NEW YORK - In an exclusive sit-down interview, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins weighed in on the Governor’s budget proposal - from the migrant crisis to housing.
"Everybody’s ready to get to work," Stewart-Cousins said.
Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget address on Tuesday kicked off the next two months of budget negotiations and the state legislature will start holding hearings next week on the governor’s proposals.
Since Democrats control the Senate - Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be one of 3 people in the main room hashing out the budget with the Governor and Assembly Speaker.
We asked if the $2.4 billion that Governor Hochul allocated to the migrant crisis is going to be enough?
"We put in almost 2 billion last year and I know that the crisis has not abated," Stewart-Cousins said. "So I think we're all understanding that we want to certainly be helpful to the city of New York. And we also all understand as we continue, that we really need our federal government to step up."
Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday said it is too early to tell right now if the $2.4 billion will be enough – but pledged to cancel the next round of budget cuts if they do receive enough aid from the state to handle the migrant crisis.
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In the meantime, Hochul says she is traveling to DC on Friday to ask the White House for more support.
We asked Stewart-Cousins what she has heard from federal leaders.
"They’re allies, they’re advocates," Stewart-Cousins insisted. "But we have to make sure that the decisions that get made from the top are really taking in consideration how much more they can do, how much faster they can do it."
We also asked Stewart-Cousins if she believes that more migrants should be moved upstate – so far only around 100 have been relocated to upstate communities.
The Majority Leader, whose conference includes both upstate and downstate Democrats, deflected the question.
"I don't think this - I think the conversation is how do we address the crisis, the humanitarian crisis," Stewart-Cousins said. "We continue to work with the Mayor and he is obviously looking for resources. And again, I understand why and we are certainly willing to provide these resources."
When it comes to housing – last year Democrats walked away without being able to reach an agreement on housing initiatives.
We asked if Senate Democrats are looking at tax incentives to encourage developers to build more affordable housing.
"I'm certainly hoping we'll be able to come up with something comprehensive," Stewart-Cousins said. "While we are getting there, I also know that we need to protect tenants who are in housing."
And speaking of taxes- we asked if her Senate Democrats will be backing an increased tax on the ultrawealthy.
"We don't close off any possibilities, but we need to look at the numbers, it's that we have to balance our budget," Stewart-Cousins said. "We want to make sure that the needs are being met."
A finalized budget deal must be reached by April 1st .