State Budget Electrifies Buildings

Plan also boosts child care, local school funding

Adopted on Wednesday (May 3), more than a month behind schedule, the New Yok State budget for 2023-24 includes a ban on gas-powered appliances and heating systems in new residential buildings, more funding for schools, an expansion of child care subsidies and a hike in the minimum wage.

The $229 billion spending plan, which represents a 3.9 percent increase, was due by April 1, the start of the state fiscal year. But Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislators struggled to reach consensus on amending a bail law and ultimately failed to agree on a plan to expand affordable housing.

They did agree on a first-in-the-country ban on the use of natural gas and heating oil in new buildings to reduce carbon emissions by forcing developers and households to use electric appliances and heating systems.

The first phase of the ban takes effect on Dec. 31, 2025, when new buildings under eight stories will have to be all-electric, except for new commercial and industrial structures exceeding 100,000 square feet. All new buildings will be subject to the law beginning Jan. 1, 2029.

Hochul and legislators agreed to a roster of exemptions, including car washes, crematoriums, emergency backup power systems, hospitals, restaurants and water and wastewater treatment systems.

Except for car washes, the state’s exemptions mirror the ones named in Beacon’s version of a fossil-fuel ban. Approved in March, the city’s law requires all-electric appliances and heating systems in new construction and major renovation projects beginning on Jan. 1, 2024.

The new state budget also directs $2.6 billion in additional Foundation Aid to schools, with increases for the next school year of $719,000 for Haldane, $621,000 for Beacon and $17,200 for Garrison. Each district is also receiving more for prekindergarten under a $150 million expansion.

Dana Levenberg, a Democrat whose Assembly district includes Philipstown, voted for the budget agreement, saying that it “contains many funding decisions that will place our state on a strong path moving forward.” Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose Assembly district includes Beacon, also voted for the spending plan.

Both Levenberg and Jacobson highlighted record school funding and other initiatives, including funding for child care subsidies, which the state says will be available to more families as eligibility expands to those making up to 85 percent of the state median household income ($74,314, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). The state is also expanding its Empire State Child Credit to children under 4 years old.

The budget also:

■Amends a 2020 bail reform law by removing language that directs judges who determine a defendant is a flight risk to employ the “least restrictive alternative and condition or conditions that will reasonably assure the principal’s return to court.” The change is designed to give judges more leeway to detain people considered a public-safety risk.

■ Increases the minimum wage in the Hudson Valley and most of the state to $15 in 2024, followed by $15.50 in 2025 and $16 in 2026. In New York City, on Long Island and in Westchester County, it rises to $16 in 2024. Beginning in 2027, the minimum will be indexed to inflation.

■ Allocates $124 million to fund breakfasts and lunches for all students at schools where 25 percent or more of students qualify for free meals, which includes Beacon (47 percent).

■ Raises $1.1 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by increasing a payroll tax on the largest businesses in New York City and provides $300 million in one-time aid to the agency, which operates Metro-North. The state will also spend $65 million to reduce a proposed fare increase from 5.5 percent to 4 percent.

■ Criminalizes the sale of cannabis or cannabis products without a license and establishes fines of up to $20,000 a day.

State Sen. Rob Rolison, a Republican whose district includes the Highlands, voted “no” on the spending plan, saying that it “fails to effectively address the crises of public safety and affordability.”

His criticisms also included the gas ban and the state’s decision to keep a portion of federal funding for Medicaid expansion that had been going to counties, who say they will have to raise property taxes to make up for the lost revenue.

“The cumulative result of these failures will be another exodus of people and businesses out of New York State,” said Rolison. “Albany can, and must, do better.”

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