NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In a stunning testament to the new one-party rule in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers approved a new budget, filled with long-stalled progressive initiatives, and a groundbreaking plan to charge a fee for driving into the heart of Manhattan.
The actual voting began around noon on Sunday on a $175 billion budget, the second highest of any state in the nation, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done,” the governor said in a statement Sunday. “There are a number of national firsts and it really grapples with the tough issues that have been facing this state for a long time. And we’ve done a lot of good work in this state, a lot of good work that has informed the nation and I think this budget is probably the strongest progressive statement that we’ve made and actually addresses many of the difficult, difficult issues that we are facing today.”
The budget ended weeks of inter-party bickering and was filled with big initiatives long rejected while Republicans controlled the state Senate. Chief among them the controversial congestion pricing plan in which motorists for the very first time will pay a hefty fee to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street.
“It means that there’s going to be a major change to how people use transportation in our city and in our greater region. We want people out of their cars,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky said.
A total of $25 billion will be raised to fix mass transit through congestion pricing and two other taxes: one on internet sales, the other a mansion tax on high-end homes. It comes with major reforms of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including a forensic audit of how the much maligned agency spends its money.
Cuomo said the message to the MTA is: “I’m not going to ask New Yorkers for more money for the MTA unless I know there’s a better management system at the MTA.”
“They’re not just getting a blank check,” Kaminsky added.
The other big-ticket items in the budget include:
* Making the 2 percent property tax cap permanent
* The elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies
* Public financing for the political campaigns of statewide elected officials
* A $1 billion increase in education spending — the bulk to go to poorer districts
* A ban on the use of most single-use plastic bags with an optional 5-cent fee on paper bags
* A new democracy agenda that includes online voting registrations and gives voters three hours paid time off on Election Day to cast ballots
Legalizing recreational marijuana is not in the budget. The governor said he is hopeful it can be done later in the legislative session.
Meeting the budget deadlines puts cash in lawmakers’ pockets and allows them to lock in a promised $10,000 pay raise on Jan. 1.