Governor Kathy Hochul speaks at the Jacob Javits Center after signing a series of bills combating sexual harassment, March 16, 2022.

With less than two weeks to go until the state needs to have a budget in place for the next fiscal year, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democrats in the legislature remain as much as $9 billion apart on how much Albany should spend.

To reach a compromise, they will have to balance three competing priorities: new infusions for COVID relief programs, increasing money for child and home health care, and putting aside money to prevent fiscal disaster when the next economic downturn comes.

Hochul’s $216 billion budget proposal would increase state spending by $10 billion. The Assembly’s budget proposal released this week sought an additional $5 billion. The state Senate wants as much as $9 billion more.

Fiscal experts are focused on the long-term picture. “The increase will create more risk that we will run into problems down the road,” said Peter Warren of the conservative-leaning Empire Center.

Progressive advocates emphasize the still-pressing need to recover from the damage inflicted by COVID as well as longstanding problems in the state.

“New York faces a tidal wave of evictions, and state leaders must prioritize keeping families in their homes,” said Judith Goldiner, who heads the civil law reform unit at The Legal Aid Society.