New York State budget impacted by coronavirus pandemic

What does it mean for marijuana legalization and other hot-button issues?

Mike Baggerman
March 16, 2020 - 3:00 am

    BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - The coronavirus pandemic will affect the state budget and has already impacted operations in Albany.

    Assemblyman Sean Ryan told WBEN that a new revenue forecast is needed by the state comptroller's office in the wake of the pandemic that has led to a closure of multiple organizations such as sports leagues and the cancellation of events, tourism, and more. Governor Cuomo asked Comptroller Tom Dinapoli to revisit budget projections last Tuesday.

    "Just a few weeks ago the big topic of conversation was how to reduce medicaid costs which are health care costs," Ryan said. "Right now, we can't be in the position of reducing any medical costs. It's a tricky position to try and establish a budget in. New York State is obligated to produce a balanced budget and we can't have a budget that is out of sync like the federal government can. We may be facing unprecedented public health costs and have to put a budget together in the next three weeks.

    The budget deadline is April 1.

    While state officials will continue to balance the budget, Ryan said that coronavirus could impact some legislation this session.

    "Everything is on the table right now," Ryan said. "This situation is evolving so quickly. We're trying and scurrying to try and get a handle on potential costs. How much is this going to cost the state and how will we budget for it? I predict this will be a moving target up until April 1."

    That includes much debated items like marijuana legalization, mobile betting, and criminal justice reforms.

    "All those things have taken a backseat," Ryan said. "...Other items will still get done but they won't be prioritized."

    Federal and state representatives are looking to pass legislation related to paid sick leave, which would give those quarantined reimbursement for time off from work. Ryan said that the virus has exposed major problems in the state including internet connectivity and unemployment problems for individuals in the gig economy.

    Ryan also said the capitol building in Albany felt the effect of coronavirus with the prohibition of organized groups to visit the capitol. Only essential staff will report to the capitol.

    "The legislative process will still continue but it will continue with few spectators," Ryan said. "Journalists would be permitted to come in so the public can still know what's going on but a lot less person-to-person contact."

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