Editorial: ‘Raise the age’ rightly holds up state budget
This year, though, there will be no on-time budget. In fact, there won’t even be a “close enough” budget, since negotiations between Cuomo and legislative leaders over the weekend failed to reach an agreement. Instead, Cuomo proposed, and legislators grudgingly agreed to, a two-month budget extender. The $40 billion budget will keep the state operating through May 31, which is better than shutting down state government.
Still, the lack of clarity on what will be in the budget makes life more complicated, especially for school districts that will have to produce their own budgets for votes in June without knowing what state aid will be coming. It also takes some wind out of Cuomo’s sails as a potential 2020 presidential candidate with a talent for dealing with government dysfunction.
On the other hand, in a time of callousness in Washington, with a White House and Congress seemingly in competition to outdo each other in eliminating programs that contribute to the feeling of living in a country in which the well-being of all citizens is a paramount concern of government, Cuomo has taken the opposite approach.
He has apparently risked his “on-time” reputation for, among other things, a proposal that will have negligible impact on a spending plan that will top $152 billion. That is the so-called “raise-the-age” bill, which would raise the age at which teenagers would be treated as adults in state courts. Currently, New York and North Carolina are the only states in which 16- and 17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted and incarcerated as adults. North Carolina is considering legislation to raise the age to 18, which would leave New York as the only holdout.
Cuomo said he “will not take half a loaf” on this measure. State Senate Republicans are the holdup on agreement, some suggesting that the governor has taken his eye off the budget process with a view to his political future. Now there’s a concept. A politician considering his political future. Of course, the senators resisting this reform never stopped to think about how their vote might impact their future.
If it’s any help, on the statement, “Teenagers 16 and 17 years old who are accused of a crime should be treated as juveniles and not sent to adult prisons,” state voters said yes, 59 percent to 29 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
There are sound reasons for the change. The bill would not send murder or rape cases to Family Court instead of criminal court, but it would recognize that teenagers are not fully developed adults, mentally or emotionally. Studies suggest they are more impulsive, less aware of future consequences and more prone to peer pressure. Young people sentenced to adult prisons are more likely to be beaten or sexually assaulted, more likely to commit suicide and more likely to be repeat offenders than those treated in the juvenile justice system with the rehabilitative programs it offers.
On time or not, Cuomo’s right.