Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/andrew-cuomo 2018-02-23T06:36:40+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Max & Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams 2018-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7490:max-murphy-podcast-lieutenant-governor-candidate-jumaane-williams Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 22, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/jumanne-williams-pod-277.jpg" alt="jumanne williams pod 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>City Council Member Jumaane Williams recently announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, opening a Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Kathy Hochul, Governor Andrew Cuomo's chosen second-in-command and running mate. Cuomo and Hochul are expected to run for reelection this year, but the two positions are elected separately in the party primaries. So, Williams is trying to take Hochul's place alongside Cuomo, assuming the governor makes it through his own primary.</p> <p>Williams says he's running to become "the people's" lieutenant governor and to push a more progressive agenda than Cuomo and Hochul have. He joined the podcast to explain his motivation for the run and the campaign ahead.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>, with guest <a href="https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JumaaneWilliams</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/403680819&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>February 22, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/jumanne-williams-pod-277.jpg" alt="jumanne williams pod 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>City Council Member Jumaane Williams recently announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, opening a Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Kathy Hochul, Governor Andrew Cuomo's chosen second-in-command and running mate. Cuomo and Hochul are expected to run for reelection this year, but the two positions are elected separately in the party primaries. So, Williams is trying to take Hochul's place alongside Cuomo, assuming the governor makes it through his own primary.</p> <p>Williams says he's running to become "the people's" lieutenant governor and to push a more progressive agenda than Cuomo and Hochul have. He joined the podcast to explain his motivation for the run and the campaign ahead.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>, with guest <a href="https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JumaaneWilliams</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/403680819&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
First Annual State Economic Development Report Falls Short, Watchdogs Say 2018-02-14T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7480:first-annual-state-economic-development-report-falls-short-watchdogs-say Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/30900390955_2c459ccf1a_z.jpg" alt="Zemsky economic development" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky (photo: Govenor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Starting this year, the state’s central economic development agency is required to produce an annual comprehensive report of all of the state-funded programs it oversees. The requirement of Empire State Development (ESD) was part of the state budget agreement reached last April amid intensifying criticism of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approach to economic development.</p> <p>With the report due on December 31 of each year, ESD must compile the past fiscal year's “aggregate totals” for each economic development program administered by the agency, examining “program progress, program participation rates, economic impact, regional distribution, industry trends, and any other information deemed necessary by the commissioner," according to the 2017-2018 enacted budget.</p> <p>The inaugural report was late.</p> <p>“It will be out this week -- and that’s my fault, truthfully,” ESD president and CEO Howard Zemsky told state legislators somewhat sheepishly during <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXFM8uvQwD0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the joint legislative budget hearing</a> on economic development in Albany on January 29. He added, “I think you’ll find it to be very thorough, very forthcoming, and very extensive.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s economic development czar, who is appointed by Cuomo, was queried on the report’s status by Senate Finance Chair Cathy Young, an Upstate Republican, who cited <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/16s40.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an audit</a> by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that found ESD failed to meet more than half of the reporting requirements for tax credit and job creation programs that were due between April 2012 and September 2016.</p> <p>“Some of them have been successful, but many of these programs have run into substantial issues, such as far lower job creation than expected…In light of these issues, ESD is often unwilling to share information with the legislature and the public on these projects,” said Young.</p> <p><a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_2017_Annual_Report_0.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The annual report</a> was released last week, on February 5, but watchdogs and experts say it falls far short of a comprehensive analysis drawing clear connections between the state’s numerous investments and job growth, and only highlights the need for a comprehensive “database of deals.”</p> <p>Much of the 128-page document offers a photo-heavy, though thorough overview of the state’s “holistic” approach to transforming New York State, through business grants and tax incentives, as well as workforce development, Regional Economic Development Councils, downtown revitalization programs, and more. The latter third of the report provides a more data-centric breakdown of the economic impact of 1,153 projects overseen by ESD that received financial assistance in state fiscal year 2017 (April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017).</p> <p>“This report highlights all of these strategies throughout and also includes a section of detailed statistical information. Extensive additional information on thousands of economic development projects throughout the state is available on our website,” writes Zemsky in his opening message. “Our strategy is not only providing positive economic results in the short term but also planting seeds for sustainable economic prosperity over the long term.”</p> <p>The investments are broken down into four categories: tax expenditure programs -- which includes the Excelsior jobs program, the entertainment tax credit and Start-Up NY -- loans and grants, marketing and advertising, and innovation. In total, $1.8 billion was provided by ESD in support of these projects, which are expected to leverage nearly $18.6 billion in business and partner investments. According to the report, 162 projects have direct job commitments that leverage $14 billion and require the creation and retention of over 65,000 jobs in New York, for an average cost of $13,205 per job.</p> <p>Among watchdogs who reviewed the ESD report, the primary criticisms are that it lacks recipient-level data, it at times only shows “net new job commitments” instead of actual jobs created, and has inconsistent definitions for what constitutes a job.</p> <p>Recipient-level data, which shows return on investment from individual projects, is crucial for determining any program’s true cost-per-job, according to David Friedfel, director of state studies for Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).</p> <p>“Taxpayers should know if individual projects are receiving benefits under multiple programs, the total amount of state and local spending, the number of jobs promised and created, and the amount of capital expense committed and expended by the company,” said Friedfel in an email, noting that such information could be made available with the creation of an online “database of deals,” a key recommendation repeatedly <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/blueprint-economic-development-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pushed by CBC</a> and other fiscal watchdogs and government reform groups.</p> <p>A spokesperson for ESD pointed out the statute specifically requires the agency to provide “aggregate totals” for the programs and noted that report provides links to quarterly reports offering more granular details.</p> <p>The Excelsior jobs program issued $25.3 million in tax credits to 62 businesses, according to the report. Those business pledged to create 10,072 jobs, retain 30,279 jobs, and invest more than $2.4 billion. The total tax credits committed to these 62 businesses is $174.2 million over the life of the projects. This amounts to $4,318 in tax credits committed per job created and retained.</p> <p>The report should also show actual jobs created, not just commitments under the Excelsior jobs program, something the database of deals would document in real time, according to Friedfel, since companies often commit to creating a certain number of jobs, and then the project either fails to come to fruition, or the actual number of jobs created falls short of expectations. At times, more jobs are created than originally expected.</p> <p>“The committed jobs are just the goals, the report should have actuals,” said Friedfel. “Also, the difference between commitments and actual job creation is the reason why economic development spending should be pay-for-performance, with companies being reimbursed after job creation goals are met.”</p> <p>While much of the report’s tax credit data does a better job of presenting actual job creation numbers, critics say the figures are still misleading because the term “job” is defined differently throughout.</p> <p>In part due to the broad scope of the report, jobs for different types of economic development programs are counted using different sets of criteria. In an attempt to preempt this criticism, the report classifies jobs associated with the entertainment industry tax credit as “hires” rather than “jobs” because these are typically short-term gigs that are counted regardless of how long the employees work. The cost-per-job for these roles is considerably lower than more permanent, full-time positions produced by other programs. The state’s controversial film and television tax credit has benefited 289 projects, resulting in $2.9 billion in private investment and a cost-per-hire of $2,841.</p> <p>Another anomaly is Start-Up NY, which, due to the particulars of its tax requirements, only counts employees that are full-time and permanent for at least six months -- a threshold that should probably be applied for all job counts, some critics say. &nbsp;In 2016, businesses in the Start-Up NY program reported business tax benefits of $949,868 and reported their employees received $3 million in personal income tax benefits, which brings the state investment to a $3.9 million total, according to the report. The businesses also report investing over $31 million and creating a total of 1,135 new jobs, of which 722 were "net new jobs," or jobs that lasted longer than six months.&nbsp;The ESD report omits a cost-per-job breakdown for Start-Up NY, perhaps because the 2017 data is unavailable yet, but it notes that 67 businesses were approved in 2017, projecting the creation of 1,000 jobs and $28 million in investment. Based on 2016 jobs numbers provided, the cost was $5,470 per net new job.</p> <p>The program has been the source of significant criticism of those who point to weak job creation, including, most recently, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called for an end to the program <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/start-up-ny-flanagan-1.16741920" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Tuesday</a>. (Ongoing questions about the effectiveness of Governor Cuomo’s job creation efforts also come as elements of his economic development programs are at play in twin corruption trials happening this year, where Cuomo associates and donors are accused of bid-rigging and bribery.)</p> <p>Critics argue that the same job-counting criteria should be applied across the board and question whether jobs created by companies benefiting from more than one public subsidy have been counted twice.</p> <p>"The charts and data in the report are in different formats and don't allow for apples to apples comparisons of different subsidy programs,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a leading advocate for the database of deals. “There is no baseline data showing existing jobs or growth rates for regions. What's striking about the report is how little actual data there is that sheds light on performance by region, program or recipient."</p> <p>The report also highlights 378 projects investing in infrastructure, marketing, and capacity building, leveraging $2.2 billion in private investment.</p> <p>Many long-time critics of the state’s economic development programs are not likely to be appeased by the numbers regardless of how they are presented. E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, calls himself “close to atheistic ” on the field of taxpayer-funded economic development.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is distinguishing between what incentive claims to have delivered and what would have happened anyway without the incentive,” said McMahon, who frequently rails against the state’s entertainment tax credit, which disproportionately benefits economically-thriving New York City.</p> <p>The credit grants tax reimbursements of up to 30 percent for production companies that film in New York City or its suburbs. Farther upstate, the entertainment incentive grows to 40 percent. The number of entertainment ventures filmed in the city has ballooned in recent years, but naysayers note that New York City has always been a coveted filming location for the movie and television industry.</p> <p>“The people who are fans of the film credit have consistently pretended for years that no one would have been making films in New York City without the tax credit. All it proves is if you pay someone to do something, they will do it,” said McMahon.</p> <p>Getting lost in the conversation is what economists call “opportunity costs,” which is “what we didn't do because we gave you the money," according McMahon. "The true cost of filming ‘Blue Bloods’ in Queens is not that we gave them $25 million, it’s what could the State of New York have spent that $25 million on? What kind of mental health services could you have provided to people on the street for $25 million? What’s the societal value of that over having Tom Selleck walking around Queens?”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Comptroller DiNapoli’s office declined to comment on the ESD report, stating that the agency currently has an audit of ESD underway. Senator Young was unavailable for comment due to all-day budget hearings Monday and Tuesday, a spokesperson said.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article miscalculated the cost per job for Start-Up NY. The article has been amended to reflect this correction.</em></p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/30900390955_2c459ccf1a_z.jpg" alt="Zemsky economic development" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Howard Zemsky (photo: Govenor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Starting this year, the state’s central economic development agency is required to produce an annual comprehensive report of all of the state-funded programs it oversees. The requirement of Empire State Development (ESD) was part of the state budget agreement reached last April amid intensifying criticism of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approach to economic development.</p> <p>With the report due on December 31 of each year, ESD must compile the past fiscal year's “aggregate totals” for each economic development program administered by the agency, examining “program progress, program participation rates, economic impact, regional distribution, industry trends, and any other information deemed necessary by the commissioner," according to the 2017-2018 enacted budget.</p> <p>The inaugural report was late.</p> <p>“It will be out this week -- and that’s my fault, truthfully,” ESD president and CEO Howard Zemsky told state legislators somewhat sheepishly during <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXFM8uvQwD0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the joint legislative budget hearing</a> on economic development in Albany on January 29. He added, “I think you’ll find it to be very thorough, very forthcoming, and very extensive.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s economic development czar, who is appointed by Cuomo, was queried on the report’s status by Senate Finance Chair Cathy Young, an Upstate Republican, who cited <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093017/16s40.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an audit</a> by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that found ESD failed to meet more than half of the reporting requirements for tax credit and job creation programs that were due between April 2012 and September 2016.</p> <p>“Some of them have been successful, but many of these programs have run into substantial issues, such as far lower job creation than expected…In light of these issues, ESD is often unwilling to share information with the legislature and the public on these projects,” said Young.</p> <p><a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_2017_Annual_Report_0.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The annual report</a> was released last week, on February 5, but watchdogs and experts say it falls far short of a comprehensive analysis drawing clear connections between the state’s numerous investments and job growth, and only highlights the need for a comprehensive “database of deals.”</p> <p>Much of the 128-page document offers a photo-heavy, though thorough overview of the state’s “holistic” approach to transforming New York State, through business grants and tax incentives, as well as workforce development, Regional Economic Development Councils, downtown revitalization programs, and more. The latter third of the report provides a more data-centric breakdown of the economic impact of 1,153 projects overseen by ESD that received financial assistance in state fiscal year 2017 (April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017).</p> <p>“This report highlights all of these strategies throughout and also includes a section of detailed statistical information. Extensive additional information on thousands of economic development projects throughout the state is available on our website,” writes Zemsky in his opening message. “Our strategy is not only providing positive economic results in the short term but also planting seeds for sustainable economic prosperity over the long term.”</p> <p>The investments are broken down into four categories: tax expenditure programs -- which includes the Excelsior jobs program, the entertainment tax credit and Start-Up NY -- loans and grants, marketing and advertising, and innovation. In total, $1.8 billion was provided by ESD in support of these projects, which are expected to leverage nearly $18.6 billion in business and partner investments. According to the report, 162 projects have direct job commitments that leverage $14 billion and require the creation and retention of over 65,000 jobs in New York, for an average cost of $13,205 per job.</p> <p>Among watchdogs who reviewed the ESD report, the primary criticisms are that it lacks recipient-level data, it at times only shows “net new job commitments” instead of actual jobs created, and has inconsistent definitions for what constitutes a job.</p> <p>Recipient-level data, which shows return on investment from individual projects, is crucial for determining any program’s true cost-per-job, according to David Friedfel, director of state studies for Citizens Budget Commission (CBC).</p> <p>“Taxpayers should know if individual projects are receiving benefits under multiple programs, the total amount of state and local spending, the number of jobs promised and created, and the amount of capital expense committed and expended by the company,” said Friedfel in an email, noting that such information could be made available with the creation of an online “database of deals,” a key recommendation repeatedly <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/blueprint-economic-development-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pushed by CBC</a> and other fiscal watchdogs and government reform groups.</p> <p>A spokesperson for ESD pointed out the statute specifically requires the agency to provide “aggregate totals” for the programs and noted that report provides links to quarterly reports offering more granular details.</p> <p>The Excelsior jobs program issued $25.3 million in tax credits to 62 businesses, according to the report. Those business pledged to create 10,072 jobs, retain 30,279 jobs, and invest more than $2.4 billion. The total tax credits committed to these 62 businesses is $174.2 million over the life of the projects. This amounts to $4,318 in tax credits committed per job created and retained.</p> <p>The report should also show actual jobs created, not just commitments under the Excelsior jobs program, something the database of deals would document in real time, according to Friedfel, since companies often commit to creating a certain number of jobs, and then the project either fails to come to fruition, or the actual number of jobs created falls short of expectations. At times, more jobs are created than originally expected.</p> <p>“The committed jobs are just the goals, the report should have actuals,” said Friedfel. “Also, the difference between commitments and actual job creation is the reason why economic development spending should be pay-for-performance, with companies being reimbursed after job creation goals are met.”</p> <p>While much of the report’s tax credit data does a better job of presenting actual job creation numbers, critics say the figures are still misleading because the term “job” is defined differently throughout.</p> <p>In part due to the broad scope of the report, jobs for different types of economic development programs are counted using different sets of criteria. In an attempt to preempt this criticism, the report classifies jobs associated with the entertainment industry tax credit as “hires” rather than “jobs” because these are typically short-term gigs that are counted regardless of how long the employees work. The cost-per-job for these roles is considerably lower than more permanent, full-time positions produced by other programs. The state’s controversial film and television tax credit has benefited 289 projects, resulting in $2.9 billion in private investment and a cost-per-hire of $2,841.</p> <p>Another anomaly is Start-Up NY, which, due to the particulars of its tax requirements, only counts employees that are full-time and permanent for at least six months -- a threshold that should probably be applied for all job counts, some critics say. &nbsp;In 2016, businesses in the Start-Up NY program reported business tax benefits of $949,868 and reported their employees received $3 million in personal income tax benefits, which brings the state investment to a $3.9 million total, according to the report. The businesses also report investing over $31 million and creating a total of 1,135 new jobs, of which 722 were "net new jobs," or jobs that lasted longer than six months.&nbsp;The ESD report omits a cost-per-job breakdown for Start-Up NY, perhaps because the 2017 data is unavailable yet, but it notes that 67 businesses were approved in 2017, projecting the creation of 1,000 jobs and $28 million in investment. Based on 2016 jobs numbers provided, the cost was $5,470 per net new job.</p> <p>The program has been the source of significant criticism of those who point to weak job creation, including, most recently, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called for an end to the program <a href="https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/start-up-ny-flanagan-1.16741920" target="_blank" rel="noopener">on Tuesday</a>. (Ongoing questions about the effectiveness of Governor Cuomo’s job creation efforts also come as elements of his economic development programs are at play in twin corruption trials happening this year, where Cuomo associates and donors are accused of bid-rigging and bribery.)</p> <p>Critics argue that the same job-counting criteria should be applied across the board and question whether jobs created by companies benefiting from more than one public subsidy have been counted twice.</p> <p>"The charts and data in the report are in different formats and don't allow for apples to apples comparisons of different subsidy programs,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, a leading advocate for the database of deals. “There is no baseline data showing existing jobs or growth rates for regions. What's striking about the report is how little actual data there is that sheds light on performance by region, program or recipient."</p> <p>The report also highlights 378 projects investing in infrastructure, marketing, and capacity building, leveraging $2.2 billion in private investment.</p> <p>Many long-time critics of the state’s economic development programs are not likely to be appeased by the numbers regardless of how they are presented. E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, calls himself “close to atheistic ” on the field of taxpayer-funded economic development.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is distinguishing between what incentive claims to have delivered and what would have happened anyway without the incentive,” said McMahon, who frequently rails against the state’s entertainment tax credit, which disproportionately benefits economically-thriving New York City.</p> <p>The credit grants tax reimbursements of up to 30 percent for production companies that film in New York City or its suburbs. Farther upstate, the entertainment incentive grows to 40 percent. The number of entertainment ventures filmed in the city has ballooned in recent years, but naysayers note that New York City has always been a coveted filming location for the movie and television industry.</p> <p>“The people who are fans of the film credit have consistently pretended for years that no one would have been making films in New York City without the tax credit. All it proves is if you pay someone to do something, they will do it,” said McMahon.</p> <p>Getting lost in the conversation is what economists call “opportunity costs,” which is “what we didn't do because we gave you the money," according McMahon. "The true cost of filming ‘Blue Bloods’ in Queens is not that we gave them $25 million, it’s what could the State of New York have spent that $25 million on? What kind of mental health services could you have provided to people on the street for $25 million? What’s the societal value of that over having Tom Selleck walking around Queens?”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Comptroller DiNapoli’s office declined to comment on the ESD report, stating that the agency currently has an audit of ESD underway. Senator Young was unavailable for comment due to all-day budget hearings Monday and Tuesday, a spokesperson said.</p> <p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article miscalculated the cost per job for Start-Up NY. The article has been amended to reflect this correction.</em></p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Congestion Pricing Train Already Running Late in Albany 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7467:congestion-pricing-train-already-running-late-in-albany Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/andrew-cuomo-mta-columbus-circle-trs.jpg" alt="andrew cuomo mta columbus circle trs" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo via the Governor's office</p> <hr /> <p>There is plenty of debate ongoing about the pros and cons of congestion pricing - but little discussion yet about the purpose of creating such a large flow of money -- $1-$1.5 billion a year -- that logically must be a way to fund the next MTA capital plan. That plan is due out in the fall of 2019 for a five-year cycle from 2020 through 2024.</p> <p>The MTA had estimated that both the existing plan (2015-19) and the prior plan (2010-14) would cost about $30 billion each. For both plans, the MTA, the Governor, and the Legislature had trouble figuring out how to raise the money to cover such immense costs, and the 2010 plan was ultimately downsized. The next cycle will have the same problem: where to find money to pay for it. In fact, the problem of paying to keep the subway, bus, and commuter rail system in a state of good repair and pay for expansion projects will continue for decades.</p> <p>In October 2013 the MTA put out its 20-year Capital Needs Assessment, 2015-2034, and identified needs which would cost $106 billion (in 2012 dollars) to pay to keep the system in a state of good repair, without even considering the cost of expansion projects. The cost of the expansion projects, East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, and the LIRR Main Track, are $7 billion in the current plan. The State of Good Repair (replacing track, signals, stations, subway cars and buses, etc.) for the existing system is $25 billion in the current plan.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, MTA Chair Joe Lhota, and the Fix NYC panel have said very little about just how problematic the MTA’s long-term funding needs really are. There is a proposal in Gov. Cuomo’s new executive budget plan to force New York City to pay half the recurring maintenance costs of Lhota’s Subway Action Plan, estimated at $300 million a year by 2020, which Mayor de Blasio is refusing to support, but that is primarily for a step-up in regular maintenance, not capital projects.</p> <p>The current capital plan had a shortfall of half the needed funds, $15 billion, until the Governor and the Legislature patched up the problem in 2016 by promising in state law the MTA would get the money when it needed it, meaning it would have to spend down what it had available first.</p> <p>There is still no congestion pricing bill submitted by the Governor for the Legislature to consider, although in January the Governor’s Fix NYC panel issued its report that framed a congestion pricing scenario about the same time as he released his budget. A new state budget is due by the April 1 start of next fiscal year. That means the current discussions are more about whether the Legislature will even entertain the idea of charging vehicles to enter the Manhattan business district, without considering the specifics of the charges or what to do with the money.</p> <p>The Legislature will skip convening in Albany during its annual mid-February break and not return until the end of the month at which point the Assembly and Senate will develop their one-house proposals for the budget. That begins a process in March to negotiate and adopt the next state budget by the April 1 deadline. The budget itself is controversial, as usual, with the Governor seeking $1 billion in new revenue to plug the deficit, and New York City complaining that his budget plan reduces or limits state aid to the city, or forces cost shifts, of $750 million, not counting proposed MTA cost-shifts.</p> <p>For each house to prepare its budget proposal, scheduled for passage in mid-March, decisions will need to be completed by the end of the first week in March. With so many tough perennial issues to resolve for the budget, it is very possible that resolving major mass transit issues will be delayed until after the budget, with congestion pricing an open question.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli reported last fall the MTA was likely to face another $15 billion shortfall for the 2020-24 capital plan, and possibly much more because phase two of the MTA Subway Action Plan indicated a need for another $8 billion for New York City Transit. But right now the Governor, Chair Lhota, and legislators aren’t articulating this problem.</p> <p>It is always important to note that it is an election year. If congestion pricing fails there will be a shortfall for the MTA of at least the sum of money congestion pricing would raise. If that was the case, there would be no place to go except another tax increase (and/or several large fare hikes) to fund the mass transit system. The City of New York can only raise the property tax. Only the state government can raise the payroll tax, the personal income tax, the corporate income tax, the sales tax, real estate transaction taxes, etc., or approve the City of New York raising any of its own taxes beyond the property tax.</p> <p>Chair Lhota claimed the City is responsible for the capital needs of New York City Transit ($16-17 billion in the current 5-year plan) on the grounds that a 1953 law said so. That law, Section 1203 of the Public Authorities Law, did in fact say that but added that the City was responsible for $5 million a year, with anything more than that requiring mayoral approval.</p> <p>That $5 million cap has not been changed since 1953; the law is an anachronism. When the MTA was created in 1968 the Legislature allowed the City to draw on bridge and toll surpluses for the mass transit system, and in 1981 began passing new state taxes within the MTA region, to dedicate to the MTA, for the obvious reason that the City can only raise the property tax. It is my considered opinion that the Legislature will not raise taxes (and the MTA will not do a fare hike) in an election year, so it’s congestion pricing or bust this year as far as mass transit is concerned.</p> <p>***<br />Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/andrew-cuomo-mta-columbus-circle-trs.jpg" alt="andrew cuomo mta columbus circle trs" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>photo via the Governor's office</p> <hr /> <p>There is plenty of debate ongoing about the pros and cons of congestion pricing - but little discussion yet about the purpose of creating such a large flow of money -- $1-$1.5 billion a year -- that logically must be a way to fund the next MTA capital plan. That plan is due out in the fall of 2019 for a five-year cycle from 2020 through 2024.</p> <p>The MTA had estimated that both the existing plan (2015-19) and the prior plan (2010-14) would cost about $30 billion each. For both plans, the MTA, the Governor, and the Legislature had trouble figuring out how to raise the money to cover such immense costs, and the 2010 plan was ultimately downsized. The next cycle will have the same problem: where to find money to pay for it. In fact, the problem of paying to keep the subway, bus, and commuter rail system in a state of good repair and pay for expansion projects will continue for decades.</p> <p>In October 2013 the MTA put out its 20-year Capital Needs Assessment, 2015-2034, and identified needs which would cost $106 billion (in 2012 dollars) to pay to keep the system in a state of good repair, without even considering the cost of expansion projects. The cost of the expansion projects, East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, and the LIRR Main Track, are $7 billion in the current plan. The State of Good Repair (replacing track, signals, stations, subway cars and buses, etc.) for the existing system is $25 billion in the current plan.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo, MTA Chair Joe Lhota, and the Fix NYC panel have said very little about just how problematic the MTA’s long-term funding needs really are. There is a proposal in Gov. Cuomo’s new executive budget plan to force New York City to pay half the recurring maintenance costs of Lhota’s Subway Action Plan, estimated at $300 million a year by 2020, which Mayor de Blasio is refusing to support, but that is primarily for a step-up in regular maintenance, not capital projects.</p> <p>The current capital plan had a shortfall of half the needed funds, $15 billion, until the Governor and the Legislature patched up the problem in 2016 by promising in state law the MTA would get the money when it needed it, meaning it would have to spend down what it had available first.</p> <p>There is still no congestion pricing bill submitted by the Governor for the Legislature to consider, although in January the Governor’s Fix NYC panel issued its report that framed a congestion pricing scenario about the same time as he released his budget. A new state budget is due by the April 1 start of next fiscal year. That means the current discussions are more about whether the Legislature will even entertain the idea of charging vehicles to enter the Manhattan business district, without considering the specifics of the charges or what to do with the money.</p> <p>The Legislature will skip convening in Albany during its annual mid-February break and not return until the end of the month at which point the Assembly and Senate will develop their one-house proposals for the budget. That begins a process in March to negotiate and adopt the next state budget by the April 1 deadline. The budget itself is controversial, as usual, with the Governor seeking $1 billion in new revenue to plug the deficit, and New York City complaining that his budget plan reduces or limits state aid to the city, or forces cost shifts, of $750 million, not counting proposed MTA cost-shifts.</p> <p>For each house to prepare its budget proposal, scheduled for passage in mid-March, decisions will need to be completed by the end of the first week in March. With so many tough perennial issues to resolve for the budget, it is very possible that resolving major mass transit issues will be delayed until after the budget, with congestion pricing an open question.</p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli reported last fall the MTA was likely to face another $15 billion shortfall for the 2020-24 capital plan, and possibly much more because phase two of the MTA Subway Action Plan indicated a need for another $8 billion for New York City Transit. But right now the Governor, Chair Lhota, and legislators aren’t articulating this problem.</p> <p>It is always important to note that it is an election year. If congestion pricing fails there will be a shortfall for the MTA of at least the sum of money congestion pricing would raise. If that was the case, there would be no place to go except another tax increase (and/or several large fare hikes) to fund the mass transit system. The City of New York can only raise the property tax. Only the state government can raise the payroll tax, the personal income tax, the corporate income tax, the sales tax, real estate transaction taxes, etc., or approve the City of New York raising any of its own taxes beyond the property tax.</p> <p>Chair Lhota claimed the City is responsible for the capital needs of New York City Transit ($16-17 billion in the current 5-year plan) on the grounds that a 1953 law said so. That law, Section 1203 of the Public Authorities Law, did in fact say that but added that the City was responsible for $5 million a year, with anything more than that requiring mayoral approval.</p> <p>That $5 million cap has not been changed since 1953; the law is an anachronism. When the MTA was created in 1968 the Legislature allowed the City to draw on bridge and toll surpluses for the mass transit system, and in 1981 began passing new state taxes within the MTA region, to dedicate to the MTA, for the obvious reason that the City can only raise the property tax. It is my considered opinion that the Legislature will not raise taxes (and the MTA will not do a fare hike) in an election year, so it’s congestion pricing or bust this year as far as mass transit is concerned.</p> <p>***<br />Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimBrennanNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@JimBrennanNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
The real value of New York Islanders’ Belmont deal? Cuomo administration won’t say 2018-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7465:the-real-value-of-new-york-islanders-belmont-deal-cuomo-administration-won-t-say Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39940073732_c019770f62_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Long Island Islanders" width="600" height="360" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A more transparent administration would reveal rival bid, economic estimates.</em></p> <p>When Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a triumphant press conference on Dec. 20 to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-10th-proposal-2018-state-state-bringing-new-york-islanders-home-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announce</a>&nbsp;that the New York Islanders would return home to Long Island, building a new arena and ancillary retail, office, hotel space at Belmont Park, his economic development chief, Howard Zemsky, called the new project an "engine for economic growth."</p> <p>Yes, as backers stress, underutilized parking lots would become sites for major activity, the Islanders would return home from an awkward stint in Brooklyn, and the $1 billion project would be "privately funded" (as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-islanders-are-leaving-for-belmont.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bannered</a>&nbsp;on its cover).</p> <p>But unanswered economic questions loom.</p> <p>Consider: the Islanders' expected 49-year lease (with renewal options), is valued at $40 million upfront. For a 43-acre site and $1 billion in investment, that price seems remarkably cheap. (For example, a half-acre commercial&nbsp;<a href="http://www.masseyknakal.com/listings/detail.aspx?lst=25250" target="_blank" rel="noopener">site</a>&nbsp;in Garden City South is on sale for&nbsp;$2.5 million.)</p> <p>To assess the bid by New York Arena Partners, the Islanders' consortium, we might compare it to that of the only rival, New York City Football Club (NYCFC), which sought to build a soccer stadium within a mixed-use development.</p> <p>So I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with Empire State Development (ESD), the New York State economic development authority that oversaw the bids, to see them. My request was denied; the information “if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards,” I was told.</p> <p>Wait a second. What's wrong with transparency? Why wouldn't it&nbsp;enhance&nbsp;legitimacy in this public process?</p> <p>Even if the soccer team bid more, well, the ESD's Selection Committee&nbsp;<a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/rfp/Selection%20Committee%20Recommendation%20.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scored</a>&nbsp;base rent at just 20% of the overall evaluation. The hockey project could still be more deserving.</p> <p>More importantly, what about&nbsp;the state’s overall estimate of economic benefits? My FOIL request met the same roadblock.</p> <p>Such economic benefits -- along with the extent to which the proposed project “strengthens Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality" -- made up only 30% of the overall score. The Isles' bid might again be a defensible choice, even if it scored lower on this metric.</p> <p>But I doubt it scored lower. After all, over the regular season, the hockey team plays 41 home games, while the soccer team plays just 17.</p> <p>Then again, what if the state's economic analysis ignored two elephants in the room, beyond the base rent and expected new jobs and taxes. "[T]he Long Island Railroad," Cuomo's press release stated vaguely, "is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park Station for events year-round."</p> <p>That commitment could be costly. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair Joe Lhota recently expressed concern, as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-belmont-lirr-1.16348814" target="_blank" rel="noopener">noted</a>, about the LIRR's capacity to add weeknight rush-hour trains.</p> <p>He had no price tag for the service upgrade needed to accommodate westbound trains, something the Village Voice <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/01/30/getting-lirr-to-isles-arena-could-require-bending-space-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suggests</a> would be extremely difficult. Shouldn't that overall cost, and the expected public share, have been part of the initial bid evaluation?</p> <p>Moreover, Empire State Development has&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2018/01/belmont-arena-wont-open-until-at-least.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a>&nbsp;that it conducted no market study to assess the Belmont arena's prospects. The new venue, especially if enhanced by LIRR service, likely would be successful -- but at the cost of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/islanders-belmont-nassau-coliseum-1.15523698" target="_blank" rel="noopener">luring events</a>&nbsp;otherwise destined for the revamped, downsized Nassau Coliseum.</p> <p>However, by <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcing</a> on Jan. 29 a part-time, short-term move by the Islanders to Nassau, Cuomo distracts from a decision his administration made that threatens the county-owned Coliseum. This twist comes&nbsp;with a $6 million&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state subsidy</a>&nbsp;to upgrade Coliseum broadcast facilities and ice-making capacity,&nbsp;which also should be factored into the Belmont deal.</p> <p>Cuomo seems to be rewarding not just Island hockey fans but also Brooklyn Sports &amp; Entertainment (BS&amp;E), which operates both Barclays and the Coliseum and seeks to shift Islanders' games from a money-losing environment in Brooklyn to an arena that could host more big events. (BS&amp;E's&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/the-guest-list-1.16426621" target="_blank" rel="noopener">not paying anything</a>.&nbsp;Why shouldn't the arena operator and team shoulder the Coliseum costs,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/editorial/nassau-coliseum-isles-games-new-york-state-1.16465891" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as Newsday suggested</a>, or even ticket buyers and the NHL?)</p> <p>These announcements may get Cuomo on TV. But successor elected officials likely will have to reckon with the ultimate public costs and untoward impacts of a new arena.</p> <p>***<br />Brooklyn journalist Norman Oder writes the daily blog <a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report</a> and is working on a book about the project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AYReport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AYReport</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/39940073732_c019770f62_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Long Island Islanders" width="600" height="360" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor’s Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A more transparent administration would reveal rival bid, economic estimates.</em></p> <p>When Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a triumphant press conference on Dec. 20 to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-10th-proposal-2018-state-state-bringing-new-york-islanders-home-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announce</a>&nbsp;that the New York Islanders would return home to Long Island, building a new arena and ancillary retail, office, hotel space at Belmont Park, his economic development chief, Howard Zemsky, called the new project an "engine for economic growth."</p> <p>Yes, as backers stress, underutilized parking lots would become sites for major activity, the Islanders would return home from an awkward stint in Brooklyn, and the $1 billion project would be "privately funded" (as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-islanders-are-leaving-for-belmont.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bannered</a>&nbsp;on its cover).</p> <p>But unanswered economic questions loom.</p> <p>Consider: the Islanders' expected 49-year lease (with renewal options), is valued at $40 million upfront. For a 43-acre site and $1 billion in investment, that price seems remarkably cheap. (For example, a half-acre commercial&nbsp;<a href="http://www.masseyknakal.com/listings/detail.aspx?lst=25250" target="_blank" rel="noopener">site</a>&nbsp;in Garden City South is on sale for&nbsp;$2.5 million.)</p> <p>To assess the bid by New York Arena Partners, the Islanders' consortium, we might compare it to that of the only rival, New York City Football Club (NYCFC), which sought to build a soccer stadium within a mixed-use development.</p> <p>So I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with Empire State Development (ESD), the New York State economic development authority that oversaw the bids, to see them. My request was denied; the information “if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards,” I was told.</p> <p>Wait a second. What's wrong with transparency? Why wouldn't it&nbsp;enhance&nbsp;legitimacy in this public process?</p> <p>Even if the soccer team bid more, well, the ESD's Selection Committee&nbsp;<a href="https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/rfp/Selection%20Committee%20Recommendation%20.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scored</a>&nbsp;base rent at just 20% of the overall evaluation. The hockey project could still be more deserving.</p> <p>More importantly, what about&nbsp;the state’s overall estimate of economic benefits? My FOIL request met the same roadblock.</p> <p>Such economic benefits -- along with the extent to which the proposed project “strengthens Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality" -- made up only 30% of the overall score. The Isles' bid might again be a defensible choice, even if it scored lower on this metric.</p> <p>But I doubt it scored lower. After all, over the regular season, the hockey team plays 41 home games, while the soccer team plays just 17.</p> <p>Then again, what if the state's economic analysis ignored two elephants in the room, beyond the base rent and expected new jobs and taxes. "[T]he Long Island Railroad," Cuomo's press release stated vaguely, "is committed to developing a plan to expand LIRR service to Belmont Park Station for events year-round."</p> <p>That commitment could be costly. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair Joe Lhota recently expressed concern, as Newsday&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-belmont-lirr-1.16348814" target="_blank" rel="noopener">noted</a>, about the LIRR's capacity to add weeknight rush-hour trains.</p> <p>He had no price tag for the service upgrade needed to accommodate westbound trains, something the Village Voice <a href="https://www.villagevoice.com/2018/01/30/getting-lirr-to-isles-arena-could-require-bending-space-time/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">suggests</a> would be extremely difficult. Shouldn't that overall cost, and the expected public share, have been part of the initial bid evaluation?</p> <p>Moreover, Empire State Development has&nbsp;<a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2018/01/belmont-arena-wont-open-until-at-least.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a>&nbsp;that it conducted no market study to assess the Belmont arena's prospects. The new venue, especially if enhanced by LIRR service, likely would be successful -- but at the cost of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/islanders-belmont-nassau-coliseum-1.15523698" target="_blank" rel="noopener">luring events</a>&nbsp;otherwise destined for the revamped, downsized Nassau Coliseum.</p> <p>However, by <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcing</a> on Jan. 29 a part-time, short-term move by the Islanders to Nassau, Cuomo distracts from a decision his administration made that threatens the county-owned Coliseum. This twist comes&nbsp;with a $6 million&nbsp;<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-york-islanders-return-long-island-next-season-three-years-ahead" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state subsidy</a>&nbsp;to upgrade Coliseum broadcast facilities and ice-making capacity,&nbsp;which also should be factored into the Belmont deal.</p> <p>Cuomo seems to be rewarding not just Island hockey fans but also Brooklyn Sports &amp; Entertainment (BS&amp;E), which operates both Barclays and the Coliseum and seeks to shift Islanders' games from a money-losing environment in Brooklyn to an arena that could host more big events. (BS&amp;E's&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/the-guest-list-1.16426621" target="_blank" rel="noopener">not paying anything</a>.&nbsp;Why shouldn't the arena operator and team shoulder the Coliseum costs,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsday.com/opinion/editorial/nassau-coliseum-isles-games-new-york-state-1.16465891" target="_blank" rel="noopener">as Newsday suggested</a>, or even ticket buyers and the NHL?)</p> <p>These announcements may get Cuomo on TV. But successor elected officials likely will have to reckon with the ultimate public costs and untoward impacts of a new arena.</p> <p>***<br />Brooklyn journalist Norman Oder writes the daily blog <a href="https://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report</a> and is working on a book about the project. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AYReport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AYReport</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
In Albany, De Blasio Budget Testimony Centers on MTA, NYCHA 2018-02-05T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-05T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7460:in-albany-de-blasio-budget-testimony-centers-on-mta-nycha Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25232045217_a8f292e2fe_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Albany budget testimony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio testifying in Albany (Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Testifying in Albany Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $168 billion executive budget and outlined the city’s funding priorities for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>De Blasio was the first to testify at a joint legislative budget hearing on local governments, making his annual journey to the Capitol, where he also met privately with Cuomo for an hour, and was scheduled to meet with three of five legislative conference leaders: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.</p> <p>In his opening remarks, de Blasio had mixed reviews for Cuomo’s budget, praising some measures while also urging state legislators to help him beat back others as they negotiate toward a new state budget by the April 1 start of the fiscal year. The mayor outlined several of his own top priorities that require state approval, such as design-build authority, electoral reform, and renewal of the speed camera program.</p> <p>The mayor’s initial testimony and subsequent back-and-forth with lawmakers included significant focus on transportation and housing issues, especially MTA funding and problems at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), though de Blasio also touched on uncertainty coming from the federal government; criminal justice reforms and their connection to the closure of Rikers Island jails; and other fiscal and policy items.</p> <p>De Blasio noted the burden placed on New York City by the Trump administration’s recently implemented tax plan, and acknowledged the steep impact of the termination of Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) payments, which is expected to cost city hospitals $400 million annually.</p> <p>“I want to commend the Governor for trying to find ways to blunt the effects of the new tax law and I look forward to working with him, and all of you, on solutions,” he said, adding that the upcoming Trump administration budget proposal is likely to pose additional fiscal challenges for New York City.</p> <p>De Blasio also outlined more than $750 million in cuts and cost shifts to New York City contained in Cuomo’s executive budget proposal. These include $144 million in additional charter school costs, a $129 million cut to child welfare services, a $65 million cut to special education funding, $31 million less to juvenile justice programs, and a $9 million reduction in rental subsidies for working families leaving shelters. In addition, there is a $211 million gap between what the city was expecting in school aid and the amount designated in the executive budget, according to the mayor’s office.</p> <p>The mayor criticized the implementation of “Raise the Age,” which requires that 16- and 17-year-olds be removed from adult jails, calling it an unfunded mandate that will cost the city at least $200 million per year. De Blasio noted the executive budget’s elimination of $41 million of state funding for the city’s Close to Home juvenile justice placement program, despite the fact the program’s utilization is expected to triple with the implementation of Raise the Age.</p> <p>“This cut undermines the signature reform designed to keep kids closer to their families. And it will cost the City $15.3 million in Fiscal 18 and $31 million in Fiscal 19,” said de Blasio. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1, and de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7455-under-threat-from-dc-and-albany-de-blasio-presents-88-67-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently outlined his $88.7 billion preliminary budget plan</a>.</p> <p>De Blasio praised the governor’s inclusion of bail and speedy trial reforms in his executive budget. He said the passage of these measures would reduce the city’s jail population and help to accomplish one of his signature endeavors, “to close Rikers Island for good.”</p> <p>When questioned about whether he could expedite the closure plan for the jail complex, which is currently seen as a ten-year project, de Blasio told Democratic State Senator Brian Benjamin, of Manhattan, that the passage of all of his policy objectives -- such as parole, speedy trial, and bail reforms, as well as design-build authority for the city -- would allow the city to shrink the timeline.</p> <p>“Unquestionably, that would take years off the process,” said de Blasio, though he declined to provide an exact projected timeline.</p> <p>De Blasio also emphasized comprehensive election reform and passage of the Dream Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, citing threats to immigrants from the federal government. “Given what is happening in our country and New York State can lead by example by helping all of our students,” said de Blasio, speaking on the same day that the Assembly would pass the Dream Act for the eighth time. It continues to stall in the Senate.</p> <p>On transportation, de Blasio repeatedly cited the “millionaires tax” he wants to see that would create a dedicated funding stream for the MTA and support reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. But he also acknowledged that congestion pricing could work as a revenue-generator for the ailing transportation system run by the MTA.</p> <p>De Blasio said he was ready to continue conversations and negotiations about how to best support the state-controlled transportation authority, but said that proposals contained in Cuomo’s budget should be taken off the table. He did express support for the general congestion pricing principles put forth by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel, but also indicated he wants to see tweaks.</p> <p>De Blasio expressed concern that the money could potentially be diverted away from the subways and buses, suggesting a legal lockbox be created to restrict how congestion pricing revenue may be used. He also called for city approval for major transportation projects in the five boroughs.</p> <p>The mayor took issue <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7447-mta-funding-fight-may-dominate-this-year-s-city-state-budget-struggle" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with the executive budget shifting the burden of MTA capital costs to the city</a>, and battled with Senate finance Chair Cathy Young, an upstate Republican, over the 1953 law that specifies that city is responsible for all of the subway’s capital costs. While the city technically owns the subway system, the state has controlled it for more than 65 years.</p> <p>“I absolutely disagree with your legal interpretation,” de Blasio said. “My counsel has looked at it too and has come to a very different conclusion…Let’s face it, the state has been running the MTA for decades now.”</p> <p>The mayor criticized Cuomo’s “value capture” proposal, “that would grant the MTA the power to raid our property taxes on properties within a one mile radius of certain projects.” He said the proposal would cost the city billions of dollars and force the city to cut back on essential services like police, sanitation, and education.</p> <p>“I was encouraged by the Governor’s recent comments that portrayed this as a choice for the city, not a mandate,” de Blasio said. “I would urge you to remove this provision from the enacted budget altogether.”</p> <p>De Blasio made a similar argument about city services when asked by several lawmakers, including Young and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who lost to de Blasio in last year’s mayoral race, about capping property tax increases in the city. The city is the only area of the state not subject to a cap of 2 percent annual property tax growth. De Blasio, who again pledged that he is about to launch a property tax reform effort, has said that the city must continued to take advantage of increases in property tax values to fund city services.</p> <p>De Blasio, who designated $200 million for new boilers and heating systems in public housing after thousands of residents suffered outages this winter, called for the state to commit to matching the city’s investment in NYCHA. He also complained that the state has taken months to fulfill a request from the city to allocate funds earmarked for NYCHA from two budgets ago. The city had itself delayed its ask for the funds by several months beyond when it could have filed the request.</p> <p>The mayor was grilled intensely by lawmakers on his public housing record. Senator Diane Savino, of Staten Island and the Independent Democratic Conference, called the living conditions “deplorable.” In another testy exchange, Senator Young drew attention to lapses in lead inspections at NYCHA apartments, and reports that children living in these residences were found to have high levels of lead in their blood. The scandal has prompted calls for de Blasio to fire NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye, including from Young on Monday. “Why is Shola Olatoye still at NYCHA?” Young repeatedly asked the mayor.</p> <p>De Blasio acknowledged the mistakes but reaffirmed his previous statements, noting that the lapses began with the previous administration and credited Olatoye for turning the near-bankrupt housing agency around.</p> <p>When Young pressed the mayor on issues at NYCHA, including unsafe conditions and crime that have “stacked up over the years,” the mayor responded tersely.</p> <p>“Respectfully, I think it’s very reductionist to add certain facts up and say someone needs to be dismissed, even though they are getting a lot of work done for the people they serve. When you run a facility as big as NYCHA with years of disinvestment, of course there’s problems,” he said, adding that public safety has dramatically improved at NYCHA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7332-what-s-the-state-role-in-nycha-oversight" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's the State Role in NYCHA Oversight?</a>]</p> <p>During more than two hours of question-and-answer de Blasio was also asked about the financially-struggling public hospital system, where a new CEO has taken over who is promising to build on reforms already underway. The mayor was also asked to support supervised injection facilities for drug addicts and said that a city report is due back soon on the topic. He said it had to be very carefully dealt with.</p> <p>While the mayor faced many tough questions, especially from Young, he also received a number of kudos, especially from city-based Democratic legislators, like Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan, who said that you wouldn’t know from many of the questions that the city is actually doing quite well.</p> <p>Later in the day, de Blasio met for an hour with the governor to discuss how to resolve transportation and fiscal challenges in the coming weeks and months.</p> <p>“It was a productive meeting, we talked about a lot of the same issues that came up in the testimony and, you know, hopefully we can all work together,” de Blasio told reporters when he emerged from Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25232045217_a8f292e2fe_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Albany budget testimony" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio testifying in Albany (Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Testifying in Albany Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $168 billion executive budget and outlined the city’s funding priorities for the next fiscal year.</p> <p>De Blasio was the first to testify at a joint legislative budget hearing on local governments, making his annual journey to the Capitol, where he also met privately with Cuomo for an hour, and was scheduled to meet with three of five legislative conference leaders: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.</p> <p>In his opening remarks, de Blasio had mixed reviews for Cuomo’s budget, praising some measures while also urging state legislators to help him beat back others as they negotiate toward a new state budget by the April 1 start of the fiscal year. The mayor outlined several of his own top priorities that require state approval, such as design-build authority, electoral reform, and renewal of the speed camera program.</p> <p>The mayor’s initial testimony and subsequent back-and-forth with lawmakers included significant focus on transportation and housing issues, especially MTA funding and problems at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), though de Blasio also touched on uncertainty coming from the federal government; criminal justice reforms and their connection to the closure of Rikers Island jails; and other fiscal and policy items.</p> <p>De Blasio noted the burden placed on New York City by the Trump administration’s recently implemented tax plan, and acknowledged the steep impact of the termination of Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) payments, which is expected to cost city hospitals $400 million annually.</p> <p>“I want to commend the Governor for trying to find ways to blunt the effects of the new tax law and I look forward to working with him, and all of you, on solutions,” he said, adding that the upcoming Trump administration budget proposal is likely to pose additional fiscal challenges for New York City.</p> <p>De Blasio also outlined more than $750 million in cuts and cost shifts to New York City contained in Cuomo’s executive budget proposal. These include $144 million in additional charter school costs, a $129 million cut to child welfare services, a $65 million cut to special education funding, $31 million less to juvenile justice programs, and a $9 million reduction in rental subsidies for working families leaving shelters. In addition, there is a $211 million gap between what the city was expecting in school aid and the amount designated in the executive budget, according to the mayor’s office.</p> <p>The mayor criticized the implementation of “Raise the Age,” which requires that 16- and 17-year-olds be removed from adult jails, calling it an unfunded mandate that will cost the city at least $200 million per year. De Blasio noted the executive budget’s elimination of $41 million of state funding for the city’s Close to Home juvenile justice placement program, despite the fact the program’s utilization is expected to triple with the implementation of Raise the Age.</p> <p>“This cut undermines the signature reform designed to keep kids closer to their families. And it will cost the City $15.3 million in Fiscal 18 and $31 million in Fiscal 19,” said de Blasio. The city’s fiscal year begins July 1, and de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7455-under-threat-from-dc-and-albany-de-blasio-presents-88-67-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently outlined his $88.7 billion preliminary budget plan</a>.</p> <p>De Blasio praised the governor’s inclusion of bail and speedy trial reforms in his executive budget. He said the passage of these measures would reduce the city’s jail population and help to accomplish one of his signature endeavors, “to close Rikers Island for good.”</p> <p>When questioned about whether he could expedite the closure plan for the jail complex, which is currently seen as a ten-year project, de Blasio told Democratic State Senator Brian Benjamin, of Manhattan, that the passage of all of his policy objectives -- such as parole, speedy trial, and bail reforms, as well as design-build authority for the city -- would allow the city to shrink the timeline.</p> <p>“Unquestionably, that would take years off the process,” said de Blasio, though he declined to provide an exact projected timeline.</p> <p>De Blasio also emphasized comprehensive election reform and passage of the Dream Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, citing threats to immigrants from the federal government. “Given what is happening in our country and New York State can lead by example by helping all of our students,” said de Blasio, speaking on the same day that the Assembly would pass the Dream Act for the eighth time. It continues to stall in the Senate.</p> <p>On transportation, de Blasio repeatedly cited the “millionaires tax” he wants to see that would create a dedicated funding stream for the MTA and support reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. But he also acknowledged that congestion pricing could work as a revenue-generator for the ailing transportation system run by the MTA.</p> <p>De Blasio said he was ready to continue conversations and negotiations about how to best support the state-controlled transportation authority, but said that proposals contained in Cuomo’s budget should be taken off the table. He did express support for the general congestion pricing principles put forth by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel, but also indicated he wants to see tweaks.</p> <p>De Blasio expressed concern that the money could potentially be diverted away from the subways and buses, suggesting a legal lockbox be created to restrict how congestion pricing revenue may be used. He also called for city approval for major transportation projects in the five boroughs.</p> <p>The mayor took issue <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7447-mta-funding-fight-may-dominate-this-year-s-city-state-budget-struggle" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with the executive budget shifting the burden of MTA capital costs to the city</a>, and battled with Senate finance Chair Cathy Young, an upstate Republican, over the 1953 law that specifies that city is responsible for all of the subway’s capital costs. While the city technically owns the subway system, the state has controlled it for more than 65 years.</p> <p>“I absolutely disagree with your legal interpretation,” de Blasio said. “My counsel has looked at it too and has come to a very different conclusion…Let’s face it, the state has been running the MTA for decades now.”</p> <p>The mayor criticized Cuomo’s “value capture” proposal, “that would grant the MTA the power to raid our property taxes on properties within a one mile radius of certain projects.” He said the proposal would cost the city billions of dollars and force the city to cut back on essential services like police, sanitation, and education.</p> <p>“I was encouraged by the Governor’s recent comments that portrayed this as a choice for the city, not a mandate,” de Blasio said. “I would urge you to remove this provision from the enacted budget altogether.”</p> <p>De Blasio made a similar argument about city services when asked by several lawmakers, including Young and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who lost to de Blasio in last year’s mayoral race, about capping property tax increases in the city. The city is the only area of the state not subject to a cap of 2 percent annual property tax growth. De Blasio, who again pledged that he is about to launch a property tax reform effort, has said that the city must continued to take advantage of increases in property tax values to fund city services.</p> <p>De Blasio, who designated $200 million for new boilers and heating systems in public housing after thousands of residents suffered outages this winter, called for the state to commit to matching the city’s investment in NYCHA. He also complained that the state has taken months to fulfill a request from the city to allocate funds earmarked for NYCHA from two budgets ago. The city had itself delayed its ask for the funds by several months beyond when it could have filed the request.</p> <p>The mayor was grilled intensely by lawmakers on his public housing record. Senator Diane Savino, of Staten Island and the Independent Democratic Conference, called the living conditions “deplorable.” In another testy exchange, Senator Young drew attention to lapses in lead inspections at NYCHA apartments, and reports that children living in these residences were found to have high levels of lead in their blood. The scandal has prompted calls for de Blasio to fire NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye, including from Young on Monday. “Why is Shola Olatoye still at NYCHA?” Young repeatedly asked the mayor.</p> <p>De Blasio acknowledged the mistakes but reaffirmed his previous statements, noting that the lapses began with the previous administration and credited Olatoye for turning the near-bankrupt housing agency around.</p> <p>When Young pressed the mayor on issues at NYCHA, including unsafe conditions and crime that have “stacked up over the years,” the mayor responded tersely.</p> <p>“Respectfully, I think it’s very reductionist to add certain facts up and say someone needs to be dismissed, even though they are getting a lot of work done for the people they serve. When you run a facility as big as NYCHA with years of disinvestment, of course there’s problems,” he said, adding that public safety has dramatically improved at NYCHA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7332-what-s-the-state-role-in-nycha-oversight" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's the State Role in NYCHA Oversight?</a>]</p> <p>During more than two hours of question-and-answer de Blasio was also asked about the financially-struggling public hospital system, where a new CEO has taken over who is promising to build on reforms already underway. The mayor was also asked to support supervised injection facilities for drug addicts and said that a city report is due back soon on the topic. He said it had to be very carefully dealt with.</p> <p>While the mayor faced many tough questions, especially from Young, he also received a number of kudos, especially from city-based Democratic legislators, like Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan, who said that you wouldn’t know from many of the questions that the city is actually doing quite well.</p> <p>Later in the day, de Blasio met for an hour with the governor to discuss how to resolve transportation and fiscal challenges in the coming weeks and months.</p> <p>“It was a productive meeting, we talked about a lot of the same issues that came up in the testimony and, you know, hopefully we can all work together,” de Blasio told reporters when he emerged from Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Transit Advocates to Storm Albany for MTA Action 2018-02-04T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-04T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7458:transit-advocates-to-storm-albany-for-mta-action Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/riders_fix_the_subway_sign.jpg" alt="riders fix the subway sign" width="600" height="374" /></p> <p>(photo: @RidersNY)</p> <hr /> <p>With the “summer of hell” in the past and sustained heat on Governor Andrew Cuomo to fix the long-neglected subway system, one of New York City’s most prominent straphanger advocacy groups will travel to Albany to demand action from Cuomo and the state Legislature.</p> <p>Riders Alliance members will go to the state capital on Monday, February 12, to rally, garner media attention, and meet with lawmakers, hoping to push Cuomo and the Legislature to pass a new long-term funding mechanism for repairing, maintaining, and improving the New York City subway system. That funding mechanism is encapsulated in the report put forth by the “Fix NYC” panel, put together by Cuomo, which recommended a congestion pricing scheme to reduce the gridlock in Manhattan streets and produce around $1.5 billion annually to help fund the MTA.</p> <p>The recommendations from the group, published with a three-year phase-in, are now the subject of negotiations between Cuomo, legislators, and other stakeholders and the governor has promised action beyond the MTA’s emergency Subway Action Plan and eyes a deal in the new state budget, due by the April 1 start to next fiscal year.</p> <p>This past Thursday, Riders Alliance held its first organizing meeting, attended by about 45 people, since the governor unveiled his executive budget in mid-January. Participants discussed organizing tactics, reviewed the Fix NYC plan, and planned for the Albany lobbying day, according to a spokesperson for Riders Alliance, which has continued to gain prominence as the subway crisis has come into greater relief over the past year.</p> <p>The meeting, which was closed to members of the media, also touched upon members’ stories about the MTA’s poor service and the effect that’s having on their lives, the spokesperson said.</p> <p>Reema Hijazi, a Riders Alliance member and C-train rider from Clinton Hill, told Gotham Gazette that she was inspired to attend the organizing meeting by a recent incident where she was stuck on a platform for 45 minutes after her train suddenly turned express mid-commute, forcing her to disembark, while she watched five express A trains and a not-in-service C train pass by before a helpful train showed up.</p> <p>“I spend more time underground than living my life,” Hijazi said. She will be participating in the February 12 lobbying day.</p> <p>The governor’s budget proposal includes the Subway Action Plan, put forth by MTA Chair Joe Lhota and intended to finance crucial immediate repairs and stabilize the beleaguered system. Cuomo, in his budget, re-committed the $429 million he had previously pledged, a little more than half the $836 million required by the plan. The budget calls on New York City to put up the funds for the rest of the plan, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has been unwilling to do so, saying for months that the city and MTA riders are already putting plenty of money into the MTA, which is not spending the money wisely. De Blasio also regularly cites the $400-plus million that the state has moved from MTA funds toward other transportation projects, saying the state should give that money back to the MTA to pay for the rest of the action plan. The mayor’s recently unveiled preliminary budget proposal does not include any money towards the Subway Action Plan.</p> <p>Riders Alliance, however, is thinking more long-term. The group is backing the Fix NYC congestion pricing proposal and will be lobbying legislators to support it. The Subway Action Plan is being funded by a mix of capital funds, legal settlement funds, and funds from a transfer of the Payroll Mobility Tax to the MTA. Riders Alliance argues that this kind of funding scheme is unsustainable, no matter the state-city contribution formula.</p> <p>“The Fix NYC proposal would provide the MTA with the sustainable revenue it would need to fix the subway,” said Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance campaign manager. “The Subway Action Plan does not include a long-term plan or funding source necessary to do what is required to end the cycle of delays, overcrowding and meltdowns.”</p> <p>Bailin said that Cuomo, “who runs the MTA, is the most powerful person in the budget process in Albany,” placing the onus on him to establish a new funding formula for the MTA, which has a capital plan that both the city and state already contribute to and is regularly adjusted, with major expenditures voted on by the MTA board, where the governor has the most appointees and the mayor has a handful. Any solid congestion pricing plan would create a congestion zone in Manhattan that drivers are charged extra to enter. The Fix NYC panel calls for different car and truck tolls, while also adding surcharges for taxis and for-hire vehicles rides through companies like Uber and Lyft.</p> <p>Riders Alliance supports de Blasio’s “millionaires tax” proposal, which would add a surcharge to high-income New York City earners and put the revenue directly toward the MTA and subsidizing reduced-fair MetroCards for low-income individuals, but takes the position that the Fix NYC plan is the top priority for sustainably funding the MTA. With the governor’s backing, congestion pricing appears to have a much better chance of passing in the state budget. Cuomo has not expressed support for a tax hike on top earners. Both proposals face skepticism in the Republican-controlled state Senate, while the Democrat-controlled Assembly is supportive of the millionaires tax and has not shown a clear majority position on the new congestion pricing recommendations.</p> <p>The mayor has in part pushed the “millionaires tax” instead of getting on board with congestion pricing because of a concern that congestion charges would amount to a regressive tax on poor outer-borough car commuters, but the Fix NYC panel noted that census data shows only 4 percent of outer-borough residents drive into Manhattan for work. The Community Service Society found similar results.</p> <p>The Riders Alliance activists -- who have been supported in recent months by several elected officials, including State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, and City Council Member Brad Lander -- will hold a rally and speak with legislators to win support for enshrining a congestion pricing plan into the state budget. Although they will attempt to win over any legislator they can, they will focus on lobbying New York City legislators, they said. The governor's sustained commitment to congestion pricing remains the group's main objective, however, as they acknowledge the reality of Cuomo’s immense power to push through the policy items he prioritizes.</p> <p>Lobbying days in Albany, a fairly common occurrence as interest groups seek to influence the government process, often appear to have little effect, but Riders Alliance members are more confident than ever that legislators will listen to them now.</p> <p>“The difference this year is that this is the first time that I think Albany is starting to recognize the transit crisis,” Bailin said. “And, this is the first time in the Riders Alliance’s history that the governor is starting to talk about a sustainable revenue source to fix it.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/riders_fix_the_subway_sign.jpg" alt="riders fix the subway sign" width="600" height="374" /></p> <p>(photo: @RidersNY)</p> <hr /> <p>With the “summer of hell” in the past and sustained heat on Governor Andrew Cuomo to fix the long-neglected subway system, one of New York City’s most prominent straphanger advocacy groups will travel to Albany to demand action from Cuomo and the state Legislature.</p> <p>Riders Alliance members will go to the state capital on Monday, February 12, to rally, garner media attention, and meet with lawmakers, hoping to push Cuomo and the Legislature to pass a new long-term funding mechanism for repairing, maintaining, and improving the New York City subway system. That funding mechanism is encapsulated in the report put forth by the “Fix NYC” panel, put together by Cuomo, which recommended a congestion pricing scheme to reduce the gridlock in Manhattan streets and produce around $1.5 billion annually to help fund the MTA.</p> <p>The recommendations from the group, published with a three-year phase-in, are now the subject of negotiations between Cuomo, legislators, and other stakeholders and the governor has promised action beyond the MTA’s emergency Subway Action Plan and eyes a deal in the new state budget, due by the April 1 start to next fiscal year.</p> <p>This past Thursday, Riders Alliance held its first organizing meeting, attended by about 45 people, since the governor unveiled his executive budget in mid-January. Participants discussed organizing tactics, reviewed the Fix NYC plan, and planned for the Albany lobbying day, according to a spokesperson for Riders Alliance, which has continued to gain prominence as the subway crisis has come into greater relief over the past year.</p> <p>The meeting, which was closed to members of the media, also touched upon members’ stories about the MTA’s poor service and the effect that’s having on their lives, the spokesperson said.</p> <p>Reema Hijazi, a Riders Alliance member and C-train rider from Clinton Hill, told Gotham Gazette that she was inspired to attend the organizing meeting by a recent incident where she was stuck on a platform for 45 minutes after her train suddenly turned express mid-commute, forcing her to disembark, while she watched five express A trains and a not-in-service C train pass by before a helpful train showed up.</p> <p>“I spend more time underground than living my life,” Hijazi said. She will be participating in the February 12 lobbying day.</p> <p>The governor’s budget proposal includes the Subway Action Plan, put forth by MTA Chair Joe Lhota and intended to finance crucial immediate repairs and stabilize the beleaguered system. Cuomo, in his budget, re-committed the $429 million he had previously pledged, a little more than half the $836 million required by the plan. The budget calls on New York City to put up the funds for the rest of the plan, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has been unwilling to do so, saying for months that the city and MTA riders are already putting plenty of money into the MTA, which is not spending the money wisely. De Blasio also regularly cites the $400-plus million that the state has moved from MTA funds toward other transportation projects, saying the state should give that money back to the MTA to pay for the rest of the action plan. The mayor’s recently unveiled preliminary budget proposal does not include any money towards the Subway Action Plan.</p> <p>Riders Alliance, however, is thinking more long-term. The group is backing the Fix NYC congestion pricing proposal and will be lobbying legislators to support it. The Subway Action Plan is being funded by a mix of capital funds, legal settlement funds, and funds from a transfer of the Payroll Mobility Tax to the MTA. Riders Alliance argues that this kind of funding scheme is unsustainable, no matter the state-city contribution formula.</p> <p>“The Fix NYC proposal would provide the MTA with the sustainable revenue it would need to fix the subway,” said Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance campaign manager. “The Subway Action Plan does not include a long-term plan or funding source necessary to do what is required to end the cycle of delays, overcrowding and meltdowns.”</p> <p>Bailin said that Cuomo, “who runs the MTA, is the most powerful person in the budget process in Albany,” placing the onus on him to establish a new funding formula for the MTA, which has a capital plan that both the city and state already contribute to and is regularly adjusted, with major expenditures voted on by the MTA board, where the governor has the most appointees and the mayor has a handful. Any solid congestion pricing plan would create a congestion zone in Manhattan that drivers are charged extra to enter. The Fix NYC panel calls for different car and truck tolls, while also adding surcharges for taxis and for-hire vehicles rides through companies like Uber and Lyft.</p> <p>Riders Alliance supports de Blasio’s “millionaires tax” proposal, which would add a surcharge to high-income New York City earners and put the revenue directly toward the MTA and subsidizing reduced-fair MetroCards for low-income individuals, but takes the position that the Fix NYC plan is the top priority for sustainably funding the MTA. With the governor’s backing, congestion pricing appears to have a much better chance of passing in the state budget. Cuomo has not expressed support for a tax hike on top earners. Both proposals face skepticism in the Republican-controlled state Senate, while the Democrat-controlled Assembly is supportive of the millionaires tax and has not shown a clear majority position on the new congestion pricing recommendations.</p> <p>The mayor has in part pushed the “millionaires tax” instead of getting on board with congestion pricing because of a concern that congestion charges would amount to a regressive tax on poor outer-borough car commuters, but the Fix NYC panel noted that census data shows only 4 percent of outer-borough residents drive into Manhattan for work. The Community Service Society found similar results.</p> <p>The Riders Alliance activists -- who have been supported in recent months by several elected officials, including State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, and City Council Member Brad Lander -- will hold a rally and speak with legislators to win support for enshrining a congestion pricing plan into the state budget. Although they will attempt to win over any legislator they can, they will focus on lobbying New York City legislators, they said. The governor's sustained commitment to congestion pricing remains the group's main objective, however, as they acknowledge the reality of Cuomo’s immense power to push through the policy items he prioritizes.</p> <p>Lobbying days in Albany, a fairly common occurrence as interest groups seek to influence the government process, often appear to have little effect, but Riders Alliance members are more confident than ever that legislators will listen to them now.</p> <p>“The difference this year is that this is the first time that I think Albany is starting to recognize the transit crisis,” Bailin said. “And, this is the first time in the Riders Alliance’s history that the governor is starting to talk about a sustainable revenue source to fix it.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
MTA Funding Fight May Dominate This Year’s City-State Budget Struggle 2018-01-26T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-26T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7447:mta-funding-fight-may-dominate-this-year-s-city-state-budget-struggle Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/36468561375_7f08a42b5b_z.jpg" alt="36468561375 7f08a42b5b z" width="600" height="477" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo in the subway (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Three key points of contention between the city and the state have emerged over transit funding, highlighted during Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chair Joe Lhota’s testimony at the joint legislative hearing on transportation Thursday in Albany.</p> <p>The hearing, which included discussion of the MTA plan to restore New York City’s ailing subway system, occurred amid an ongoing feud between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo over the funding of crucial repairs for the deteriorating transit system, which is controlled by the state.</p> <p>In a four-hour session that was at times good-natured and at others tense, members of the Senate and Assembly repeatedly questioned Lhota on three controversial and relevant aspects of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda: cost shifts of capital funding for the city’s subway system from the state to the city as outlined in Cuomo’s budget; a “value capture” plan to allow the state to reap property tax revenue spurred by transportation improvements in the city; and the recently unveiled congestion pricing plan outlined by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel.</p> <p>These issues were addressed by de Blasio officials in a press conference call with reporters two days earlier. “We are objecting strongly to language that was inserted into the budget that would create a new, capital liability, a new capital commitment liability on the part of the city for New York City Transit, which is breaking a long-standing history of how the MTA is funded,” said First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan during the call. He and the other officials on the call also pushed back against the value capture proposal, calling it an unprecedented intrusion into the city’s tax system.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio himself also expressed his opposition during his weekly appearance on WNYC radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show, saying Friday morning.</p> <p>“To take our property taxes which pay for our police, our schools, you know, our parks, our sanitation, to try and take from our property taxes for something the State wants is absolutely unacceptable…the first thing the State should do is return the $456 million diverted away from the MTA,” de Blasio said, referring to funds that were earmarked specifically for the MTA diverted by the State to other purposes over the last few years. “Put that money back and then we can discuss how to move forward.”</p> <p>De Blasio will testify himself at a state legislative budget hearing in Albany on Monday, February 5. MTA funding, including the state’s insistence that the city pay about $450 million toward Lhota’s emergency subway stabilization plan, will likely be topics of discussion.</p> <p>During his testimony Thursday, Lhota said the state’s $836 million Subway Action Plan launched last summer to restabilize the city's subway service is working, citing the MTA’s ability to prevent the predicted “summer of hell” in 2017, though the data does not necessarily support his claim, as explained <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/01/13/heres-proof-that-the-mtas-action-plan-isnt-working/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">by Nicole Gelinas of The New York Post</a>.</p> <p>“That’s not true — or only true if you compare summer and autumn to winter and spring, instead of a season to the previous year’s season. The latter is a far better measure because of similar crowding and weather,” Gelinas writes.</p> <p>Despite this, Lhota said he attributes the MTA’s success at preempting a disastrous transportation summer to heightened “vigilance” on the part of the agency, something he said must continue year-round.</p> <p>He also announced technological improvements coming to the MTA, such as a new signaling technology, a fleet of electric buses, and the Freedom Ticket, which allows Long Island Rail Road commuters to seamlessly transfer to the subway system. "I fully expect it to happen this year," Lhota said of the Freedom Ticket.</p> <p>Cuomo's executive budget allocates $9.7 billion for the departments of transportation and motor vehicles, the Thruway Authority, and the MTA. However, the budget shifts all of the responsibility for capital costs to the City of New York, which would “require a sevenfold increase in City capital contributions,” <a href="https://cbcny.org/advocacy/statement-nys-executive-budget-fy2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to</a> Citizens Budget Commission President Carol Kellermann.</p> <p>“What we are talking about here is a radical restructuring of where the [Capital] money comes from,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera, of the Bronx, said to Lhota on Thursday. “Is that correct?”</p> <p>Lhota said this type of fluctuation is typical of past capital plans for transportation.</p> <p>“When you look at funding over the last 20 or 30 years, sometimes the city has given more than the state, sometimes the state has given more than the city -- it goes back and forth,” said Lhota. “There was a period of time when the federal government gave more than the city and state in various different five-year capital plans.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio is expected to continue to push back on the proposal in the coming weeks, while also relying on state legislators from the five boroughs to take up the cause in budget negotiations with the governor’s administration.</p> <p>De Blasio has reluctantly agreed to consider the congestion pricing plan released by Cuomo’s advisory panel. The plan, which is similar to one previously proposed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cuomo has indicated he will tweak as he also negotiates with the Legislature, outlines a three-year, three-phase program aimed at reducing congestion in Manhattan and raising funds for transit improvements, especially the subway system. It also includes calls for the city to increase enforcement of certain traffic measures, like double-parking and placard abuse, that currently contribute to congestion.</p> <p>Fully phased in, the Fix NYC proposal would charge cars entering the most congested areas of Manhattan $11.52, while trucks would pay $25.34, and those riding in cabs or for-hire vehicles like Uber would see a $2 to $5 surcharge. The congestion fees would vary based on location and time of day, and would likely apply to non-commercial vehicles driving below 60th Street in Manhattan. The plan calls for new transit investments early on and estimates about $1.5 billion in annual revenue when fully implemented.</p> <p>De Blasio has previously called general congestion pricing, with new tolls on the East River bridges, a "regressive tax" that would disproportionately impact low- and middle-income commuters from outer boroughs, though there have been <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/mayor-behind-progressive-congestion-pricing-article-1.3498583" target="_blank" rel="noopener">holes punched</a> in that argument given the low percentage of people who commute into Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn that are low-income. The mayor appeared less dismissive of the Fix NYC recommendations, calling them an improvement from prior congestion pricing plans.</p> <p>At Thursday’s hearing, lawmakers were divided on the congestion pricing recommendations, which will be parsed through the legislative process in the coming weeks. Senator Diane Savino, who sponsored the Move New York version of congestion pricing, approves of congestion pricing as a way to make the city’s transportation system more equitable for commuters from the outer boroughs.</p> <p>However, Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference representing parts of Staten Island and bits of Brooklyn, questioned whether appointees to the Fix NYC board considered the Move New York plan as a “better proposal” to eliminate “winner and losers” while enabling the city to generate transportation revenue without going through Albany. A key element of Move New York not included in the Fix NYC recommendations is lowering tolls on the Verrazano and other currently-tolled bridges, something Cuomo indicated he wants to consider.</p> <p>Lhota said that panel produced a plan that they believe is a good starting point and that such concerns have yet be addressed during the legislative process. “The basic concept is there. Now, how do we make it fair?” he said.</p> <p>“Fairness is important,” agreed Savino, adding, “We need to find a more steady stream of revenue for the MTA region, not just the transit system, but the region itself.”</p> <p>Alex Matthiessen, the founder and director of Move New York, a group that evolved out of former Mayor Bloomberg’s failed attempt to pass a version of congestion pricing, has also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7437-leading-congestion-pricing-advocate-explains-path-to-passage" target="_blank" rel="noopener">thrown his support</a> behind the Fix NYC plan despite its differences with his group’s proposal.</p> <p>“I thought that we had created the gold standard of congestion pricing plans, especially for the City of New York, tailored for the City of New York, and these guys actually improved upon our plan in a number of ways,” Matthiessen <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Gotham Gazette and City Limits during a recent podcast</a>.</p> <p>Other lawmakers and transportation experts are not yet sold on congestion pricing. Senator Leroy Comrie, a Queens Democrat, expressed skepticism of the plan, saying it does not solve the problem of congestion in Manhattan nor does it generate a reliable source of revenue for the MTA.</p> <p>“My concern with congestion pricing is it doesn’t relieve the congestion,” Comrie told Lhota during Thursday’s hearing. “Why are we going to do a program where we are just taking more money from people and still the essential business districts will be crowded with the elements -- it won’t fix the truck traffic in the city, it won’t fix the issue of people coming from New Jersey into the City…so there’s a lot of things wrong with the plan.”</p> <p>Regarding Cuomo’s value capture plan, the mayor’s office maintains that the administration was not consulted ahead of time, and just learned of it from Cuomo’s executive budget. The budget proposal, which targets zones around transportation projects such as the makeover of Penn Station, the 125th Street Metro-North Railroad stop, and expansion of the Second Avenue Subway, would deprive the city of control over its own potential revenue, de Blasio officials say.</p> <p>“This is the City’s property tax base, it’s our major source of revenue,” said Fuleihan during the January 23 phone conference. "For the MTA to arbitrarily take City tax revenues, determine what those tax revenues are, on established neighborhoods...it’s outrageous and there is no logical argument for this.”</p> <p>“The City has significant obligations that we need to keep, that we need to make sure we are able to commit to—safest big city in America, universal pre-K for four-year-olds, expansion of pre-K, we can go on, addressing the opioid crisis,” said Fuleihan.</p> <p>At the hearing, Lhota fended off criticisms of Cuomo’s plan from New York City lawmakers, including Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat. “I can't emphasize enough why I think that this is a terrible idea, and I was hoping you would agree with me,” Krueger said of the value capture proposal.</p> <p>When asked by reporters why the city was not consulted in the drafting of the legislation, Lhota said he could not speak for the governor’s office. “You are asking me questions that should be directed at the [executive] chamber,” he said, but noted that Bloomberg used value capture to extend the 7 train to the Upper West Side of Manhattan (something de Blasio officials acknowledged but pointed out was a city decision).</p> <p>A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office addressed the criticisms saying that other major cities have used this strategy and they expected all affected to be on board with the plan.</p> <p>“Transit systems in cities across the world use this method, including New York City,” said Cuomo spokesperson Dani Lever. “We'd think anyone who wants to improve the subways would support it, and we will work with the legislature and all our local partners throughout the budget process to pass this law.”</p> <p>Lhota indicated that the value capture tax could be extended indefinitely after the investment is recouped, arguing that there was a good case for the tax to be continued to maintain the quality of the subway service. “There’s unanimity in the entire MTA board that if we are using taxpayer dollars, we should try to recoup some of that wherever we can,” he said. He also said that the state is constitutionally authorized to utilize the value capture plan in other parts of the city, as needed.</p> <p>Assembly Ways and Means Chairperson Helene Weinstein, a Democrat representing Brooklyn, noted the absence of communication between Cuomo’s administration and the community representatives of affected areas, questioning why the value capture wasn’t applied to suburban areas that are benefiting from major transportation investment. Of the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s West Side, she said, “That was a negotiated, agreed-to proposal, that both the city and MTA board worked out, and that worked on properties that were not really developed. There was clearly much more of a nexus between the extension of the 7 line [and the linked value capture program], than this sort of open-ended situation here.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/36468561375_7f08a42b5b_z.jpg" alt="36468561375 7f08a42b5b z" width="600" height="477" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo in the subway (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Three key points of contention between the city and the state have emerged over transit funding, highlighted during Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chair Joe Lhota’s testimony at the joint legislative hearing on transportation Thursday in Albany.</p> <p>The hearing, which included discussion of the MTA plan to restore New York City’s ailing subway system, occurred amid an ongoing feud between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo over the funding of crucial repairs for the deteriorating transit system, which is controlled by the state.</p> <p>In a four-hour session that was at times good-natured and at others tense, members of the Senate and Assembly repeatedly questioned Lhota on three controversial and relevant aspects of Cuomo’s 2018 agenda: cost shifts of capital funding for the city’s subway system from the state to the city as outlined in Cuomo’s budget; a “value capture” plan to allow the state to reap property tax revenue spurred by transportation improvements in the city; and the recently unveiled congestion pricing plan outlined by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel.</p> <p>These issues were addressed by de Blasio officials in a press conference call with reporters two days earlier. “We are objecting strongly to language that was inserted into the budget that would create a new, capital liability, a new capital commitment liability on the part of the city for New York City Transit, which is breaking a long-standing history of how the MTA is funded,” said First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan during the call. He and the other officials on the call also pushed back against the value capture proposal, calling it an unprecedented intrusion into the city’s tax system.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio himself also expressed his opposition during his weekly appearance on WNYC radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show, saying Friday morning.</p> <p>“To take our property taxes which pay for our police, our schools, you know, our parks, our sanitation, to try and take from our property taxes for something the State wants is absolutely unacceptable…the first thing the State should do is return the $456 million diverted away from the MTA,” de Blasio said, referring to funds that were earmarked specifically for the MTA diverted by the State to other purposes over the last few years. “Put that money back and then we can discuss how to move forward.”</p> <p>De Blasio will testify himself at a state legislative budget hearing in Albany on Monday, February 5. MTA funding, including the state’s insistence that the city pay about $450 million toward Lhota’s emergency subway stabilization plan, will likely be topics of discussion.</p> <p>During his testimony Thursday, Lhota said the state’s $836 million Subway Action Plan launched last summer to restabilize the city's subway service is working, citing the MTA’s ability to prevent the predicted “summer of hell” in 2017, though the data does not necessarily support his claim, as explained <a href="https://nypost.com/2018/01/13/heres-proof-that-the-mtas-action-plan-isnt-working/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">by Nicole Gelinas of The New York Post</a>.</p> <p>“That’s not true — or only true if you compare summer and autumn to winter and spring, instead of a season to the previous year’s season. The latter is a far better measure because of similar crowding and weather,” Gelinas writes.</p> <p>Despite this, Lhota said he attributes the MTA’s success at preempting a disastrous transportation summer to heightened “vigilance” on the part of the agency, something he said must continue year-round.</p> <p>He also announced technological improvements coming to the MTA, such as a new signaling technology, a fleet of electric buses, and the Freedom Ticket, which allows Long Island Rail Road commuters to seamlessly transfer to the subway system. "I fully expect it to happen this year," Lhota said of the Freedom Ticket.</p> <p>Cuomo's executive budget allocates $9.7 billion for the departments of transportation and motor vehicles, the Thruway Authority, and the MTA. However, the budget shifts all of the responsibility for capital costs to the City of New York, which would “require a sevenfold increase in City capital contributions,” <a href="https://cbcny.org/advocacy/statement-nys-executive-budget-fy2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to</a> Citizens Budget Commission President Carol Kellermann.</p> <p>“What we are talking about here is a radical restructuring of where the [Capital] money comes from,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera, of the Bronx, said to Lhota on Thursday. “Is that correct?”</p> <p>Lhota said this type of fluctuation is typical of past capital plans for transportation.</p> <p>“When you look at funding over the last 20 or 30 years, sometimes the city has given more than the state, sometimes the state has given more than the city -- it goes back and forth,” said Lhota. “There was a period of time when the federal government gave more than the city and state in various different five-year capital plans.”</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio is expected to continue to push back on the proposal in the coming weeks, while also relying on state legislators from the five boroughs to take up the cause in budget negotiations with the governor’s administration.</p> <p>De Blasio has reluctantly agreed to consider the congestion pricing plan released by Cuomo’s advisory panel. The plan, which is similar to one previously proposed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cuomo has indicated he will tweak as he also negotiates with the Legislature, outlines a three-year, three-phase program aimed at reducing congestion in Manhattan and raising funds for transit improvements, especially the subway system. It also includes calls for the city to increase enforcement of certain traffic measures, like double-parking and placard abuse, that currently contribute to congestion.</p> <p>Fully phased in, the Fix NYC proposal would charge cars entering the most congested areas of Manhattan $11.52, while trucks would pay $25.34, and those riding in cabs or for-hire vehicles like Uber would see a $2 to $5 surcharge. The congestion fees would vary based on location and time of day, and would likely apply to non-commercial vehicles driving below 60th Street in Manhattan. The plan calls for new transit investments early on and estimates about $1.5 billion in annual revenue when fully implemented.</p> <p>De Blasio has previously called general congestion pricing, with new tolls on the East River bridges, a "regressive tax" that would disproportionately impact low- and middle-income commuters from outer boroughs, though there have been <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/mayor-behind-progressive-congestion-pricing-article-1.3498583" target="_blank" rel="noopener">holes punched</a> in that argument given the low percentage of people who commute into Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn that are low-income. The mayor appeared less dismissive of the Fix NYC recommendations, calling them an improvement from prior congestion pricing plans.</p> <p>At Thursday’s hearing, lawmakers were divided on the congestion pricing recommendations, which will be parsed through the legislative process in the coming weeks. Senator Diane Savino, who sponsored the Move New York version of congestion pricing, approves of congestion pricing as a way to make the city’s transportation system more equitable for commuters from the outer boroughs.</p> <p>However, Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference representing parts of Staten Island and bits of Brooklyn, questioned whether appointees to the Fix NYC board considered the Move New York plan as a “better proposal” to eliminate “winner and losers” while enabling the city to generate transportation revenue without going through Albany. A key element of Move New York not included in the Fix NYC recommendations is lowering tolls on the Verrazano and other currently-tolled bridges, something Cuomo indicated he wants to consider.</p> <p>Lhota said that panel produced a plan that they believe is a good starting point and that such concerns have yet be addressed during the legislative process. “The basic concept is there. Now, how do we make it fair?” he said.</p> <p>“Fairness is important,” agreed Savino, adding, “We need to find a more steady stream of revenue for the MTA region, not just the transit system, but the region itself.”</p> <p>Alex Matthiessen, the founder and director of Move New York, a group that evolved out of former Mayor Bloomberg’s failed attempt to pass a version of congestion pricing, has also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7437-leading-congestion-pricing-advocate-explains-path-to-passage" target="_blank" rel="noopener">thrown his support</a> behind the Fix NYC plan despite its differences with his group’s proposal.</p> <p>“I thought that we had created the gold standard of congestion pricing plans, especially for the City of New York, tailored for the City of New York, and these guys actually improved upon our plan in a number of ways,” Matthiessen <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told Gotham Gazette and City Limits during a recent podcast</a>.</p> <p>Other lawmakers and transportation experts are not yet sold on congestion pricing. Senator Leroy Comrie, a Queens Democrat, expressed skepticism of the plan, saying it does not solve the problem of congestion in Manhattan nor does it generate a reliable source of revenue for the MTA.</p> <p>“My concern with congestion pricing is it doesn’t relieve the congestion,” Comrie told Lhota during Thursday’s hearing. “Why are we going to do a program where we are just taking more money from people and still the essential business districts will be crowded with the elements -- it won’t fix the truck traffic in the city, it won’t fix the issue of people coming from New Jersey into the City…so there’s a lot of things wrong with the plan.”</p> <p>Regarding Cuomo’s value capture plan, the mayor’s office maintains that the administration was not consulted ahead of time, and just learned of it from Cuomo’s executive budget. The budget proposal, which targets zones around transportation projects such as the makeover of Penn Station, the 125th Street Metro-North Railroad stop, and expansion of the Second Avenue Subway, would deprive the city of control over its own potential revenue, de Blasio officials say.</p> <p>“This is the City’s property tax base, it’s our major source of revenue,” said Fuleihan during the January 23 phone conference. "For the MTA to arbitrarily take City tax revenues, determine what those tax revenues are, on established neighborhoods...it’s outrageous and there is no logical argument for this.”</p> <p>“The City has significant obligations that we need to keep, that we need to make sure we are able to commit to—safest big city in America, universal pre-K for four-year-olds, expansion of pre-K, we can go on, addressing the opioid crisis,” said Fuleihan.</p> <p>At the hearing, Lhota fended off criticisms of Cuomo’s plan from New York City lawmakers, including Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat. “I can't emphasize enough why I think that this is a terrible idea, and I was hoping you would agree with me,” Krueger said of the value capture proposal.</p> <p>When asked by reporters why the city was not consulted in the drafting of the legislation, Lhota said he could not speak for the governor’s office. “You are asking me questions that should be directed at the [executive] chamber,” he said, but noted that Bloomberg used value capture to extend the 7 train to the Upper West Side of Manhattan (something de Blasio officials acknowledged but pointed out was a city decision).</p> <p>A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office addressed the criticisms saying that other major cities have used this strategy and they expected all affected to be on board with the plan.</p> <p>“Transit systems in cities across the world use this method, including New York City,” said Cuomo spokesperson Dani Lever. “We'd think anyone who wants to improve the subways would support it, and we will work with the legislature and all our local partners throughout the budget process to pass this law.”</p> <p>Lhota indicated that the value capture tax could be extended indefinitely after the investment is recouped, arguing that there was a good case for the tax to be continued to maintain the quality of the subway service. “There’s unanimity in the entire MTA board that if we are using taxpayer dollars, we should try to recoup some of that wherever we can,” he said. He also said that the state is constitutionally authorized to utilize the value capture plan in other parts of the city, as needed.</p> <p>Assembly Ways and Means Chairperson Helene Weinstein, a Democrat representing Brooklyn, noted the absence of communication between Cuomo’s administration and the community representatives of affected areas, questioning why the value capture wasn’t applied to suburban areas that are benefiting from major transportation investment. Of the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s West Side, she said, “That was a negotiated, agreed-to proposal, that both the city and MTA board worked out, and that worked on properties that were not really developed. There was clearly much more of a nexus between the extension of the 7 line [and the linked value capture program], than this sort of open-ended situation here.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Leading Congestion Pricing Advocate Explains Path to Passage 2018-01-23T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-23T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7437:leading-congestion-pricing-advocate-explains-path-to-passage Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32032395535_1bb9522fda_z.jpg" alt="subway station MTA" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Alex Matthiessen, the founder and director of Move New York, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">joined the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast Tuesday</a> to discuss the path ahead for congestion pricing now that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel has releases its recommendations and the governor is vowing to negotiation with the Legislature to pass measures that will reduce congestion in Manhattan and create dedicated funds for the MTA.</p> <p>Matthiessen explained the recent history of congestion pricing in New York and how his group came together in the wake of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ill-fated attempt at a version of congestion pricing and took a multi-year approach to crafting and promoting a new, more inclusive plan.</p> <p>Matthiessen said that while there are some differences, including positive ones, Move New York is strongly behind the plan put forth by Fix NYC and vowing to lead a campaign to see it passed.</p> <p>“I thought that we had created the gold standard of congestion pricing plans, especially for the City of New York, tailored for the City of New York, and these guys actually improved upon our plan in a number of ways,” Matthiessen said of Move New York and the new recommendations, citing the panel’s notion of tolling a congestion zone, but not the East River bridges. The plan includes new transit investments, a dedicated Manhattan zone that would require an additional fee to enter, added surcharges on for-hire vehicles and trucks in the zone, and other measures to fight congestion and improve the public transit system. It is outlined for a three-step and three-year phase in, eventually estimated to raise about $1.5 billion annually for mass transit.</p> <p>Matthiessen pointed to the subway crisis that developed this past summer and tens of billions of dollars in estimated lost productivity because of Manhattan congestion as key drivers of the urgency now behind congestion pricing, starting with new support from Cuomo, who he indicated will be the key actor in determining whether a deal can be reached with legislators.</p> <p>“There is a lot of pressure on the governor and on the Legislature to deliver something, and I don’t think that we can afford to wait,” he said, pointing to the April 1 deadline for a new state budget. “This is the most viable plan out there at the moment, I don’t expect that to change. There is a lot of momentum behind this.”</p> <p>“I think there is a lot of expectations by the public that Albany has to deal with this issue this year,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Matthiessen said</a>. “They’ve got elections coming up. No one likes to get behind a plan that’s going to cost people more than it cost them before, in terms of their daily commutes, but I don’t think they want to go into a 2018 election, either, having basically abandoned the 9 million people that use the region’s transit system.”</p> <p>While Cuomo has referenced items that his Fix NYC panel did not put forward that he may pursue as he negotiates with the Legislature, such as reducing the tolls on existing bridges with them, like the Verrazzano and Whitestone, many including Matthiessen want to see funding for reduced-price MetroCards as part of the final deal. There will be no shortage of moving pieces and points of negotiation, but Matthiessen is confident that the timing is right and the political stars aligned, despite the fact that there has been cold water thrown at congestion pricing from the Democrat-led Assembly, the Republican-led Senate, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>“You just can’t continue to underinvest in a trillion dollar transit system like ours and not pay the price for it. We’ve already paid the price for it,” Matthiessen <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said on the podcast</a>.</p> <p><em><strong>There’s a lot more to the conversation -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">listen to the full discussion on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast here</a>, or find it wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes.</strong></em></p> <p>

***
by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32032395535_1bb9522fda_z.jpg" alt="subway station MTA" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Alex Matthiessen, the founder and director of Move New York, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">joined the Max &amp; Murphy Podcast Tuesday</a> to discuss the path ahead for congestion pricing now that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel has releases its recommendations and the governor is vowing to negotiation with the Legislature to pass measures that will reduce congestion in Manhattan and create dedicated funds for the MTA.</p> <p>Matthiessen explained the recent history of congestion pricing in New York and how his group came together in the wake of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ill-fated attempt at a version of congestion pricing and took a multi-year approach to crafting and promoting a new, more inclusive plan.</p> <p>Matthiessen said that while there are some differences, including positive ones, Move New York is strongly behind the plan put forth by Fix NYC and vowing to lead a campaign to see it passed.</p> <p>“I thought that we had created the gold standard of congestion pricing plans, especially for the City of New York, tailored for the City of New York, and these guys actually improved upon our plan in a number of ways,” Matthiessen said of Move New York and the new recommendations, citing the panel’s notion of tolling a congestion zone, but not the East River bridges. The plan includes new transit investments, a dedicated Manhattan zone that would require an additional fee to enter, added surcharges on for-hire vehicles and trucks in the zone, and other measures to fight congestion and improve the public transit system. It is outlined for a three-step and three-year phase in, eventually estimated to raise about $1.5 billion annually for mass transit.</p> <p>Matthiessen pointed to the subway crisis that developed this past summer and tens of billions of dollars in estimated lost productivity because of Manhattan congestion as key drivers of the urgency now behind congestion pricing, starting with new support from Cuomo, who he indicated will be the key actor in determining whether a deal can be reached with legislators.</p> <p>“There is a lot of pressure on the governor and on the Legislature to deliver something, and I don’t think that we can afford to wait,” he said, pointing to the April 1 deadline for a new state budget. “This is the most viable plan out there at the moment, I don’t expect that to change. There is a lot of momentum behind this.”</p> <p>“I think there is a lot of expectations by the public that Albany has to deal with this issue this year,” <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Matthiessen said</a>. “They’ve got elections coming up. No one likes to get behind a plan that’s going to cost people more than it cost them before, in terms of their daily commutes, but I don’t think they want to go into a 2018 election, either, having basically abandoned the 9 million people that use the region’s transit system.”</p> <p>While Cuomo has referenced items that his Fix NYC panel did not put forward that he may pursue as he negotiates with the Legislature, such as reducing the tolls on existing bridges with them, like the Verrazzano and Whitestone, many including Matthiessen want to see funding for reduced-price MetroCards as part of the final deal. There will be no shortage of moving pieces and points of negotiation, but Matthiessen is confident that the timing is right and the political stars aligned, despite the fact that there has been cold water thrown at congestion pricing from the Democrat-led Assembly, the Republican-led Senate, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.</p> <p>“You just can’t continue to underinvest in a trillion dollar transit system like ours and not pay the price for it. We’ve already paid the price for it,” Matthiessen <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">said on the podcast</a>.</p> <p><em><strong>There’s a lot more to the conversation -- <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7433-max-murphy-podcast-congestion-pricing-with-alex-matthiessen-of-move-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">listen to the full discussion on the Max &amp; Murphy podcast here</a>, or find it wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes.</strong></em></p> <p>

***
by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York 2018-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7434:2018-will-be-a-busy-contentious-election-year-in-new-york Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26473316189_c59edbb89b_z.jpg" alt="election polling place Brooklyn" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>a polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>This year will be another busy, contentious election year for New Yorkers. While 2017 saw the majority of elections confined to local government, 2018 will see three election days and races for state-level offices, including five of six statewide positions and all of the state Legislature, and all of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives.</p> <p>A fourth election day may occur in some districts if Governor Andrew Cuomo calls a special election to fill 11 currently vacant state Senate and Assembly seats before the regularly-scheduled votes this fall. Cuomo could have called the special election as early as January 1 but has waited to do so, leaving those 11 districts with less than full representation.</p> <p>Aside from those potential special elections and depending on political party affiliation, New Yorkers will be able to vote in the federal primaries on June 26; the state primaries on September 11; and Election Day November 6. Only those registered with a party can vote in party primaries in New York, but the November general elections are open to all registered voters. So-called “independent” voters -- those registered to vote but not with a party -- cannot participate in party primaries, nor can those registered with parties wherein primaries are not being decided.</p> <p>In 2016 there was an unsuccessful push to combine the congressional and state primaries to a single date, which ensured four election days given it was a presidential year and that primary was in April. There is a good chance there will be a similar push this year to combine primary dates, but while Democrats have sought to move the state primaries to June, Republicans have suggested an August date, leaving the sides at an impasse.</p> <p>Along with all the 27 New York House seats, which are elected every two years, one of New York’s two United State Senate seats, elected every six years, is on the ballot this year -- the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. At the state government level, the four statewide posts of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all on the ballot in their four-year cycle, as well as the every-two-year elections of all 150 seats in the state Assembly and all 63 seats in the state Senate.</p> <p>In New York, this year’s deadlines for candidates to file for federal office is April 12 and for state offices, July 12.</p> <p>Another macro issue to watch ahead of this year’s elections is voting reform in New York. There is an ongoing push to see early voting passed, among other reforms like same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. While Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly support such reforms, Republicans who control the state Senate do not.</p> <p><strong>2018 Federal Elections in New York</strong><br /> While Gillibrand is up for reelection this year, New York’s other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, won reelection in 2016 and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, and winning a special election in 2010, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat when she was appointed Secretary of State. Gillibrand went on to win the regularly-scheduled 2012 election for the seat as well and is now running for her second full term as a senator. She is rumored as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It is unclear who Republicans will run against her this year in New York.</p> <p>In the House, New York and national Democrats are eyeing several seats to help flip control of the chamber through the 2018 elections. As of January 2018, the House is composed of 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 4 vacancies.</p> <p>Given Republican President Donald Trump’s record unpopularity, which is especially acute in his home state of New York; recent Democratic electoral wins in New York and elsewhere; and historical trends whereby a new president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections, many are expecting a Democratic wave in 2018, with the potential for flipping the House and possibly the Senate.</p> <p>Democrats’ “red to blue” campaign across the country will include multiple New York districts while local party activists may target others. Governor Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year, has promised a campaign to flip six New York House seats after their officeholders have supported legislation Cuomo deems detrimental to New York. Cuomo joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats at a June 2017 rally in Manhattan to kick off a campaign to unseat Reps. Lee Zeldin (CD1), Chris Collins (CD27), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23).</p> <p>The national Democratic Party is currently <a href="https://redtoblue.dccc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prioritizing</a> two of those New York Congressional Districts, the 11th and the 22nd. Rep. Donovan currently represents the 11th, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Max Rose is seen as the Democrats’ best chance to unseat Donovan in November, though Donovan also must first survivie a primary challenge by former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. Rep. Tenney represents the 22nd, sitting just east of Syracuse and including Binghamton, Cortland, and Utica, and the Democratic Party is apparently behind Anthony Brindisi, a state Assembly member.</p> <p>New York’s 19th Congressional District, currently represented by Faso, is expected to be a toss up. Faso won a hotly contested 2016 race against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. The Hudson Valley seat is likely to again be home to a great deal of political spending.</p> <p>The 24th Congressional District may also be home to a strong challenge to a sitting Republican. Syracuse’s recently-former mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has hinted at potentially challenging current Rep. Katko. The Democratic Party’s “red to blue” campaign lists the district in its efforts as well but has not found a candidate to support yet.</p> <p>In the other direction, in early February 2017 the National Republican Congressional Committee released it’s Democratic targets for the 2018 elections. The list contained references to two New York Democrats: Tom Suozzi, who represents Congressional District 3 in the north and western portion of Nassau County, Long Island and Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District containing Poughkeepsie, Woodbury, and Newburgh.</p> <p>Aside from the Grimm-Donovan primary, there may be a handful of other intraparty challenges to sitting representatives worth watching. Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, for example, is being challenged from the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While Ocasio-Cortez faces very long odds, she may be able to at least make Crowley pay more attention to his home district than his larger ambitions and agenda.</p> <p><strong>2018 State-Level Elections in New York</strong><br /> As mentioned, 2018 is an election year for the four state-level statewide positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. All four posts are held by Democrats expected to seek another term.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. While Bob Duffy was Cuomo’s first-term Lieutenant Governor, he declined to run for reelection in 2014 and Cuomo chose Kathy Hochul as his running mate. She has said she is running again. Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor can run as a slate, but they are elected separately in party primaries, then together in the general election. Cuomo and Hochul may have to each survive Democratic primary challengers before they can rejoin as a ticket for the general election.</p> <p>The Lieutenant Governor’s role is similar to the Vice President of the United States. The LG is President of the State Senate and acts as Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state, in the case of severe disability, death, impeachment, or resignation from office. Otherwise it is a largely ceremonial position often seen as a cheerleader for the governor and the administration’s policies. Hochul often represents the Cuomo administration at events across the state, and has taken the lead on certain issues, such as co-chairing a recent task force put together by Cuomo on women’s opportunity.</p> <p>It is unclear who Republicans will nominate for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but GOP leadership has indicated it wants to avoid a primary. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has launched a gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side. Meanwhile, several minor parties will also put forward candidates. Democratic challengers to Cuomo and Hochul have begun to emerge, with former State Senator Terry Gibson aggressively testing the gubernatorial waters and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams opening an exploratory committee to run for LG.</p> <p>New York State’s Attorney General is also up for election in 2018. Eric Schneiderman first won election to the office of Attorney General in 2010. He would go on to win reelection in 2014. The Attorney General will be running for his third term in 2018 should he seek reelection. Schneiderman has been in the news a lot lately for his frequent lawsuits on behalf of New York against the Trump Administration and its policies.</p> <p>Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also expected to run for reelection this year. Dinapoli was first appointed to the position in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. He would go on to win election to the Comptroller’s Office in 2010 and 2014. The Comptroller is tasked with managing the state’s enormous pension fund, auditing state agencies and local governments, and reviewing state and local budgets.</p> <p>All 63 seats in the state Senate will be on the ballot this fall. Unlike the Assembly, control of the Senate will be at stake, with several swing districts at play. There is currently a complicated and contentious breakdown of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 seats, but have a majority because of nine Democrats -- Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder conferences with the GOP while the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with that Republican conference.</p> <p>Mainline and Independent Democrats reached a tentative deal in late 2017 to begin to work together in the State Senate, but only on a number of conditions, including winning the two special elections for currently vacant seats. The empty seat in the Bronx is all but a lock, while the empty Westchester seat will be closer to a toss-up. Felder’s status is not completely clear in terms of what he will do -- he has always maintained he’ll take the best deal for him and his constituents.</p> <p>Complicating things is grassroots anger at members of the IDC, whereby several if not all IDC members will be facing primary challenges. IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx (SD34), Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn (SD20), Jose Peralta of Queens (SD13), and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan (SD31) are among those members already facing primary challenges.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there are somewhere around a half-dozen swing districts to watch outside New York City, and one potential swing district within the five boroughs -- the Brooklyn seat currently held by Senator Martin Golden. The expected Democratic wave could lead to several seats switching hands, though local races can turn on different issues and long-time incumbents like Golden can be very difficult to beat. Districts on Long Island and in the suburbs just north of New York City are often more likely to change hands, while New York City and other large cities around the state are overwhelmingly represented by Democrats and upstate areas outside of other major cities are heavily Republican.</p> <p>All 150 state Assembly seats are up for election in 2018. The chamber is heavily Democratic, with a current partisan split of 103 Democrats, 37 Republicans, one Independence Party member, and the nine vacancies.</p> <p>With all that is happening in other races, especially those for Governor and in key House and state Senate swing districts, there will likely be little attention paid to most Assembly races this year.</p> <p>There will be other local elections in 2018, including local school board and trial court judicial elections, among others.</p> <p>

***
by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/26473316189_c59edbb89b_z.jpg" alt="election polling place Brooklyn" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>a polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>This year will be another busy, contentious election year for New Yorkers. While 2017 saw the majority of elections confined to local government, 2018 will see three election days and races for state-level offices, including five of six statewide positions and all of the state Legislature, and all of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives.</p> <p>A fourth election day may occur in some districts if Governor Andrew Cuomo calls a special election to fill 11 currently vacant state Senate and Assembly seats before the regularly-scheduled votes this fall. Cuomo could have called the special election as early as January 1 but has waited to do so, leaving those 11 districts with less than full representation.</p> <p>Aside from those potential special elections and depending on political party affiliation, New Yorkers will be able to vote in the federal primaries on June 26; the state primaries on September 11; and Election Day November 6. Only those registered with a party can vote in party primaries in New York, but the November general elections are open to all registered voters. So-called “independent” voters -- those registered to vote but not with a party -- cannot participate in party primaries, nor can those registered with parties wherein primaries are not being decided.</p> <p>In 2016 there was an unsuccessful push to combine the congressional and state primaries to a single date, which ensured four election days given it was a presidential year and that primary was in April. There is a good chance there will be a similar push this year to combine primary dates, but while Democrats have sought to move the state primaries to June, Republicans have suggested an August date, leaving the sides at an impasse.</p> <p>Along with all the 27 New York House seats, which are elected every two years, one of New York’s two United State Senate seats, elected every six years, is on the ballot this year -- the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. At the state government level, the four statewide posts of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all on the ballot in their four-year cycle, as well as the every-two-year elections of all 150 seats in the state Assembly and all 63 seats in the state Senate.</p> <p>In New York, this year’s deadlines for candidates to file for federal office is April 12 and for state offices, July 12.</p> <p>Another macro issue to watch ahead of this year’s elections is voting reform in New York. There is an ongoing push to see early voting passed, among other reforms like same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. While Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly support such reforms, Republicans who control the state Senate do not.</p> <p><strong>2018 Federal Elections in New York</strong><br /> While Gillibrand is up for reelection this year, New York’s other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, won reelection in 2016 and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, and winning a special election in 2010, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat when she was appointed Secretary of State. Gillibrand went on to win the regularly-scheduled 2012 election for the seat as well and is now running for her second full term as a senator. She is rumored as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It is unclear who Republicans will run against her this year in New York.</p> <p>In the House, New York and national Democrats are eyeing several seats to help flip control of the chamber through the 2018 elections. As of January 2018, the House is composed of 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 4 vacancies.</p> <p>Given Republican President Donald Trump’s record unpopularity, which is especially acute in his home state of New York; recent Democratic electoral wins in New York and elsewhere; and historical trends whereby a new president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections, many are expecting a Democratic wave in 2018, with the potential for flipping the House and possibly the Senate.</p> <p>Democrats’ “red to blue” campaign across the country will include multiple New York districts while local party activists may target others. Governor Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year, has promised a campaign to flip six New York House seats after their officeholders have supported legislation Cuomo deems detrimental to New York. Cuomo joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats at a June 2017 rally in Manhattan to kick off a campaign to unseat Reps. Lee Zeldin (CD1), Chris Collins (CD27), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23).</p> <p>The national Democratic Party is currently <a href="https://redtoblue.dccc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prioritizing</a> two of those New York Congressional Districts, the 11th and the 22nd. Rep. Donovan currently represents the 11th, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Max Rose is seen as the Democrats’ best chance to unseat Donovan in November, though Donovan also must first survivie a primary challenge by former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. Rep. Tenney represents the 22nd, sitting just east of Syracuse and including Binghamton, Cortland, and Utica, and the Democratic Party is apparently behind Anthony Brindisi, a state Assembly member.</p> <p>New York’s 19th Congressional District, currently represented by Faso, is expected to be a toss up. Faso won a hotly contested 2016 race against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. The Hudson Valley seat is likely to again be home to a great deal of political spending.</p> <p>The 24th Congressional District may also be home to a strong challenge to a sitting Republican. Syracuse’s recently-former mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has hinted at potentially challenging current Rep. Katko. The Democratic Party’s “red to blue” campaign lists the district in its efforts as well but has not found a candidate to support yet.</p> <p>In the other direction, in early February 2017 the National Republican Congressional Committee released it’s Democratic targets for the 2018 elections. The list contained references to two New York Democrats: Tom Suozzi, who represents Congressional District 3 in the north and western portion of Nassau County, Long Island and Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District containing Poughkeepsie, Woodbury, and Newburgh.</p> <p>Aside from the Grimm-Donovan primary, there may be a handful of other intraparty challenges to sitting representatives worth watching. Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, for example, is being challenged from the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While Ocasio-Cortez faces very long odds, she may be able to at least make Crowley pay more attention to his home district than his larger ambitions and agenda.</p> <p><strong>2018 State-Level Elections in New York</strong><br /> As mentioned, 2018 is an election year for the four state-level statewide positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. All four posts are held by Democrats expected to seek another term.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. While Bob Duffy was Cuomo’s first-term Lieutenant Governor, he declined to run for reelection in 2014 and Cuomo chose Kathy Hochul as his running mate. She has said she is running again. Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor can run as a slate, but they are elected separately in party primaries, then together in the general election. Cuomo and Hochul may have to each survive Democratic primary challengers before they can rejoin as a ticket for the general election.</p> <p>The Lieutenant Governor’s role is similar to the Vice President of the United States. The LG is President of the State Senate and acts as Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state, in the case of severe disability, death, impeachment, or resignation from office. Otherwise it is a largely ceremonial position often seen as a cheerleader for the governor and the administration’s policies. Hochul often represents the Cuomo administration at events across the state, and has taken the lead on certain issues, such as co-chairing a recent task force put together by Cuomo on women’s opportunity.</p> <p>It is unclear who Republicans will nominate for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but GOP leadership has indicated it wants to avoid a primary. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has launched a gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side. Meanwhile, several minor parties will also put forward candidates. Democratic challengers to Cuomo and Hochul have begun to emerge, with former State Senator Terry Gibson aggressively testing the gubernatorial waters and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams opening an exploratory committee to run for LG.</p> <p>New York State’s Attorney General is also up for election in 2018. Eric Schneiderman first won election to the office of Attorney General in 2010. He would go on to win reelection in 2014. The Attorney General will be running for his third term in 2018 should he seek reelection. Schneiderman has been in the news a lot lately for his frequent lawsuits on behalf of New York against the Trump Administration and its policies.</p> <p>Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also expected to run for reelection this year. Dinapoli was first appointed to the position in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. He would go on to win election to the Comptroller’s Office in 2010 and 2014. The Comptroller is tasked with managing the state’s enormous pension fund, auditing state agencies and local governments, and reviewing state and local budgets.</p> <p>All 63 seats in the state Senate will be on the ballot this fall. Unlike the Assembly, control of the Senate will be at stake, with several swing districts at play. There is currently a complicated and contentious breakdown of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 seats, but have a majority because of nine Democrats -- Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder conferences with the GOP while the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with that Republican conference.</p> <p>Mainline and Independent Democrats reached a tentative deal in late 2017 to begin to work together in the State Senate, but only on a number of conditions, including winning the two special elections for currently vacant seats. The empty seat in the Bronx is all but a lock, while the empty Westchester seat will be closer to a toss-up. Felder’s status is not completely clear in terms of what he will do -- he has always maintained he’ll take the best deal for him and his constituents.</p> <p>Complicating things is grassroots anger at members of the IDC, whereby several if not all IDC members will be facing primary challenges. IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx (SD34), Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn (SD20), Jose Peralta of Queens (SD13), and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan (SD31) are among those members already facing primary challenges.</p> <p>Meanwhile, there are somewhere around a half-dozen swing districts to watch outside New York City, and one potential swing district within the five boroughs -- the Brooklyn seat currently held by Senator Martin Golden. The expected Democratic wave could lead to several seats switching hands, though local races can turn on different issues and long-time incumbents like Golden can be very difficult to beat. Districts on Long Island and in the suburbs just north of New York City are often more likely to change hands, while New York City and other large cities around the state are overwhelmingly represented by Democrats and upstate areas outside of other major cities are heavily Republican.</p> <p>All 150 state Assembly seats are up for election in 2018. The chamber is heavily Democratic, with a current partisan split of 103 Democrats, 37 Republicans, one Independence Party member, and the nine vacancies.</p> <p>With all that is happening in other races, especially those for Governor and in key House and state Senate swing districts, there will likely be little attention paid to most Assembly races this year.</p> <p>There will be other local elections in 2018, including local school board and trial court judicial elections, among others.</p> <p>

***
by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
10 Burning Questions After Cuomo’s State of the State and Budget 2018-01-18T15:57:37+00:00 2018-01-18T15:57:37+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7430:10-burning-questions-after-cuomo-s-state-of-the-state-and-budget Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25857060048_f7c028f8f0_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation 2018" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo during his budget presentation (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his executive budget for the next fiscal year on Tuesday, centering his presentation around the threat to New York posed by the new federal tax code and possibilities for combatting it and other policies from Washington, D.C. The budget address came almost two weeks after Cuomo’s State of the State speech, at which he presented his 2018 policy agenda.</p> <p>In both cases, Cuomo left unsaid key aspects of major proposals -- most notably on reforming the state’s tax code and instituting a congestion pricing scheme in New York City -- indicating that details would be forthcoming through imminent state reports and worked out in discussions with experts, stakeholders, and lawmakers. How the state will deal with those two issues are among a number of big questions unanswered after Cuomo set the table for the 2018 state budget and legislative session. (In the days after his budget presentation, Cuomo's Department of Taxation and Finance released a preliminary report on the federal tax reforms with suggestions for how New York can possibly blunt the impact and the "Fix NYC" group Cuomo empaneled last year released its recommendations for a congestion pricing program. These reports set the stage for public debate, Cuomo to shape his proposals, legislative hearings, and negotiations among state leaders.)</p> <p>The state is facing a $4.4 billion budget gap. Even if the state adheres, as expected, to the 2 percent spending growth cap that Cuomo has implemented each year, there would still be a $1.7 billion gap to be reckoned with. The state is also expecting millions of dollars in federal cuts to state healthcare programs, though the extent is not yet clear as federal negotiations continue.</p> <p>Also troubling Cuomo and legislators who will negotiate the new state budget is the recently passed federal tax code overhaul, ushered in by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump, which severely limits the state and local tax deduction, disproportionately burdening many New Yorker taxpayers. These changes do not necessarily immediately cut into state funds, but they pose significant threats to the New York economy and could risk out-migration of middle- and upper-income New Yorkers, as Cuomo said when presenting his budget and possible ways to dodge the “economic missile” coming at New York.</p> <p>The fixes, painted in broad strokes on Tuesday by Cuomo and elaborated on by his budget director Robert Mujica in a post-address session with reporters, include the implementation of a statewide employer-based payroll tax to replace some income taxes and opportunities for charitable contributions that would be deductible from federal adjusted gross income. Addressing the deficit would involved various cuts -- especially to transportation, social services and mental hygiene -- cost shifts, including to New York City, and more than $1 billion in revenue generated by new taxes and fees.</p> <p>The proposed budget would raise total spending by 2.3 percent, including a 3 percent increase in school aid, a $769-million bump. This includes a $338 million increase in foundation aid, which supplements local funding for school districts to ensure students’ rights to a “sound education,” $50 million for high-needs “community schools,” and $15 million more for universal pre-kindergarten programs.</p> <p>Also in Cuomo’s spending plan are a number of policy initiatives with little or no financial component, including the Child Victims Act, anti-gun, anti-gang and anti-sexual harassment legislation, electoral reform, and criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>There is a great deal of policy and budget negotiation to come before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year. Here are ten of the outstanding questions:<br /> <br /><strong>1. How will Cuomo close the budget deficit if the Senate GOP is opposed to any tax increases?</strong><br />The executive budget relies on a slew of new taxes to balance the budget including a tax on opioid manufacturers, internet sales, and e-cigarette products. It also proposes capturing the windfall coming to certain insurance companies -- who benefit from the new corporate tax rate under the federal tax overhaul -- by imposing a 14 percent surcharge on those gains, and the creation of a new pre-licensing course for beginner drivers which will cost $8 each.</p> <p>“You can’t possibly get anywhere near where you want to be on education and health care unless you raise revenues. It’s just too big a deficit and the choice of cutting education or cutting health care, I don’t think is a place anyone wants to go to this year. So you have to raise revenue,’’ said Cuomo.</p> <p>When asked by a reporter if he would approve the new taxes, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, of Long Island, <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2018/01/16/cuomo-turns-to-array-of-tax-hikes-to-balance-budget/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">replied</a> with a simple, “No.” How Cuomo will sell some or all of them to the Senate majority remains to be seen.</p> <p><strong>2. What will Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan actually look like?</strong><br />Cuomo has said that he supports some version of congestion pricing, which would mitigate traffic congestion by charging fees to drivers entering the busiest parts of New York City and would generate revenue for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). While the governor alluded to some general principles, he also said in his budget address that he was waiting for recommendations from the “Fix NYC” panel, which were subsequently released. Cuomo indicated that he won’t be proposing tolls on the East River bridges, explaining that the system can be targeted differently.</p> <p>“The technology exists, we have to define the zone, we have to determine the fees, we have to determine the hours, and it's literally an on-going spectrum of options. You can change the hours, different rates for different vehicles, different rates for different trucks, and you'll get that full report at the end of this week,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “My point is, it has to be fair to all people in all industries. You have yellow cars, now black cars, green cars, blue cars, purple cars they all have to be treated the same. I don't want anyone saying they had a competitive advantage or this advantage because we put a surcharge on one versus the other.”</p> <p>When Fix NYC released <a href="http://www.hntb.com/HNTB/media/HNTBMediaLibrary/Home/Fix-NYC-Panel-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">its recommendations</a>, Cuomo said he will review them closely and "discuss the alternatives with the legislature over the next several months."&nbsp;He added, "There is no doubt that we must finally address the undeniable, growing problem of traffic congestion in Manhattan's central business district and present a real, feasible plan that will pass the legislature to raise money for MTA improvements, without raising rider fares."</p> <p><strong>3. What will the state tax code rewrite actually look like? Will a focus on the deficit and the tax scheme make almost everything else deprioritized?</strong><br />On Tuesday, Cuomo announced the New York State Taxpayer Protection Act, but presented it as possible options, including restructuring the state tax code by shifting from an employee-paid system to an employer-paid system through a new payroll tax. There would be many details to work through in making such a change, as Cuomo indicated the state would not totally eliminate the personal income tax system.</p> <p>“Restructuring the tax code is complicated, there's no doubt about it, but it's also simple at the same time,” said Cuomo. “Washington hit a button and launched an economic missile and it says ‘New York’ on it and it's heading our way. You know what my recommendation is? Get out of the way before it lands. They want to shoot at our tax code the way it was? We change the tax code and we change it in a way that thwarts their attack.”</p> <p>On Wednesday the Department of Taxation and Finance issued a <a href="https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/stats/stat_pit/preliminary-report-tcja-2017.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">preliminary report</a> highlighting options for the state. The administration would have to figure out how to convince employers to opt into the new payroll tax system if it wants to move forward with that reform as part of the overhaul. Designing that proposal and a new overall state tax system will be no small task, even if Cuomo could do so unilaterally.</p> <p>Making up for the local property tax deduction will be more complicated, Cuomo acknowledged. Localities will have to find innovative ways to share services and cut costs. Governments can also potentially circumvent the cuts by setting up charitable organizations for education and healthcare, which taxpayers could contribute to in order to receive deductions.</p> <p><strong>4. How will the sexual harassment claim rocking the IDC impact budget talks over sexual harassment legislation?</strong><br />Earlier this month, there seemed to be consensus in Albany that the issue of workplace sexual harassment must be addressed legislatively, both in government and the private sector. Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both houses <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/nyregion/albany-sexual-harassment-cuomo.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a> a need for comprehensive protections for women following a national outcry over the issue.&nbsp;</p> <p>In his State of the State and executive budget, Cuomo called for consistent sexual harassment guidelines for all levels of government and said public funds should not be used in settlements. Furthermore, Cuomo proposed banning confidential settlements and said that any entities with business before the state would be required to disclose how many sexual harassment cases they have settled.</p> <p>These proposals and the negotiations to come will also be informed by a recent claim by a former Senate staffer, Erica Vladimer, who told a <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-klein-accused-of-sexual-misconduct_us_5a5531cbe4b03417e872f80e" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Huffington Post</a> reporter that in 2015 she had been forcibly kissed outside a bar by Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, her boss at the time. Klein will be one of the ‘four men in the room’ who decide what goes into the final budget bills at the end of March. He and members of the IDC have vehemently denied Vladimer’s claim, and Klein has requested an investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) while proclaiming his innocence.</p> <p>Klein has continued to express support for pushing ahead with new sexual harassment laws. It is unclear how and when the investigation will unfold, or what effect it will have on the legislative negotiations.</p> <p><strong>5. Is there any real hope for bail and other criminal justice reforms Cuomo is seemingly prioritizing as a big-ticket issue this year?</strong><br />Cuomo’s executive budget builds on last year’s passage of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old with a comprehensive package on pretrial justice reform. The governor’s plan includes a significant reduction of the use of cash bail, discovery reform to ensure that defendants’ lawyers have access to all evidence cited in a case, and speedy trial enforcement.</p> <p>“These changes will build on the reforms enacted during my tenure as governor. Last year, we raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, affecting thousands of young people who will have a brighter future,” he said.</p> <p>Certain advocates called the governor’s bail, discovery, and speedy trial bills “good starting points for progressive reform,” but criticized the bail bill for its broad allowance of “preventative detention” -- when a judge determines that a person’s release would impede an investigation -- which would still require people to pay for their supervised release. Some also took issue with the speedy trial proposal, which they said does little to address structural problems created by New York’s prosecutorial readiness rule, which starts the “speedy trial” clock from the time of the prosecution’s declaration of trial readiness rather than from the start of the defendant’s case. <br /> <br />“The governor’s budget bill is a starting point and we look forward to working with the administration and the state legislature to push for the reforms necessary to make sure that in New York, as the governor noted in his State of the State speech, ‘Race and wealth should not be factors in our justice system,’” said Gabriel Sayegh, co-executive director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice.</p> <p>Bail reform has been a point of contention in Albany for years, and given how contentious the “raise the age” debate was during the 2017 budget negotiations, getting the Senate Majority on board with these ambitious criminal justice initiatives may be especially difficult for Cuomo. While the governor is known for pushing through his top priorities, it is not clear how much political capital he is going to put into seeing these reforms passed.</p> <p><strong>6. Will Cuomo and the IDC be able to get electoral reform of some kind passed?</strong><br />Electoral reform groups rejoiced when the budget estimated that the implementation of early voting would cost counties approximately $6.4 million, though it stopped short of providing funds for the initiative. Early voting has passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly multiple times, but has been stalled by the Republican-led Senate.</p> <p>The “<a href="https://letnyvote.org/about/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Let NY Vote</a>” coalition of grassroots groups applauded the governor in a statement.&nbsp;“This is a bipartisan, no brainer: New Yorkers should be able to exercise their basic democratic rights without unnecessary barriers. We are looking forward to negotiating with the state legislature to ensure early voting receives adequate funding," they wrote.</p> <p>IDC leader Klein, whose group of breakaway Democrats forms a ruling coalition with Senate Republicans, has also said that early voting will be a priority this year, but expansion of voting rights is something Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has so far not buckled on. Early voting is one of a handful of electoral reforms being pushed by Cuomo and other Democrats, also including same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting.</p> <p><strong>7. What impact will Cuomo not calling special elections have on the budget process?</strong><br />The days available for Cuomo to call a special election for the 11 vacant Senate and Assembly seats, to ensure that these districts have representation during budget negotiations, are quickly evaporating. While Cuomo could have called the special election as soon as January 1, he has declined to do so, having previously raised questions around ‘politicizing’ the budget process. There is a chance that if the two Senate seats -- previously held by George Latimer and Ruben Diaz, Sr. -- are filled by Democrats, it could shift the balance of power in that chamber.</p> <p>The election may be held no less than 70 days after the governor’s proclamation, which means Cuomo has approximately a week left to have the seats filled before March 31, when the state’s $160-billion plus budget is due. Aside from the questions around Senate control, government reform groups and others have pointed out that New Yorkers in the 11 districts at hand do not currently have equal representation during budget and legislative business.</p> <p><strong>8. How will MTA funding play out?</strong><br />In his executive budget, the governor did outline his plan for stabilizing the ailing transit system that serves the New York City area, but the fine print included swelling New York City’s responsibility for the MTA’s capital improvements, as first noted by <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/01/16/cuomos-mta-budget-maneuvers-appear-to-target-city-hall-192063" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico New York</a>. <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/01/16/cuomos-mta-budget-maneuvers-appear-to-target-city-hall-192063"><br /></a></p> <p>Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog, termed the measures an “unjustified shift” of costs to the city. “The Executive Budget asserts the responsibility for funding New York City subway and bus capital improvements should rest solely with the City of New York, which would require a sevenfold increase in City capital contributions,” said CBC President Carol Kellerman, in <a href="https://cbcny.org/advocacy/statement-nys-executive-budget-fy2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a statement</a> on the proposed budget. “In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) would be authorized to establish Transportation Improvement Districts within New York City that capture revenues from rising property values - without the City's approval. These proposals are an attempt to impose an onerous cost shift onto New York City residents and businesses, who already pay an estimated 72 percent of MTA dedicated taxes and subsidies.”</p> <p>An unnamed state official told Politico that the state was reinforcing a 1981 law that already requires the city to fund its subways, a claim that has been called dubious by a number of experts.&nbsp;New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will no doubt raise the question of MTA funding when he testifies at a legislative budget hearing in Albany on February 5.</p> <p><strong>9. Will Cuomo's pledge to continue all his economic development programs be scrutinized?</strong> <br />During previous budget negotiations, Cuomo faced little pushback for inclusion in the budget bills of his signature economic development programs, despite corruption trials and questions about their transparency and effectiveness. <br /> <br />“All the investments continue, all the upstate investments, all the projects continue upstate and downstate, economic development. We would have another round of our REDCs of URIs and Downtown Revitalization,” said Cuomo, referring to his Regional Economic Development Councils and Upstate Revitalization Initiatives.<br /> <br />Budget watchdogs, like CBC, noted that once again the governor introduced funding for programs without accompanying them with meaningful reform.&nbsp;“Despite a lack of tangible success, the Governor continues to propose excessive spending on economic development initiatives, including a $300 million High Technology Innovation and Economic Development Infrastructure Program and $600 million for a life sciences laboratory in the Capital District,” said CBC's Kellermann. “The Governor and Legislature need to adopt significant reforms to the State's economic development program.”</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader Flanagan has <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/flanagan-considers-more-oversight-for-economic-development-councils/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vowed</a> to push back this time, particularly against Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils, which have been criticized for lack of transparency and favoritism.&nbsp;“I think there’s questions that should be rightly asked about the councils, their independence, what type of disclosure they should have to do,” Flanagan told reporters on Wednesday at the Capitol. “I guarantee you this, whatever is done will be done legally and in the full discourse publicly.”</p> <p>Still, Flanagan made similar statements last year, and yet virtually all of the governor’s economic development projects were pushed through with little scrutiny during the budget process. What did not pass, were any of the contracting or transparency reforms that were being pushed by outside watchdogs or members of the Legislature.</p> <p><strong>10. Will Cuomo push for marijuana legalization?</strong><br />The executive budget proposes funding a taskforce to examine the economic, health, and public safety impact on New Yorkers of marijuana legalization happening in neighboring states of Massachusetts, and likely soon, New Jersey.</p> <p>Cuomo is a known detractor of the drug, though he reluctantly allowed the state to pass a limited medical marijuana program in 2014. It’s unclear what he will do with the data collected by the study, but his interest in looking at marijuana legalization appears to be in some small part a rebuke against the recent moves by the federal government to step up marijuana regulation and enforcement.</p> <p>“Marijuana — things are happening. New Jersey may legalize marijuana. Massachusetts already has. On the other hand, Attorney General Sessions says he's going to end marijuana in every state,” said Cuomo, later adding. “It'd be nice to have some facts in the middle of the debate once in a while.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with some new information as it has been released since Cuomo's budget address.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/25857060048_f7c028f8f0_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation 2018" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo during his budget presentation (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his executive budget for the next fiscal year on Tuesday, centering his presentation around the threat to New York posed by the new federal tax code and possibilities for combatting it and other policies from Washington, D.C. The budget address came almost two weeks after Cuomo’s State of the State speech, at which he presented his 2018 policy agenda.</p> <p>In both cases, Cuomo left unsaid key aspects of major proposals -- most notably on reforming the state’s tax code and instituting a congestion pricing scheme in New York City -- indicating that details would be forthcoming through imminent state reports and worked out in discussions with experts, stakeholders, and lawmakers. How the state will deal with those two issues are among a number of big questions unanswered after Cuomo set the table for the 2018 state budget and legislative session. (In the days after his budget presentation, Cuomo's Department of Taxation and Finance released a preliminary report on the federal tax reforms with suggestions for how New York can possibly blunt the impact and the "Fix NYC" group Cuomo empaneled last year released its recommendations for a congestion pricing program. These reports set the stage for public debate, Cuomo to shape his proposals, legislative hearings, and negotiations among state leaders.)</p> <p>The state is facing a $4.4 billion budget gap. Even if the state adheres, as expected, to the 2 percent spending growth cap that Cuomo has implemented each year, there would still be a $1.7 billion gap to be reckoned with. The state is also expecting millions of dollars in federal cuts to state healthcare programs, though the extent is not yet clear as federal negotiations continue.</p> <p>Also troubling Cuomo and legislators who will negotiate the new state budget is the recently passed federal tax code overhaul, ushered in by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Donald Trump, which severely limits the state and local tax deduction, disproportionately burdening many New Yorker taxpayers. These changes do not necessarily immediately cut into state funds, but they pose significant threats to the New York economy and could risk out-migration of middle- and upper-income New Yorkers, as Cuomo said when presenting his budget and possible ways to dodge the “economic missile” coming at New York.</p> <p>The fixes, painted in broad strokes on Tuesday by Cuomo and elaborated on by his budget director Robert Mujica in a post-address session with reporters, include the implementation of a statewide employer-based payroll tax to replace some income taxes and opportunities for charitable contributions that would be deductible from federal adjusted gross income. Addressing the deficit would involved various cuts -- especially to transportation, social services and mental hygiene -- cost shifts, including to New York City, and more than $1 billion in revenue generated by new taxes and fees.</p> <p>The proposed budget would raise total spending by 2.3 percent, including a 3 percent increase in school aid, a $769-million bump. This includes a $338 million increase in foundation aid, which supplements local funding for school districts to ensure students’ rights to a “sound education,” $50 million for high-needs “community schools,” and $15 million more for universal pre-kindergarten programs.</p> <p>Also in Cuomo’s spending plan are a number of policy initiatives with little or no financial component, including the Child Victims Act, anti-gun, anti-gang and anti-sexual harassment legislation, electoral reform, and criminal justice reforms.</p> <p>There is a great deal of policy and budget negotiation to come before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year. Here are ten of the outstanding questions:<br /> <br /><strong>1. How will Cuomo close the budget deficit if the Senate GOP is opposed to any tax increases?</strong><br />The executive budget relies on a slew of new taxes to balance the budget including a tax on opioid manufacturers, internet sales, and e-cigarette products. It also proposes capturing the windfall coming to certain insurance companies -- who benefit from the new corporate tax rate under the federal tax overhaul -- by imposing a 14 percent surcharge on those gains, and the creation of a new pre-licensing course for beginner drivers which will cost $8 each.</p> <p>“You can’t possibly get anywhere near where you want to be on education and health care unless you raise revenues. It’s just too big a deficit and the choice of cutting education or cutting health care, I don’t think is a place anyone wants to go to this year. So you have to raise revenue,’’ said Cuomo.</p> <p>When asked by a reporter if he would approve the new taxes, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, of Long Island, <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2018/01/16/cuomo-turns-to-array-of-tax-hikes-to-balance-budget/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">replied</a> with a simple, “No.” How Cuomo will sell some or all of them to the Senate majority remains to be seen.</p> <p><strong>2. What will Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan actually look like?</strong><br />Cuomo has said that he supports some version of congestion pricing, which would mitigate traffic congestion by charging fees to drivers entering the busiest parts of New York City and would generate revenue for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). While the governor alluded to some general principles, he also said in his budget address that he was waiting for recommendations from the “Fix NYC” panel, which were subsequently released. Cuomo indicated that he won’t be proposing tolls on the East River bridges, explaining that the system can be targeted differently.</p> <p>“The technology exists, we have to define the zone, we have to determine the fees, we have to determine the hours, and it's literally an on-going spectrum of options. You can change the hours, different rates for different vehicles, different rates for different trucks, and you'll get that full report at the end of this week,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “My point is, it has to be fair to all people in all industries. You have yellow cars, now black cars, green cars, blue cars, purple cars they all have to be treated the same. I don't want anyone saying they had a competitive advantage or this advantage because we put a surcharge on one versus the other.”</p> <p>When Fix NYC released <a href="http://www.hntb.com/HNTB/media/HNTBMediaLibrary/Home/Fix-NYC-Panel-Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">its recommendations</a>, Cuomo said he will review them closely and "discuss the alternatives with the legislature over the next several months."&nbsp;He added, "There is no doubt that we must finally address the undeniable, growing problem of traffic congestion in Manhattan's central business district and present a real, feasible plan that will pass the legislature to raise money for MTA improvements, without raising rider fares."</p> <p><strong>3. What will the state tax code rewrite actually look like? Will a focus on the deficit and the tax scheme make almost everything else deprioritized?</strong><br />On Tuesday, Cuomo announced the New York State Taxpayer Protection Act, but presented it as possible options, including restructuring the state tax code by shifting from an employee-paid system to an employer-paid system through a new payroll tax. There would be many details to work through in making such a change, as Cuomo indicated the state would not totally eliminate the personal income tax system.</p> <p>“Restructuring the tax code is complicated, there's no doubt about it, but it's also simple at the same time,” said Cuomo. “Washington hit a button and launched an economic missile and it says ‘New York’ on it and it's heading our way. You know what my recommendation is? Get out of the way before it lands. They want to shoot at our tax code the way it was? We change the tax code and we change it in a way that thwarts their attack.”</p> <p>On Wednesday the Department of Taxation and Finance issued a <a href="https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/stats/stat_pit/preliminary-report-tcja-2017.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">preliminary report</a> highlighting options for the state. The administration would have to figure out how to convince employers to opt into the new payroll tax system if it wants to move forward with that reform as part of the overhaul. Designing that proposal and a new overall state tax system will be no small task, even if Cuomo could do so unilaterally.</p> <p>Making up for the local property tax deduction will be more complicated, Cuomo acknowledged. Localities will have to find innovative ways to share services and cut costs. Governments can also potentially circumvent the cuts by setting up charitable organizations for education and healthcare, which taxpayers could contribute to in order to receive deductions.</p> <p><strong>4. How will the sexual harassment claim rocking the IDC impact budget talks over sexual harassment legislation?</strong><br />Earlier this month, there seemed to be consensus in Albany that the issue of workplace sexual harassment must be addressed legislatively, both in government and the private sector. Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both houses <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/nyregion/albany-sexual-harassment-cuomo.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">acknowledged</a> a need for comprehensive protections for women following a national outcry over the issue.&nbsp;</p> <p>In his State of the State and executive budget, Cuomo called for consistent sexual harassment guidelines for all levels of government and said public funds should not be used in settlements. Furthermore, Cuomo proposed banning confidential settlements and said that any entities with business before the state would be required to disclose how many sexual harassment cases they have settled.</p> <p>These proposals and the negotiations to come will also be informed by a recent claim by a former Senate staffer, Erica Vladimer, who told a <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-klein-accused-of-sexual-misconduct_us_5a5531cbe4b03417e872f80e" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Huffington Post</a> reporter that in 2015 she had been forcibly kissed outside a bar by Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, her boss at the time. Klein will be one of the ‘four men in the room’ who decide what goes into the final budget bills at the end of March. He and members of the IDC have vehemently denied Vladimer’s claim, and Klein has requested an investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) while proclaiming his innocence.</p> <p>Klein has continued to express support for pushing ahead with new sexual harassment laws. It is unclear how and when the investigation will unfold, or what effect it will have on the legislative negotiations.</p> <p><strong>5. Is there any real hope for bail and other criminal justice reforms Cuomo is seemingly prioritizing as a big-ticket issue this year?</strong><br />Cuomo’s executive budget builds on last year’s passage of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old with a comprehensive package on pretrial justice reform. The governor’s plan includes a significant reduction of the use of cash bail, discovery reform to ensure that defendants’ lawyers have access to all evidence cited in a case, and speedy trial enforcement.</p> <p>“These changes will build on the reforms enacted during my tenure as governor. Last year, we raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, affecting thousands of young people who will have a brighter future,” he said.</p> <p>Certain advocates called the governor’s bail, discovery, and speedy trial bills “good starting points for progressive reform,” but criticized the bail bill for its broad allowance of “preventative detention” -- when a judge determines that a person’s release would impede an investigation -- which would still require people to pay for their supervised release. Some also took issue with the speedy trial proposal, which they said does little to address structural problems created by New York’s prosecutorial readiness rule, which starts the “speedy trial” clock from the time of the prosecution’s declaration of trial readiness rather than from the start of the defendant’s case. <br /> <br />“The governor’s budget bill is a starting point and we look forward to working with the administration and the state legislature to push for the reforms necessary to make sure that in New York, as the governor noted in his State of the State speech, ‘Race and wealth should not be factors in our justice system,’” said Gabriel Sayegh, co-executive director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice.</p> <p>Bail reform has been a point of contention in Albany for years, and given how contentious the “raise the age” debate was during the 2017 budget negotiations, getting the Senate Majority on board with these ambitious criminal justice initiatives may be especially difficult for Cuomo. While the governor is known for pushing through his top priorities, it is not clear how much political capital he is going to put into seeing these reforms passed.</p> <p><strong>6. Will Cuomo and the IDC be able to get electoral reform of some kind passed?</strong><br />Electoral reform groups rejoiced when the budget estimated that the implementation of early voting would cost counties approximately $6.4 million, though it stopped short of providing funds for the initiative. Early voting has passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly multiple times, but has been stalled by the Republican-led Senate.</p> <p>The “<a href="https://letnyvote.org/about/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Let NY Vote</a>” coalition of grassroots groups applauded the governor in a statement.&nbsp;“This is a bipartisan, no brainer: New Yorkers should be able to exercise their basic democratic rights without unnecessary barriers. We are looking forward to negotiating with the state legislature to ensure early voting receives adequate funding," they wrote.</p> <p>IDC leader Klein, whose group of breakaway Democrats forms a ruling coalition with Senate Republicans, has also said that early voting will be a priority this year, but expansion of voting rights is something Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has so far not buckled on. Early voting is one of a handful of electoral reforms being pushed by Cuomo and other Democrats, also including same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting.</p> <p><strong>7. What impact will Cuomo not calling special elections have on the budget process?</strong><br />The days available for Cuomo to call a special election for the 11 vacant Senate and Assembly seats, to ensure that these districts have representation during budget negotiations, are quickly evaporating. While Cuomo could have called the special election as soon as January 1, he has declined to do so, having previously raised questions around ‘politicizing’ the budget process. There is a chance that if the two Senate seats -- previously held by George Latimer and Ruben Diaz, Sr. -- are filled by Democrats, it could shift the balance of power in that chamber.</p> <p>The election may be held no less than 70 days after the governor’s proclamation, which means Cuomo has approximately a week left to have the seats filled before March 31, when the state’s $160-billion plus budget is due. Aside from the questions around Senate control, government reform groups and others have pointed out that New Yorkers in the 11 districts at hand do not currently have equal representation during budget and legislative business.</p> <p><strong>8. How will MTA funding play out?</strong><br />In his executive budget, the governor did outline his plan for stabilizing the ailing transit system that serves the New York City area, but the fine print included swelling New York City’s responsibility for the MTA’s capital improvements, as first noted by <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/01/16/cuomos-mta-budget-maneuvers-appear-to-target-city-hall-192063" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Politico New York</a>. <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/01/16/cuomos-mta-budget-maneuvers-appear-to-target-city-hall-192063"><br /></a></p> <p>Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog, termed the measures an “unjustified shift” of costs to the city. “The Executive Budget asserts the responsibility for funding New York City subway and bus capital improvements should rest solely with the City of New York, which would require a sevenfold increase in City capital contributions,” said CBC President Carol Kellerman, in <a href="https://cbcny.org/advocacy/statement-nys-executive-budget-fy2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a statement</a> on the proposed budget. “In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) would be authorized to establish Transportation Improvement Districts within New York City that capture revenues from rising property values - without the City's approval. These proposals are an attempt to impose an onerous cost shift onto New York City residents and businesses, who already pay an estimated 72 percent of MTA dedicated taxes and subsidies.”</p> <p>An unnamed state official told Politico that the state was reinforcing a 1981 law that already requires the city to fund its subways, a claim that has been called dubious by a number of experts.&nbsp;New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will no doubt raise the question of MTA funding when he testifies at a legislative budget hearing in Albany on February 5.</p> <p><strong>9. Will Cuomo's pledge to continue all his economic development programs be scrutinized?</strong> <br />During previous budget negotiations, Cuomo faced little pushback for inclusion in the budget bills of his signature economic development programs, despite corruption trials and questions about their transparency and effectiveness. <br /> <br />“All the investments continue, all the upstate investments, all the projects continue upstate and downstate, economic development. We would have another round of our REDCs of URIs and Downtown Revitalization,” said Cuomo, referring to his Regional Economic Development Councils and Upstate Revitalization Initiatives.<br /> <br />Budget watchdogs, like CBC, noted that once again the governor introduced funding for programs without accompanying them with meaningful reform.&nbsp;“Despite a lack of tangible success, the Governor continues to propose excessive spending on economic development initiatives, including a $300 million High Technology Innovation and Economic Development Infrastructure Program and $600 million for a life sciences laboratory in the Capital District,” said CBC's Kellermann. “The Governor and Legislature need to adopt significant reforms to the State's economic development program.”</p> <p>Senate Majority Leader Flanagan has <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/01/flanagan-considers-more-oversight-for-economic-development-councils/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vowed</a> to push back this time, particularly against Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils, which have been criticized for lack of transparency and favoritism.&nbsp;“I think there’s questions that should be rightly asked about the councils, their independence, what type of disclosure they should have to do,” Flanagan told reporters on Wednesday at the Capitol. “I guarantee you this, whatever is done will be done legally and in the full discourse publicly.”</p> <p>Still, Flanagan made similar statements last year, and yet virtually all of the governor’s economic development projects were pushed through with little scrutiny during the budget process. What did not pass, were any of the contracting or transparency reforms that were being pushed by outside watchdogs or members of the Legislature.</p> <p><strong>10. Will Cuomo push for marijuana legalization?</strong><br />The executive budget proposes funding a taskforce to examine the economic, health, and public safety impact on New Yorkers of marijuana legalization happening in neighboring states of Massachusetts, and likely soon, New Jersey.</p> <p>Cuomo is a known detractor of the drug, though he reluctantly allowed the state to pass a limited medical marijuana program in 2014. It’s unclear what he will do with the data collected by the study, but his interest in looking at marijuana legalization appears to be in some small part a rebuke against the recent moves by the federal government to step up marijuana regulation and enforcement.</p> <p>“Marijuana — things are happening. New Jersey may legalize marijuana. Massachusetts already has. On the other hand, Attorney General Sessions says he's going to end marijuana in every state,” said Cuomo, later adding. “It'd be nice to have some facts in the middle of the debate once in a while.”</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated with some new information as it has been released since Cuomo's budget address.</p>