Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he’s “no longer confident” an agreement to legalize recreational marijuana in New York will be included in the state budget that’s due by April 1, raising the possibility that approval of retail sales of pot won’t get passed by the Legislature this year.
The Democrat told reporters during a 75-minute news conference at the state Capitol that while he still supports legalization, he’s not confident lawmakers will include it in the budget for the 2019-2020 state fiscal year.
There are just too many details on legalization that have to be agreed upon, Cuomo said.
“I am no longer confident marijuana will be done by the budget,” he said. “There is a wide divide on marijuana. I believe ultimately we can get there. I believe we must get there. I don’t believe we get there in two weeks”
Lawmakers could take up legalization in separate measures before they adjourn in June, though it could be more politically challenging for some lawmakers to vote yes if the measure isn’t linked to the budget.
Cuomo had wanted legalization to be included in the budget, along with a permanent limit on property tax, criminal justice reforms and new vehicle tolls for motorists entering central Manhattan. But rising concerns voiced by such groups as parent-teacher and law enforcement organizations over how retail sales of pot will affect communities has legislators easing up on the gas pedal, Cuomo said.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie expressed similar doubts about the timeline in January, saying lawmakers shouldn’t rush the measure, but there was more optimism in the Senate, also controlled by Democrats.
“We believe we can get there,” said Michael Murphy, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “I don’t think it has to be out of the budget.”
Supporters want lawmakers to act quickly to catch up to neighboring states such as Vermont and Massachusetts that have already legalized recreational marijuana.
Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, are counting on legalized marijuana to eventually bring in billions in tax revenues that will be used to fix the city’s ailing transit grid. Creating tolls to drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan and taxing people with second homes worth more than $5 million in the city would raise billions more for the nation’s oldest subway system, Cuomo said.
The marijuana issue was one of several topics Cuomo touched on during the news conference, along with his ongoing effort to fight last year’s federal tax overhaul and the estimated $3.8 billion shortfall in revenues the state faces over the next two years.
The governor has proposed a $175 billion budget, he and the Assembly and Senate failed to agree on a revenue forecast from which to start negotiating a budget. Both chambers plan to release their one-house budget bills later Monday. From those three proposals Cuomo, Heastie and Stewart-Cousins will try to reach agreement on a final spending plan by the end of the month.