Gov. Kathy Hochul triumphantly unveiled the broad terms of a tentative state budget agreement Thursday afternoon in the State Capitol.

There were two notable absences, however: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the legislative leaders and fellow Democrats with whom the governor s office negotiated a new spending plan.

The State Legislature as of late Thursday afternoon hadn t begun voting on the numerous bills that make up the annual budget, though members hoped to wrap up that process by Friday.

In fact, State Sen. Liz Krueger, chair of the influential Finance Committee, later said the governor s announcement was premature.

The governor and legislative leaders are expected to resume hardball negotiations Monday over her $ billion proposal as they face new deadlines to issue on-time paychecks for the state s legions of workers.

Hochul, who took office in August, and legislative Democrats hashed out agreement on a $ billion budget that raises spending by $ billion over last year and by $ billion over the governor s initial proposal. The Assembly and Senate were approving the final budget bills late Friday and Heastie in the afternoon issued a statement praising the spending plan.

They took advantage of an influx of tax revenue and federal stimulus aid to raise spending or lower taxes across a wide range of categories. Key interest groups that typically would spend the final days of budget negotiations clamoring for more money, or griping about what they received, left Albany happy with the outcome.

Hochul s by far the luckiest governor in New York state history, said John Kaehny, executive director of the nonprofit Reinvent Albany. If she was playing the slots, she would just get cherry, cherry, cherry.

But Hochul, who must run for re-election in November, frustrated Legislature Democrats after introducing two contentious issues late during the process: criminal-justice reforms and $ million in state aid for a new Buffalo Bills stadium.

Wrestling within the party on those and other topics delayed final approval a week past the April deadline. And some critics decried opaque budget negotiations, despite Hochul s promises to improve transparency.

Some observers say Hochul has remained particularly tight-lipped about some of her budget priorities, notably criminal justice reform and state funding for a new Buffalo Bills stadium. The governor s office insisted that Hochul has shared as much information as she can about the stadium pact.

This is as bad a budget procedure, and process, as any we ve seen, said Susan Lerner, executive director of the public-interest group Common CauseNew York.

The State Legislature approved approved a $ billion state budget Saturday morning, nine days after the deadline for passing a budget. The Senate finished voting on spending bills before a.m., and Assembly members cast their final votes shortly before a.m.

Hochul at Thursday s news conference touted a new, more collegial approach to state budget negotiations.

Bill Hammond, senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany, said that while nearly every state budget sets a new record for spending, this is an unusual year because it is “the most flush I’ve ever seen state government.”

“They had a lot of trouble saying no this year, and that will come back to haunt them when this moment of having lots of money runs out,” Hammond said, referring to budget changes that could lead to higher spending on Medicaid in years to come.

Numerous interest groups – such as the state s powerful teachers unions and construction unions whose members will build the new stadium in Orchard Park – came away thrilled with the budget agreement, Kaehny said.

A key theme of the final budget deal is areas where the interests of corporations and labor aligned, Kaehny said.

The budget included $. billion in bonuses for front-line health care workers, for example, a prospect that made health care unions happy and satisfied the owners of health care facilities who now face less pressure to raise wages.

The budget authorizes the establishment of three downstate casinos, a boon for the union representing hotel and gaming industry workers. And it includes about $ million in emergency Covid- rent relief.

Smart, smart politics, because that makes the renters happy, Kaehny said. But who lobbied harder than the renters on that? The landlords.

Where Hochul ran into trouble, observers said, was over the stadium funding and criminal-justice reforms.

Approval of state aid for the Bills stadium – a priority for the governor from Buffalo – was never in doubt, but it perhaps generated more backlash than she anticipated.

It was not done with any input, any meaningful public comment or, frankly, comment from the Legislature, Lerner said.

Ken Kruly, a local political blogger, said progressives and socialist Democrats from downstate raised the stadium deal as an issue.

I don t think it was every really in jeopardy, Kruly said. I think they just had to smooth things out a little bit and put it together with the whole puzzle.

A more serious concern for lawmakers, particularly downstate progressives, was Hochul s proposal to make changes to certain criminal-justice provisions, such as which crimes are eligible for bail.

Hochul argued the changes are meant to improve the laws, not roll back previously enacted reforms. But liberals and non-profit groups aren t happy.

The governor was able to strong arm the legislature into accepting things that should never have been in the budget, Lerner said. Such as bail reform, a highly complex issue that took the legislature over a year to come to a consensus on and that requires evidence-based revision, rather than knee-jerk, political fearmongering.

Hochul made a political calculation in this budget that, Kaehny said, she has little to worry about in a Democratic primary against a challenger from the left.

The reality is that she did make the budget harder than it had to be for her, he said. But her eye is on the general election. And, you know, crime is going up. And so she s trying to position herself against a Republican who s going to be more conservative.

Kruly, who previously served in various finance positions, said Hochul could have used the powers of the state constitution to throw her weight around more than she did, such as attaching strings to budget extender bills.

She didn t hit them over the head with a -by-, he said. The collaboration seemed to come in bits and pieces. Not everybody is totally happy with everything, but that s how budgets happen.

As a moderate Upstate Democrat, Hochul successfully achieved her main budget priorities and addressed some of the priorities also mentioned by her potential future challengers, Kruly said.

Kruly said no matter how much elected leaders talk about a transparent process, that s largely unrealistic.

Kevin Hardwick, Erie County comptroller and a political science professor at Canisius College, said Hochul s biggest challenge was trying to wrangle an agreement out of members of her own party who control both the the Assembly and Senate.

You would think that makes things easier – Well, they re Democrats – but that s not the case, he said. I think that made it particularly difficult.

Democrats are divided into smaller factions, ranging from moderate to far-left liberal. And Hochul has to rely on all of them to support her in her campaign for governor.

She had to walk a fine line, Hardwick said, adding, All that being said, in the end, she got the job done.

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