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NY lawmakers ‘return’ to Albany for work on coronavirus bills


ALBANY — A group of state lawmakers were back in Albany Tuesday for the first time since April to work on passing a slew of coronavirus-related bills.

They packed the afternoon with virtual Zoom hearings and sparsely attended committee meetings in the Capitol building, under the state’s 10-person gathering limitations.

Lawmakers approved New York’s $177 billion state budget on April 3, including emergency measures changing state Senate and Assembly chamber rules to allow remote videoconferencing and voting.

“We can check-in remotely now,” Manhattan Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman explained to The Post after heading an in-person state Senate Judiciary committee meeting with around five socially distanced people in the room.

“We’re permitted to do remote voting. A number of senators are here but it’s an option, especially if someone is concerned about travel.”

Legislation passed through various committees and is expected to be voted on later this week including:

  • An extension of the Child Victims Act look-back period, which was set to sunset this August, instead giving survivors of childhood sexual abuse until August 14, 2021 to file lawsuits against their abusers.
  • The “Emergency Rent Relief Act of 2020” would provide vouchers to landlords on behalf of tenants when their rent was increased due to COVID-19. It dips into the federal CARES Act for a $100,000,000 program.
  • A controversial bill authorizing New York City to borrow a maximum of $7 billion for up to 30 years owed to revenue losses from the pandemicGov.
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Cuomo appeared to throw cold water on the city-backed bill, noting “borrowing for operating expenses is fiscally questionable” during his daily briefing Tuesday.

“We don’t want to create more debt than the state can pay going forward,

and we don’t want to create a situation for the state or any local government borrows so much money that they can’t repay it,” he said.

“Then you have to start to cut services and now you’re in that vicious downward spiral. Right? We’ve been there before, New York City has been there before.”

It harks back to the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, when the city was excessively borrowing to pay for basic operating expenses.

The practices forced the state to create a separate agency to borrow long term bonds to cover the city’s spending habits.

Andrew Rein of the Citizens Budget Commission told The Post that New York City needs to cut the fat elsewhere, and borrowing should be a last resort.

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“When you borrow for operating costs you’re basically telling your kids to pay for the cops, teacher and trash pick up today. It’s not only not fair to them, it also constrains their budget.”

Big Apple budget officials are bracing for a potential $9.5 billion dip in tax revenues, fearing that could grow another $3 billion.

The state faces a $13 billion hole thanks to the coronavirus’ hit on revenues, which Cuomo has repeatedly warned could translate to 20 percent cuts in aid to local governments, schools and the healthcare industry if the federal government doesn’t deliver funding.

Critics say city spending under Mayor Bill de Blasio was out of control before the pandemic hit.

Cuomo has balked at the possibility of raising taxes, and has warned the Democrat-led Legislature against passing bills that will require the state to shell out more.

“We are simply asking for the same authority the Governor gave himself. We are spending every dollar we have to save lives and feed families — all while losing revenue every second. New Yorkers cannot cover the cost. While we wait for Senate Republicans to act on the federal stimulus package, we must explore every option possible,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein.

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