Governor Kathy Hochul and Budget Director Blake Washington highlighted Hochul's budget proposals on January 16, 2024. Photo: Mike Groll / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul | Illustration: Maia Hibbett
We read the governor’s, Senate’s, and Assembly’s budget proposals — so you don’t have to.
By New York Focus

Is New York about to slash school budgets? Cut Medicaid spending? Close prisons? The next few weeks will determine this and much more.

Between now and April 1, New York’s lawmakers will negotiate how to spend the state’s billions. They may or may not hit their April Fool’s Day budget deadline. Along with allocating state funding, they have to sort out a host of contentious policy issues, from health care workers’ wages to tenants’ rights. A key question, of course, is how much it will cost to run the state: Governor Kathy Hochul proposed total spending of $233 billion, while the Assembly and Senate want to go up to $246 billion.

They do agree on some things: providing billions to manage the influx of asylum seekers, for example, and overhauling the way kids learn to read. But in many areas, they differ sharply, like on what defines a hate crime and how much to spend on clean water projects. The answers depend on how the looming negotiations go.


New York Focus is visiting Syracuse, where we’re partnering with Central Current to host a conversation with residents about local media. We want to hear from you! Join us on April 2nd.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie speaks at a press conference in 2021. Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
While Heastie privately pledged to avoid meetings with relevant interests, lobbyist Rebecca Lamorte has sought to keep representing them before the Assembly, according to her employer’s attorney.
By Chris Bragg

The state-controlled “I Love New York” suite, a VIP box at the Buffalo Bills’ home Highmark Stadium, was filled with top state politicians, lobbyists, and their significant others. On December 17, as a key late-season clash unfolded between the Bills and the Dallas Cowboys, Governor Kathy Hochul, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and lobbyist Patrick Jenkins were among the 16 people gathered there to watch the game.

They’d each invited a guest, as later noted in a public disclosure filing that listed everyone’s names and workplaces. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a longtime Cowboys fan, was there too, but he was not noted to have brought a guest.

The 16th and final person on the guest list, Rebecca Lamorte, was described in the disclosure as “self-employed” and not designated as anybody’s plus-one. But she did not end up in the exclusive suite by chance, nor is she self-employed.

Lamorte serves as legislative and communications director for the Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust, or LECET. She lobbies the New York legislature on behalf of building trades and construction unions and their contractors, which the cooperative represents.

And she has been romantically involved with Heastie, apparently since at least last November, according to a document obtained by New York Focus and an attorney representing her employer.

As a nonprofit, Greater New York lobbies on behalf of 280 hospitals, health systems, and continuing care facilities in New York and three nearby states. We took a look at the money machine behind the state’s largest lobbying group. New York Focus Albany Bureau Chief Chris Bragg spoke with Radio Catskill about his investigation. 

When the houses of the state Legislature introduce their budget proposals, negotiations will kick off in earnest. Maia Hibbett for New York Focus
We answer your questions on the state's notoriously opaque budget process.
By Sam Mellins

In the coming weeks, New York’s lawmakers will pass a budget that determines how the state will spend over $230 billion in public money. It’s a massive sum, bigger than most countries’ budgets, and outpacing every other state except California.

At stake are key questions for New York’s future. Will the state invest in treatment centers for people struggling with opioid addiction? Will it stop subsidizing the expansion of fossil fuel–based heating systems? With a declining incarcerated population, how many prisons can the state close?

When the houses of the state legislature introduce their budget proposals this week, negotiations over these issues — and many more — will kick off in earnest.

Over the next few months, New York Focus reporters will be digging into the budget process, analyzing the state’s spending priorities, and explaining what that will mean for New Yorkers across the state.

Submit your budget-related questions to New York Focus reporters below.

Industrial development agencies can subsidize a range of projects, including manufacturing and warehousing, renewable energy, educational and cultural institutions, horse and car racing facilities, and retirement homes.
What are industrial development agencies?
By Arabella Saunders and Julia Rock

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, visited an aquarium, ordered something on Amazon, or paid your utility bill in New York, your life may have been impacted by a little-known local authority called an industrial development agency. Under state law, IDAs have the power to dole out tax breaks to corporations in order to promote the “economic welfare” of their communities — and as a result, they play a huge role in shaping the tax bases of towns, counties, and school districts.

The agencies comprise a sizable chunk of New York’s economic development apparatus. The state hands out nearly $11 billion in subsidies annually to lure corporations, with mixed results, little oversight, and plenty of scandal.

Do you feel you have a say in what happens in your local community? Do you feel informed about what’s going on? Take our survey.


Copyright © New York Focus 2023, All rights reserved.
Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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