Hochul's budget proposes tax hike for cigs, more school aid
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed increasing state school aid by 10%, tuition hikes for public universities and raising cigarette taxes to a nation-high $5.35 per pack as part of her budget proposal Wednesday.
The $227 billion spending plan also includes a proposal to yet again revise state bail law, which is expected to be resisted by liberal state lawmakers. The proposal kicks off weeks of intense negotiations with state legislative leaders as they try to agree on a finalized budget by the April 1 deadline.
The budget would raise the state cigarette tax from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack. Washington, D.C., currently has the highest excise tax nationwide at $4.50, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.
The budget also would prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, as opposed to just flavored vaping products. The administration said the moves will reduce the number of young smokers.
The governor is proposing a record 10% increase in school aid, to $34.5 billion.
Under Hochul's proposal, state and city colleges could increase tuition by either 3% or an amount tied to the Higher Education Price Index, whichever is less. The state's university centers would have the flexibility to raise tuition 6 percentage points above the system's base tuition rate each year for the next five years for in-state students.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said the proposed tuition hike made little sense amid declining enrollment.
"The last thing in the world you want to do is make it more expensive to go," he said.
Hochul also wants to make more revisions to the state's bail law, which was changed in 2019 to do away with pretrial incarceration for people accused of most nonviolent offenses.
The law has been tweaked since, but Republicans and some moderate Democrats continue to argue the rules have deprived judges of a tool they could use to hold people likely to commit new crimes.
Budget briefing documents say Hochul wants to give judges greater discretion by removing the "least restrictive means" standard to ensure a defendant returns to court, as opposed to considering how dangerous they appear.
Hochul has said she favors eliminating that "least restrictive" standard for serious crimes.
This is the first spending plan Hochul has crafted since winning an election in November by a tighter margin than Democrats are accustomed to in the reliably blue state. Republicans made gains in New York after hammering Democrats on bail and public safety.