s budget for the next fiscal year is enormous.

With a windfall of federal money, unexpectedly high tax revenue — and no doubt a big political incentive for Gov. Kathy Hochul to carve out some voter-friendly policy wins ahead of the next election — the legislature passed a whopping $220 billion budget this month.

Let’s take a look at some of the good, the bad and the questionable things in the new budget.

The bad

As per usual, there’s a lot to unpack. Included in this package is not only a complex web of spending, but a variety of policy changes — everything from criminal justice reforms to the extension of restaurants’ ability to offer to-go cocktails. Members of the state Legislature did try to separate Hochul’s non-budget related policy proposals out of the budget, according to the Gothamist, but not all of them were removed.

Stuffing politically-difficult policy issues — especially complex ones like criminal justice reforms — into budget negotiations just isn’t the right way to do things. We believe that policy issues should be dealt with separately, not shoehorned into budget negotiations.

Another point worth mentioning: the budget was late. Though a few days may not seem like a big deal, it could translate to delayed payments to state workers.

The questionable

If any taxpayers out there are wondering if the state is really going to spend $600 million in public funds to help construct a new Buffalo Bills stadium — after billionaire Bills owner Terrence Pegula threatened to move the team elsewhere — the Legislature has answered. Yes. The state has agreed to spend not just $600 million toward construction, but another $250 million over the next 30 years for upkeep of the stadium. That’s not to mention the additional $250 million contribution from taxpayers in Erie County. There’s clearly a public benefit to keeping the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, but the question is worth asking: Why are taxpayers footing the bill for a private project, especially one where a billionaire is involved? We’ve yet to hear a real answer.

The good

The new state budget sets aside $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, which this year includes $8 million to address the impacts of hiker traffic in wilderness areas in the Adirondack and Catskills parks. The state has also earmarked more than half a million dollars for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to put together a “visitor use management framework.” That’s good news in theory, but we hope to learn much more about what, exactly, all of that money will be spent on.

A $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Clean Jobs Environmental Bond Act made it into the budget this year, though voters will have the final say on this in November.

Also included in the budget is $7 billion to be spent over four years to help subsidize child care for families who earn up to $83,000 per year, the New York Times reported last week. Again, this seems like good news in theory — child care funding is certainly needed, but should be spent carefully to ensure those who need it most see a real benefit.


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