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Hochul says budget will be on-time or late depending on key issues

Governor Kathy Hochul expressed optimism on Wednesday that a state budget can be agreed upon and approved by April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year. However, she has also made it clear that she is seeking contentious changes to the state’s cash bail law, which may delay the approval of the budget.

Hochul wants to end the “least restrictive” standard for when judges consider bail in cases involving serious criminal charges. She believes that the measures would clarify when cash bail should be required after an election season in which crime concerns dominated the debate. However, Democrats in the state Legislature oppose the changes and have not included the plan in their separate budget proposals.

While the governor is confident that an on-time budget can be achieved, she is not ruling out holding up a budget deal in order to secure her preferred adjustments to the cash bail law. She stated in a news conference in Albany on Wednesday, “But if we don’t, it will be because we have ongoing discussions about matters I deem exceedingly important.”

Proponents of the measure argue that ending cash bail is meant to address inequities in the criminal justice system, while opponents argue that it makes New York less safe. Hochul cited 2022 crime statistics showing murders and shootings down overall in New York, but index crimes or serious charges overall have risen.

Last year, Hochul sought changes to the cash bail law late in the budget process that ultimately expanded the circumstances in which bail could be required. The changes were negotiated largely behind closed doors.