At long last, the 2017-2018 New York state budget has been passed. As per usual, the budget was a mixed bag.
One major question that was resolved in this budget was the question of whether 16- and 17-year-old offenders should continue to be tried as adults in New York’s criminal justice system. The Governor and the Legislature answered that question “no.” According to Politfact.com:
Lower-level crimes, like violations and misdemeanors, will now be handled in family court or a local court instead of criminal court. Felony cases will start in a new youth section of criminal court where a family court judge will preside. Violent felonies will remain in criminal court unless the judge determines otherwise. Non-violent felonies [will] be transferred to family court unless the judge is convinced to keep [them] in criminal court. Criminals under the age of 18 will serve time in separate facilities from adults. Offenders can apply to have their records sealed after a ten-year waiting period.
Another newsworthy item in this budget was the inclusion of $160 million for Gov. Cuomo’s “free college” plan at public colleges and universities. This program will be limited to students from low- and middle-income families who take full-time courseloads and remain in good academic standing. In addition, students are obliged “to stay and work in New York State after they graduate for the number of years they received the award. If they skip out on that requirement, the award turns into a loan that must be paid back.” The budget also provides for additional aid to private college students through the Tuition Assistance Program.
The budget contains an array of other provisions that may be of interest. The budget expands ride sharing into upstate New York, a two-year continuation of an income tax surcharge for high earners, workers’ compensation reforms sought by the Senate majority, state funding for indigent legal services, a $10 million legal fund for undocumented immigrants facing deportation, the continuation of a lucrative tax credit for film and television productions, and tax breaks for certain employers who hire young apprentices. The budget also provides a whopping $385 million for what the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon calls “the biggest, murkiest pork-barrel slush fund Albany has ever seen”—the State and Municipal Facilities Program. Significantly, due to the uncertain nature of the federal budget, Gov. Cuomo sought and obtained budget language stating that “if Congress cuts funding to New York by at least $850 million, the governor’s budget director will develop a plan to make spending cuts that will automatically go into effect unless the Legislature imposes its own reductions within 90 days.”
Regarding issues of interest to Christians, we are pleased to report that online poker was not legalized in this budget. We are also pleased that a tax credit for farmers that donate food to food banks was included in the budget. Sadly, the budget did not include a NYCF-supported tax deduction for parents who adopt children with special needs, and the budget continues to fund elective abortions through Medicaid.