Gotham Gazette Tue, 25 Sep 2018 09:58:06 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) State Budget Agreement: By the Numbers cuomo budget deal 17

Gov. Cuomo outlines the budget agreement (photo via The Governor's Office)

AGov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed reporters into the Capitol's Red Room for the first time in nearly a year to announce a budget deal at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night. The announcement came as both houses of the Legislature took a break from voting on budget bills that had already been introduced, yet neither legislative majority leader joined Cuomo for the press conference.

Legislators from the minorities of the two houses lamented having little time to review the bills and the fact that most of them were short any real policy decisions and featured sections marked "intentionally omitted."

After weeks of haggling, bursts of information, and rumors, Cuomo announced some hard numbers contained in the budget, just a few hours before the start of the new fiscal year. The governor happily announced that New York would see a phase-in of a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave program. He appeared less thrilled when admitting his proposed Medicaid cost-shift to New York City was not part of the budget (this after his CUNY cost-shift had been taken off the table a few days ago).

"I am very excited about this budget," Cuomo said. "We call it a budget – really it is an overall operating plan for the state of New York and I believe that this is the best plan that the state has produced, if its passed, in decades, literally."

The state budget agreement by the numbers:

8:30 p.m: scheduled time of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement of a budget deal; 3.5 hours before the start of the new fiscal year.

$147 billion: estimated size of the state budget.

0: legislative leaders present at Cuomo's budget announcement.

0: times Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan mentioned a minimum wage increase or paid family leave in a seven-paragraph statement put out by is office to celebrate the budget agreement.

4: men who controlled budget negotiations (Cuomo, Flanagan, Heastie, and Klein).

3: budget bills introduced to both houses to be voted on before a deal was actually announced.

3 p.m: time the Assembly started debating the first budget bill, without a deal announced.

4 p.m: time the Senate began debating its first budget bill, without a deal announced.

6: budget bills left to vote on after a budget deal was announced.

12/31/2018: date New York City will see its minimum wage hit $15 per hour for businesses with more than ten employees.

12/31/2019: date New York City will see its minimum wage hit $15 per hour for businesses with ten or fewer employees.

12/31/2021: date Long Island and Westchester County will see the minimum wage hit $15 per hour.

$12.50: hourly minimum wage localities north of Westchester will reach on 12/31/2020, at which time the state budget director and department of labor will set a path to $15 per hour.

6: years Cuomo claims to have kept budget growth under 2 percent. (Some budget watchdogs claim Cuomo uses tricks and gimmicks to appear to meet the cap.)

2: years in a row the state budget has been voted through after the March 31 midnight deadline and thus technically "late."

6.5%: increase in school aid, which totals $24.8 billion.

$240: increase in per pupil aid for charter schools.

12 weeks: length of new New York paid family leave benefit, for paid time off to care for a new child or ailing relative.

2018: year paid family leave will begin in New York

50% of an employee's average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, is where paid family leave pay will start. When fully implemented in 2021 it will be 67 percent of an employee's average weekly wage, capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.

6: months workers will have to have worked at a job before being eligible for New York's paid family leave.

$26.6 billion: amount the budget includes for capital facilities operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

$1.5 billion: marked for phase II of the Second Avenue Subway.

63: copies of a report detailing changes made to the executive budget that Senate Republicans had to have printed off for Senators after Sen. Liz Krueger pointed out the report was required by law.

Not in the Budget
$485 million previously proposed cost shift to New York City for CUNY funding.

$250 million Medicaid cost shift to New York City.

A plan to replace the 421-a property tax credit used by New York City to entice developers to include affordable housing in their developments.

$240 million initially sought by the Cuomo administration to give CUNY staff retroactive raises.

0 criminal justice proposals from the executive budget included in the final budget.

0 ethics reforms.

[Related: Everyone Agrees Albany Needs Ethics Reform, Except the People Who Matter Most]

[Related: For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open]

by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

State Budget Agreement: By the Numbers Fri, 01 Apr 2016 02:17:24 +0000
Frustrated and Confused, Legislators Vote on Largely Unseen Budget cuomo greek parade

Gov. Cuomo during Sunday's Greek Independence parade (photo: @NYGovCuomo)

Voting on a murky budget "framework" began in Albany on Monday evening under a cloud of confusion and anger. Debate in both houses of the state Legislature stretched from afternoon into evening, with the Assembly adjourning around 9 and the Senate around 10 p.m. Both will be back to finish voting on budget bills Tuesday morning - legslation that members mostly have not had a chance to read.

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators sprint to an on-time budget, frustration at the Capitol is clear. Budget agreements were things to be grandly celebrated during the first three years of Cuomo's tenure, now in its fifth year. But the past two deals have oozed out with little fanfare and plenty of criticism.

Last year Cuomo went over a deal with reporters on a Saturday conference call, quietly revealing he had agreed to shutter The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. This year, a Sunday announcement of the "framework" of a deal by Cuomo's office appeared premature on Monday when no formal press conference was held and legislators involved in discussions said that a number of areas were still under negotiation.

In the rush to ensure a fifth straight on-time budget before the April 1 deadline, Cuomo even issued messages of necessity to expedite the passage of the bills and allow them to be voted on without the required three-day review window - something he had tried to avoid previously in an effort to escape criticism.

On Monday evening rank-and-file legislators were unclear on exactly what they were being asked to vote on. State Senator John DeFranciso. who helped author a much-touted ethics agreement, admitted it would only be available for review for a few hours before legislators from both chambers would vote on it.

The ethics package isn't alone. A little past 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Sen. Kemp Hannon said that the capital projects portion of the budget was still being negotiated. As of 9 p.m. legislators still hadn't been provided with education runs that show how state cash will be distributed to school districts. It is unclear if key education policies have fully been agreed upon.

"This budget is shaping up to being nothing more than a glorified extender," Sen. Michael Gianaris said on the floor on Monday. Senate Democrats voted against the budget bills because their leader, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has been left out of budget negotiations and because the budget was bereft of so many pertinent issues Democrats had been fighting for, such as the DREAM Act.

Blair Horner, of New York Public Interest Research Group, said that it wasn't exactly surprising the budget was so thin on details, even this late in the game. He noted that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is negotiating his first budget, Cuomo has a new second term staff, and Senate Republicans are trying to maintain a "razor-thin majority."

After the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges earlier this year Cuomo said he was so set on getting a new set of ethics reforms that he would even sacrifice an on-time budget. But with public opinion turning against him, especially around his handling of education reform, Cuomo and legislators appeared to abandon some of the other policy pieces he had touted. Gone from a final budget deal are an increase to the minimum wage, grand jury reform, the 'raise the age' initiative, an extension of mayoral control of schools, raising the charter school cap, an education donation tax credit, the DREAM Act, and paid family leave. The two minorities - Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans - attempted a number of hostile amendments to derail the deal, or at least poke holes in it.

What is in the budget agreement appears to be a $1.6 billion increase in education spending, a new plan for revamping the teacher evaluation system through the state education department, $1.5 million in funds for upstate economic development, infrastructure expenditures, and state operational spending capped at an increase of 2 percent.

Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the education funding included in the budget on Monday, but noted he would like to have seen more action on progressive issues. "I think I made my views known on mayoral control of education, I made my views known on the Dream Act. I was hoping both of those issues would be addressed here and now, but they have been postponed," de Blasio said during a press conference on Monday. "We'll obviously continue our efforts to get the Dream Act passed and mayoral control of schools renewed for a substantial period of time."

A Capital New York report that the budget all of a sudden included a sales-tax exemption for boats that cost over $230,000 (and private planes) became the talk of the capital as legislators prepared to vote on the budget bills that had been settled. Many legislators hammered away at the "yacht exemption" as they noted the budget does not include a DREAM Act or minimum wage. Many still voted for it.

Grievances about what is or is not in the mysterious ethics bill were also aired. The deal appeared to involve a mandate that lawyer-legislators disclose clients who pay them more than $5,000, but they would be allowed to appeal to state agencies to not make certain disclosures. Legislators will also be forced to check in to the Capitol with a swipe card to earn their per diem travel reimbursements.

The irony of an ethics reform bill being among the last to be seen as the budget is being passed through was not lost on many. Meanwhile, during a floor vote on budget bills in the Senate, Sen. Daniel Squadron questioned DeFranciso about whether the missing ethics bill would close the LLC "loophole" that allows one person to donate unlimited campaign funds by using multiple LLCs. DeFranciso admitted the provision would not be part of the bill but took exception to the "loophole" label.

"The LLC loophole is unconscionable to leave out of this year's budget at a time when ethics reform has been put forward as necessity," Squadron told legislators. Later, Sen. Brad Hoylman wryly suggested, "Maybe we should call this the New York State Senate LLC exception." Both the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Cuomo had advocated for ending the loophole. Sources told Gotham Gazette the provision was removed at the behest of Senate Republicans.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman slammed the ethics package earlier Monday. Schneiderman is advocating major reform of the Legislature - including making it a full-time body. "I have not seen the final copy of this, but, from what I understand, it does sound as though this is more tinkering around the edges, accompanied by some fairly strong and recycled language about how this really solves all the problems."

Floor debate in the Senate also revealed that Senators, even from the majority involved in negotiations had no knowledge of major policy details. Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger asked DeFrancisco, a Republican, about the state's brownfields program and DeFrancisco admitted he had no knowledge of the final details and said he would get an "analyst" to answer Krueger's inquiry. "I can't intelligently give you an answer on that question," DeFrancisco said. Krueger said she "sympathized" with DeFrancisco because so much was unfinished in the budget. "We are voting on a budget that isn't a budget; budget bills that aren't budget bills," said Krueger.

Horner said that it was "mind-boggling" even by Albany standards that "an agreement to open up Albany would be delivered under darkness with so much secrecy."

Senate Democrats, who have been increasingly critical of Cuomo in public in the last few months, simultaneously congratulated Schneiderman for his work securing settlements with major banks on mortgage fraud and contributing to the state windfall while decrying the budget deal Cuomo negotiated for not using those funds to help neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

Democratic Senators Adriano Espaillat and Leroy Comrie both lamented a lack of help for those in mortgage crisis in their districts.

In the days leading up to the budget vote - including Monday - Cuomo faced blistering, unrelenting attacks from teachers unions and some parent groups on his plan to change teacher evaluations to rely more on students' state test scores and to boost charter schools. New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie won accolades from education lobbyists for standing up to Cuomo on education issues, while Senate Republicans appear to have come out the biggest winners as they stymied any effort to move major progressive issues. Meanwhile, Cuomo's mystique as a man who can move mountains and votes to achieve his policy goals has been all but exterminated. "Mario Cuomo said that in politics friends are scarce and enemies accumulate," said Horner.

Cuomo admitted this year's budget was the toughest for him to negotiate, pointing to his push for major ethics and education reforms.

"It isn't surprising Andrew had so much success in his first term - first-term governors tend to get what they want and he had allies spending money to defend him," Horner said. This year, Horner said Cuomo was operating with a new team of aides, with his list of enemies growing, and without organizations like the controversial Committee to Save New York that raised funds at his behest to run advertisements to support his policies.

Cuomo also lost much credibility with reform groups when he decided to negotiate the end of Moreland with legislators. This year he is seeing the impact - good government groups have thrown their backing behind Schneiderman's ethics plan and are dismissing an ethics framework Cuomo says will "address intractable problems that have vexed our state for generations," because they have seen him tout previous deals that ended up fragmented and loaded with loopholes.

"We are waiting to see the plan to cast official judgement," Horner said of NYPIRG and other good government groups. "We've seen in the past that we will be told one thing only to see the language in the bill is the exact opposite."

by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette

Frustrated and Confused, Legislators Vote on Largely Unseen Budget Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:00:21 +0000