Budget Wrangling Continues

It’s been more than three months since Governor Kathy Hochul (D – Buffalo, Erie County) delivered to the state legislature her 2023-24 state budget with a price tag of $227 billion attached to it.


The budget was due April 1, no joke, and now the budget is four weeks past due. On Wednesday, February 1, Hochul had high hopes the budget would be on time and be a spending plan to help all New Yorkers.

Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado, left, listens intently as Hochul puts up her fists showing how she will fight for the budget she proposed on Wednesday, February 1.

“Our $227 billion budget will include unprecedented investments in areas that will make a positive impact in people’s lives, that’ll make the New York dream real, and make it safer, more affordable and more livable,” Hochul said at the time. “Our agenda focuses on affordability, livability [and] safety, and includes groundbreaking proposals dealing with housing, mental health, child care, public safety and even a minimum wage increase during these difficult times. All this just to make it a little bit easier to be a family living here in New York.”

So far, the idea of constructing 800,000 units of affordable housing has fallen by the wayside, and other big dreams are still being negotiated by Hochul’s staff and the budget staff in the Senate and Assembly – all led by Democrats.

This is the latest budget in 13 years. The latest budget ended up passing in August 2010, the final year of Gov. David Paterson’s tenure in office.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Hochul have both said that “a good budget is better than an on-time budget.” Translated into English, those code words can only mean both sides are digging in their heels and we’re in for a bumpy ride.

In the meantime, 83,000 state workers need to get paid, so state lawmakers, fearing the wrath of their constituents, have been passing budget extenders to pay state workers and to pay bills in an effort to keep the government running. Each time an extension is passed (this week was the fifth one), the price tag is $3.6 billion. State lawmakers have their salaries held until a budget is passed but they are reimbursed for travel and other expenses during the stalemate. Heastie said this week he is hopeful for an agreement by Friday, April 28.

Besides the failure to get the housing portion of the budget agreed upon, tweaks to the 2019 bail reform measure are also off the table for now. Hochul wants to give judges more discretion to set bail when someone is charged with serious crimes. “I’m working hard to have policies that make sense, to give clarity to judges so there’s no inconsistency and that we deal with serious offenses. This is what New Yorkers want us to do,” Hochul said.

There are several other sticking points, but whatever the outcome, you can be sure that the $227 billion price tag Hochul proposed will be higher when lawmakers finally pass the budget.


Mezuzah or No Mezuzah on Legislators Doorposts

Sometimes waiting around for a budget to be negotiated and passed, a person finds they have many hours on their hands to walk the halls of the Legislative Office Building across the street from the Capitol where most state legislators have their office.

Wandering the halls one day, I noticed mezuzahs affixed to doorposts, something I had only seen occasionally. Some lawmakers you would expect to have a mezuzah didn’t have one and at least one Jewish lawmaker who is not observant had a mezuzah affixed to his office door. He glued the mezuzah to the doorpost.

Depending upon how a door to a state lawmaker’s office opens and depending if there is a doorpost, some state legislators who want to have a mezuzah on their door find it difficult to affix the encased scroll.

Many Jews know that a mezuzah has a small parchment scroll inside a case affixed to the right side of a door as it opens. The inscription has the words from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 and the name Sha-ai. The scroll is affixed to the doorpost of Jewish households and businesses as a sign and reminder of one’s faith.


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A scan of six Jewish lawmakers showed four had a mezuzah outside their Albany office door. Two lawmakers who do not have a door with an indentation and is flush with the wall, have not figured out a way to attach the mezuzah.

The most honest reason I heard for not having a mezuzah was from Assemblyman David Weprin (D – Hollis, Queens). He was assigned this year to be the chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee, a busy and prestigious post. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his staff, who assigns offices to the legislators, moved Weprin’s office this year. With all the hubbub and chaotic machinations of moving to a new office and hiring staff, Weprin said he hasn’t put up his mezuzah yet but he has every intention of putting one up.

Assemblyman Dan Rosenthal (D – Kew Gardens Hills, Queens) declined to comment on the matter for The Jewish Press.

The pictures will tell the tale. 


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].