Despite disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Cuomo says the state will try to pass a budget ahead of an April 1 deadline.
Cuomo’s push to swiftly pass a budget comes after at least two state lawmakers fell ill, and New York confirmed it has over 600 cases of COVID-19.
Assembly members Helene Weinstein, 67, and Charles Barron, 69, both Brooklyn Democrats, have been absent from Albany since the beginning of the month, and all legislators and staff who came into contact with them will be tested.
The Governor scoffed Sunday when questioned whether lawmakers should return this week to the New York Capitol, which is now closed to visitors.
“I need them to authorize the laws and the measures that we may need to do this,” Cuomo told reporters. “You need soldiers to fight the war.”
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. Most people recover, but the outbreak has caused more than 5,000 deaths worldwide.
Cuomo says the state is spending $30 million a week to fight the virus.
The state is preparing for dips in personal income, sales and capital gains tax revenues as the virus hits the financial, hospitality, tourism and insurance industries.
Cuomo warned Saturday pending federal legislation promising $35 million in aid to New York would fall short given the state’s large share of disease cases, and thus make it impossible to balance the budget because it won’t allow for Cuomo’s plan to reign in Medicaid costs.
But Cuomo, who often uses the budget to push sweeping policies, said this weekend he thinks the budget can still include new laws like those on legalized paid surrogacy or bail. He’s also urging lawmakers to at least approve paid sick leave for quarantined New Yorkers.
Criminal justice reform groups warned a rollback to the new bail law could land more New Yorkers behind bars amid a public health crisis.
Assemblyman Ed Ra, a minority Republican, said lawmakers must prioritize.
“The responsible thing to do is to remove those conversations from the budget so they’re not holding up passing a budget,” he said.