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/state-budget 2017-11-21T13:54:05+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Even Without Federal Cuts, Signs of Trouble for State Finances 2017-08-01T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7102:even-without-federal-cuts-signs-of-trouble-for-state-finances Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/dinapoli_phillips.jpg" alt="dinapoli phillips" width="600" height="356" /></p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, right (photo: @NYSComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is calmly ringing alarm bells about the New York economy and budget outlook. DiNapoli, the state’s chief fiscal officer, recently announced that overall tax collections for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2018 -- April through July -- fell by $1.2 billion from the same period last year, a decrease of 6.1% in revenue.</p> <p>Not only did tax revenues decrease by $1.2 billion from the prior year, but they were also $1.7 billion below a projection made by the Comptroller’s office in February, an indication that things are significantly worse than expected.</p> <p>The findings were compiled in the comptroller’s monthly <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/finance/finreports/cash/monthly/june-2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">state cash report</a>, issued in late July. In an accompanying statement, DiNapoli diagnosed a potential cause of the unanticipated shortfall in state revenues.</p> <p>"We're three months into New York's fiscal year and personal income tax collections are falling short of what was expected," DiNapoli said. “Taxpayer anticipation of federal tax changes has contributed to the decline. Offsetting that, business tax collections are well over estimates.”</p> <p>The comptroller, a few days after releasing the cash report, also released a <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2017/2017-18-enacted-budget-financial-plan-july.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">larger fiscal analysis</a> of the state’s enacted budget and other spending plans, including the capital program, which funds infrastructure projects. Already on unstable footing due to lower than expected revenues and questionable uses of budgetary windfalls, the situation is made worse by the looming cuts in federal aid by President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, who have proposed deep cuts in areas integral to New York ranging from affordable housing to transportation and health care.</p> <p>The comptroller’s fiscal report signals a potential crisis for the state in spite of what the DiNapoli refers to in his accompanying message as the nation’s “ninth year of economic expansion.” The larger analysis shows decreases in federal aid could have a large impact on the state’s ability to provide healthcare, for instance, with Medicaid funding at particular risk. Medicaid funding saw a significant increase in the new state budget, which was passed in early April after an agreement between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the two houses of the state Legislature.</p> <p>The balance in the state’s General Fund, which is the state’s destination for non-earmarked revenue, is $7.7 billion, according to the report. According to DiNapoli, the figure “is substantially higher than the levels in the period during and immediately after the Great Recession, largely reflecting monetary settlements received in the past three years. But the State’s budgetary cushion is shrinking: the Enacted Budget Financial Plan projects that the General Fund balance will be one-third lower at the end of the current fiscal year than its recent peak two years previously.”</p> <p>DiNapoli criticizes the apparent lack of credence paid to the very real threat of cuts in federal aid from the Republican-controlled Congress and White House in Washington D.C. The $153 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2018 includes in its sources of revenue about $56 billion in federal aid, about a third of the $161 billion in revenue for FY18 <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/budget-navigator" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to the Citizens Budget Commission</a> (CBC).</p> <p>It is unclear just how much the federal budget could cut aid to New York, but the comptroller’s report suggests that the state’s Financial Plan doesn’t sufficiently account for the impact of the increasingly likely scenario of significant cuts in federal grants to New York. Cuomo and the Legislature did pass a new provision that allows the state greater flexibility to adjust the budget mid-year in the face of significant federal cuts, DiNapoli notes, but it is not completely clear how that process will play out and whether the state is truly prepared for such measures.</p> <p>The comptroller also critiqued the use of funds acquired via financial settlements, which have amounted to about a $9 billion windfall over the past several years, as of January. The comptroller’s message states that the settlement money, which is “nonrecurring,” should be put towards financing capital projects rather than to balance budgets. According to the comptroller, through March 31, “the State had spent over $3.1 billion of its extraordinary windfall in settlement resources. Nearly half that amount had been used for various forms of budget relief, and another $461 million is planned for such use this year.”</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, David Friedfel, the director of state studies at Citizens Budget Commission, noted shared concerns between the comptroller and the nonpartisan, nonprofit budget watchdog.</p> <p>“We echo many of the Comptroller’s concerns,” he said, “specifically the increasing use of settlement funds to close budgetary gaps. Likewise, it is concerning that personal income tax receipts continue to fall below projections, especially in light of potential cuts in Federal aid.”</p> <p>Both CBC and the comptroller’s report also cast doubt on Cuomo’s claim that annual spending growth has stayed below 2 percent annually during his tenure. In May, CBC released <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/when-2-percent-isnt-2-percent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report</a> explaining how Cuomo manipulated the numbers to tell his preferred story. The comptroller’s report says similarly, listing such budgetary tricks as “the use of prepayments; certain program restructurings which result in costs being reflected as reduced receipts rather than disbursements; shifting spending to capital projects funds; deferring expenditures to future years; and the use of off-budget resources to pay for certain program costs,” which, when accounted for, results in a 4 percent spending increase this year rather than Cuomo’s touted 2 percent.</p> <p>“We are glad to see OSC voicing the same concern that state operating spending is really growing in excess of 2 percent,” Friedfel said. “The actual growth rate is still below historical norms, but by utilizing accounting adjustments and financial plan reclassifications, the State is undermining transparency to fit an artificial spending growth cap.”</p> <p>Another nonprofit budget watchdog, Empire Center, had a similar reaction to the report.</p> <p>"As usual, the Comptroller’s report was fairly thorough in identifying some of the most important budgetary trends obscured by the governor’s spin as well as the financial risks ahead,” said E.J. McMahon, research director at Empire Center, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “However, one serious risk surprisingly overlooked by the report is the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes, also known as the SALT deduction."</p> <p>SALT refers to state and local taxes. The average SALT deduction claimed by New Yorker taxpayers is $21,038, the highest in the country and nearly double the national average, according to <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/sizing-up-tax-reform/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">McMahon, in a July blog post</a>.</p> <p>"Given the state’s inordinate dependence on taxes paid by wealthy residents,” McMahon told Gotham Gazette, “the repeal of the SALT deduction could seriously undermine our tax base by increasing the net tax “price” of New York compared to states with low or no income tax, such as Florida.”</p> <p>Other gloomy projections the report makes include $5.7 billion more in capital spending for the five-year plan than projected in the 2016-17 budget capital plan; a total lack of deposits to rainy day reserves in the previous fiscal year and the year that has begun; and an increase of $11.2 billion in out-year budget gaps from last year, to $17.4 billion. DiNapoli forecasts outstanding debt to increase by 4.1% to $63.9 billion this year and to $73.7 billion by the end of the current Capital Plan period in 2022.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/dinapoli_phillips.jpg" alt="dinapoli phillips" width="600" height="356" /></p> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, right (photo: @NYSComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is calmly ringing alarm bells about the New York economy and budget outlook. DiNapoli, the state’s chief fiscal officer, recently announced that overall tax collections for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2018 -- April through July -- fell by $1.2 billion from the same period last year, a decrease of 6.1% in revenue.</p> <p>Not only did tax revenues decrease by $1.2 billion from the prior year, but they were also $1.7 billion below a projection made by the Comptroller’s office in February, an indication that things are significantly worse than expected.</p> <p>The findings were compiled in the comptroller’s monthly <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/finance/finreports/cash/monthly/june-2017.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">state cash report</a>, issued in late July. In an accompanying statement, DiNapoli diagnosed a potential cause of the unanticipated shortfall in state revenues.</p> <p>"We're three months into New York's fiscal year and personal income tax collections are falling short of what was expected," DiNapoli said. “Taxpayer anticipation of federal tax changes has contributed to the decline. Offsetting that, business tax collections are well over estimates.”</p> <p>The comptroller, a few days after releasing the cash report, also released a <a href="https://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2017/2017-18-enacted-budget-financial-plan-july.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">larger fiscal analysis</a> of the state’s enacted budget and other spending plans, including the capital program, which funds infrastructure projects. Already on unstable footing due to lower than expected revenues and questionable uses of budgetary windfalls, the situation is made worse by the looming cuts in federal aid by President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, who have proposed deep cuts in areas integral to New York ranging from affordable housing to transportation and health care.</p> <p>The comptroller’s fiscal report signals a potential crisis for the state in spite of what the DiNapoli refers to in his accompanying message as the nation’s “ninth year of economic expansion.” The larger analysis shows decreases in federal aid could have a large impact on the state’s ability to provide healthcare, for instance, with Medicaid funding at particular risk. Medicaid funding saw a significant increase in the new state budget, which was passed in early April after an agreement between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the two houses of the state Legislature.</p> <p>The balance in the state’s General Fund, which is the state’s destination for non-earmarked revenue, is $7.7 billion, according to the report. According to DiNapoli, the figure “is substantially higher than the levels in the period during and immediately after the Great Recession, largely reflecting monetary settlements received in the past three years. But the State’s budgetary cushion is shrinking: the Enacted Budget Financial Plan projects that the General Fund balance will be one-third lower at the end of the current fiscal year than its recent peak two years previously.”</p> <p>DiNapoli criticizes the apparent lack of credence paid to the very real threat of cuts in federal aid from the Republican-controlled Congress and White House in Washington D.C. The $153 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2018 includes in its sources of revenue about $56 billion in federal aid, about a third of the $161 billion in revenue for FY18 <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/budget-navigator" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to the Citizens Budget Commission</a> (CBC).</p> <p>It is unclear just how much the federal budget could cut aid to New York, but the comptroller’s report suggests that the state’s Financial Plan doesn’t sufficiently account for the impact of the increasingly likely scenario of significant cuts in federal grants to New York. Cuomo and the Legislature did pass a new provision that allows the state greater flexibility to adjust the budget mid-year in the face of significant federal cuts, DiNapoli notes, but it is not completely clear how that process will play out and whether the state is truly prepared for such measures.</p> <p>The comptroller also critiqued the use of funds acquired via financial settlements, which have amounted to about a $9 billion windfall over the past several years, as of January. The comptroller’s message states that the settlement money, which is “nonrecurring,” should be put towards financing capital projects rather than to balance budgets. According to the comptroller, through March 31, “the State had spent over $3.1 billion of its extraordinary windfall in settlement resources. Nearly half that amount had been used for various forms of budget relief, and another $461 million is planned for such use this year.”</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, David Friedfel, the director of state studies at Citizens Budget Commission, noted shared concerns between the comptroller and the nonpartisan, nonprofit budget watchdog.</p> <p>“We echo many of the Comptroller’s concerns,” he said, “specifically the increasing use of settlement funds to close budgetary gaps. Likewise, it is concerning that personal income tax receipts continue to fall below projections, especially in light of potential cuts in Federal aid.”</p> <p>Both CBC and the comptroller’s report also cast doubt on Cuomo’s claim that annual spending growth has stayed below 2 percent annually during his tenure. In May, CBC released <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/when-2-percent-isnt-2-percent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report</a> explaining how Cuomo manipulated the numbers to tell his preferred story. The comptroller’s report says similarly, listing such budgetary tricks as “the use of prepayments; certain program restructurings which result in costs being reflected as reduced receipts rather than disbursements; shifting spending to capital projects funds; deferring expenditures to future years; and the use of off-budget resources to pay for certain program costs,” which, when accounted for, results in a 4 percent spending increase this year rather than Cuomo’s touted 2 percent.</p> <p>“We are glad to see OSC voicing the same concern that state operating spending is really growing in excess of 2 percent,” Friedfel said. “The actual growth rate is still below historical norms, but by utilizing accounting adjustments and financial plan reclassifications, the State is undermining transparency to fit an artificial spending growth cap.”</p> <p>Another nonprofit budget watchdog, Empire Center, had a similar reaction to the report.</p> <p>"As usual, the Comptroller’s report was fairly thorough in identifying some of the most important budgetary trends obscured by the governor’s spin as well as the financial risks ahead,” said E.J. McMahon, research director at Empire Center, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “However, one serious risk surprisingly overlooked by the report is the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes, also known as the SALT deduction."</p> <p>SALT refers to state and local taxes. The average SALT deduction claimed by New Yorker taxpayers is $21,038, the highest in the country and nearly double the national average, according to <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/sizing-up-tax-reform/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">McMahon, in a July blog post</a>.</p> <p>"Given the state’s inordinate dependence on taxes paid by wealthy residents,” McMahon told Gotham Gazette, “the repeal of the SALT deduction could seriously undermine our tax base by increasing the net tax “price” of New York compared to states with low or no income tax, such as Florida.”</p> <p>Other gloomy projections the report makes include $5.7 billion more in capital spending for the five-year plan than projected in the 2016-17 budget capital plan; a total lack of deposits to rainy day reserves in the previous fiscal year and the year that has begun; and an increase of $11.2 billion in out-year budget gaps from last year, to $17.4 billion. DiNapoli forecasts outstanding debt to increase by 4.1% to $63.9 billion this year and to $73.7 billion by the end of the current Capital Plan period in 2022.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p>
Powerful Assembly Post May Be Vacant Sooner Than Expected 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7046:powerful-assembly-chair-position-may-be-vacant-sooner-than-expected Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/farrell_assembly_floor.jpg" alt="farrell assembly floor" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Herman Farrell (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Herman-D-Farrell-Jr" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a>: The Assembly)</p> <hr /> <p>When Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who heads the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, announced he would not seek reelection next year, it set off a murmur about who might succeed him in the powerful -- and lucrative -- committee post.<br /><br />Farrell, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the third longest serving member of the body, is known for his diplomacy and good natured bantering with Republicans and Democrats alike during budget hearings and on the Assembly floor.<br /><br />Well-liked among his peers and beloved in his community, Farrell -- who represents Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood -- was recognized by the Legislature last week, when it voted to rename Upper Manhattan’s Riverbank State Park after him <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as part of a special legislative session</a> dealing with mayoral control over schools.<br /><br />Governor Andrew Cuomo also honored the Assembly member at a breakfast at the Executive Mansion on June 20, speaking in eulogistic terms of Farrell’s time in the Assembly and as former chair to both the Manhattan and State Democratic Parties.<br /><br />“Denny also taught me politics was the means to the end, and that was getting into government to achieve power…not power you would use personally, not power to take care of some donors, to take care of some unions, to take care of the political complex — power to do good things for your people and for your community,” Cuomo said, according to a recording of his remarks <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/06/20/cuomo-honors-denny-farrell-who-rose-above-political-bullshit-112900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">obtained by Politico New York</a>. “Government is about accomplishing things for people and making their life better. Everything else is bull----.”<br /><br />While Farrell’s current two-year term is set to officially end at the end of 2018, the grand farewell he received in Albany and other indicators have signalled to many in Harlem that he plans to resign before January, when the Legislature is next due back in the capital. The move would virtually ensure the party nomination of his chief of staff, Rev. Al Taylor, in a special election, according one Harlem insider who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity. For special elections to the state Legislature, the borough party committees name the party representative on the ballot.<br /><br />“His departure is something that a lot of people Uptown are talking about. Farrell is putting a lot of his energy and political assets into his chief of staff, Al Taylor. Wherever Denny is, Al is nearby,” the insider said, noting that the Assembly office’s most recent quarterly newsletter featured Taylor more than Farrell. “All the signs point to Farrell's resignation being imminent.”<br /><br />In addition to Taylor, Juan Rosa, a former City Council staffer and community activist, is considering a run for the seat, according to multiple people familiar with the district. <br /><br />Farrell, who did not return a request for comment, has not confirmed any plan to vacate his Assembly seat before January 2019, when his term would officially end.<br /><br />If Farrell does indeed leave before the end of the year, not only would Taylor have the inside track to the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would name a new Ways and Means chair, the top Assembly budget post below the Speaker, before the next budget season in Albany -- a move that would likely prompt a series of new committee chair appointments throughout the Assembly for the 2018 session.<br /><br />“When you make one change, you make 30 changes. That is always the part that outsiders don’t understand,” said former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky. “Part of the calculus that any Speaker makes is not just how to fill that position, but how it will affect the entire food chain.”<br /><br />As capital watchers have noted Farrell’s imminent departure, it has also become apparent that several female legislators are in line for the committee leadership job -- a post no woman has ever held before.<br /><br />While new leadership appointments are made every year by the Speaker, the Ways and Means chairship is arguably the most powerful and well-paid committee position in the Assembly. It is also arguably the most challenging, as the committee is tasked with budget hearing leadership and examining any legislation considered by the body that has a fiscal component.<br /><br />The position comes with a significant stipend. On top of the standard $79,500 legislative salary, the Ways and Means chair earns $34,000, on par only with the $34,500 stipend received by the Assembly Majority Leader, currently Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County. Other committees, such as Codes and Education, may deliberate over a comparably high volume of bills, but come with a stipend of $18,000 each. The Ways and Means chair also has access to a significantly larger staff than any other chair in the Assembly.<br /><br />Geography and seniority have long played a role in who is selected for both leading Ways and Means and other top committees. For Ways and Means, other factors typically considered include knowledge of the budget process, diplomacy, ability to get along with Republicans in both legislative houses, and the stamina to sit through many hours of annual budget hearings. <br /><br />The longest serving member of the Assembly is Richard Gottfried, of Manhattan, who is followed by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, of Brooklyn. Gottfried, who has headed the Assembly Health Committee for more than 30 years, told Gotham Gazette he has expressed to Heastie and previous speakers that he is not interested in leading Ways and Means.<br /><br />“I almost can't imagine how lucky I am to have had this job; it is just about a dream position for me,” Gottfried said of leading the Health Committee. “I love being able to focus on health policy and consider myself enormously happy to have this job.” <br /><br />He noted that the Speaker must ultimately assess the person’s ability to speak on behalf of the Assembly majority's view of the budget and be someone who can represent the diverse views of the Democratic Conference. <br /><br />“The speaker has to be concerned with, among other things, maintaining the solidarity and cohesion of the Democratic Majority because there are always a lot of forces eager to pick us apart,” said Gottfried, who is currently focussed on trying to see single-payer health care passed in New York.<br /><br />An obvious choice for Heastie might be Lentol, the second most senior member of the Assembly, who has held his seat since 1972 and has served as chair of the critical Committee on Codes since 1992. Lentol <a href="http://observer.com/2015/01/lentol-laments-assembly-culture-that-made-him-drop-speaker-bid/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">competed</a> against Heastie in the race to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015, as did Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, of Queens, the sixth longest serving Assembly member. Lentol did not return a request for comment on whether he was interested in the Ways and Means position.<br /><br />Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, who represents a swing district encompassing Niagara and Erie Counties, follows Lentol and Farrell in seniority, but his district geography and more moderate place on the political spectrum could rule him out for such an influential position in the New York City-focussed conference. <br /><br />While women have historically been underrepresented in the Legislature, including in leadership positions, for the first time in history, several are in the mix for the Ways and Means post, including Nolan, who was first elected in 1984, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, of Brooklyn, who is the fifth longest serving member of the Assembly, having been elected in 1980, and others.<br /><br />Weinstein chairs the highly technical Judiciary Committee and Nolan heads the Education Committee.<br /><br />Between Weinstein and Nolan on the seniority list are Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Assemblymember David Gantt, of Rochester.<br /><br />Female Assemblymembers Vivian Cook, of Queens; Earlene Hooper, of Nassau County; and Deborah Glick, of Manhattan, also rank among the 15 longest serving lawmakers in the 150-seat chamber. Glick has the distinction of being New York's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/nyregion/first-openly-gay-legislator-brings-a-full-agenda-to-albany.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature</a>. She has been outspoken on a range of progressive issues and chairs the important Higher Education Committee. <br /><br />Seniority withstanding, Heastie has made an effort to provide leadership opportunities to newer members in a way his predecessors did not, according to members of the Assembly who spoke to Gotham Gazette.<br /><br />“I think we have noticed that under this leadership [Speaker Heastie] has managed to bring a few new members, who have only been here a few months, to be chairmen of committees and subcommittees. It has never happened before. You know, it took me 20 years to get a chairmanship myself,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Félix W. Ortiz, who chairs the Cities Committee and serves as Assistant Speaker.<br /><br />He may also consider factors like gender, race, political beliefs, and other elements of diversity in making his decision.<br /><br />“Geography used to matter, but once you open up that door of identity, lots of people walk in. The Assembly is blessed with about 15 people whose seniority and talent and experience is considerable, it’s going to be hard for [Speaker Heastie] to make a bad choice,” said former Assemblymember Brodsky, who chaired both the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions during his nearly three decades in Albany.<br /><br />A spokesperson for Heastie did not return a request for comment, nor did the offices of Assembly Members Nolan, Weinstein, Lentol, and Schimminger.</p> <p>Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle's district.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/farrell_assembly_floor.jpg" alt="farrell assembly floor" width="600" height="379" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Herman Farrell (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Herman-D-Farrell-Jr" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a>: The Assembly)</p> <hr /> <p>When Assemblymember Herman “Denny” Farrell, who heads the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee, announced he would not seek reelection next year, it set off a murmur about who might succeed him in the powerful -- and lucrative -- committee post.<br /><br />Farrell, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1974 and the third longest serving member of the body, is known for his diplomacy and good natured bantering with Republicans and Democrats alike during budget hearings and on the Assembly floor.<br /><br />Well-liked among his peers and beloved in his community, Farrell -- who represents Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood -- was recognized by the Legislature last week, when it voted to rename Upper Manhattan’s Riverbank State Park after him <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as part of a special legislative session</a> dealing with mayoral control over schools.<br /><br />Governor Andrew Cuomo also honored the Assembly member at a breakfast at the Executive Mansion on June 20, speaking in eulogistic terms of Farrell’s time in the Assembly and as former chair to both the Manhattan and State Democratic Parties.<br /><br />“Denny also taught me politics was the means to the end, and that was getting into government to achieve power…not power you would use personally, not power to take care of some donors, to take care of some unions, to take care of the political complex — power to do good things for your people and for your community,” Cuomo said, according to a recording of his remarks <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/06/20/cuomo-honors-denny-farrell-who-rose-above-political-bullshit-112900" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">obtained by Politico New York</a>. “Government is about accomplishing things for people and making their life better. Everything else is bull----.”<br /><br />While Farrell’s current two-year term is set to officially end at the end of 2018, the grand farewell he received in Albany and other indicators have signalled to many in Harlem that he plans to resign before January, when the Legislature is next due back in the capital. The move would virtually ensure the party nomination of his chief of staff, Rev. Al Taylor, in a special election, according one Harlem insider who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity. For special elections to the state Legislature, the borough party committees name the party representative on the ballot.<br /><br />“His departure is something that a lot of people Uptown are talking about. Farrell is putting a lot of his energy and political assets into his chief of staff, Al Taylor. Wherever Denny is, Al is nearby,” the insider said, noting that the Assembly office’s most recent quarterly newsletter featured Taylor more than Farrell. “All the signs point to Farrell's resignation being imminent.”<br /><br />In addition to Taylor, Juan Rosa, a former City Council staffer and community activist, is considering a run for the seat, according to multiple people familiar with the district. <br /><br />Farrell, who did not return a request for comment, has not confirmed any plan to vacate his Assembly seat before January 2019, when his term would officially end.<br /><br />If Farrell does indeed leave before the end of the year, not only would Taylor have the inside track to the Assembly, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would name a new Ways and Means chair, the top Assembly budget post below the Speaker, before the next budget season in Albany -- a move that would likely prompt a series of new committee chair appointments throughout the Assembly for the 2018 session.<br /><br />“When you make one change, you make 30 changes. That is always the part that outsiders don’t understand,” said former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky. “Part of the calculus that any Speaker makes is not just how to fill that position, but how it will affect the entire food chain.”<br /><br />As capital watchers have noted Farrell’s imminent departure, it has also become apparent that several female legislators are in line for the committee leadership job -- a post no woman has ever held before.<br /><br />While new leadership appointments are made every year by the Speaker, the Ways and Means chairship is arguably the most powerful and well-paid committee position in the Assembly. It is also arguably the most challenging, as the committee is tasked with budget hearing leadership and examining any legislation considered by the body that has a fiscal component.<br /><br />The position comes with a significant stipend. On top of the standard $79,500 legislative salary, the Ways and Means chair earns $34,000, on par only with the $34,500 stipend received by the Assembly Majority Leader, currently Joseph Morelle, of Monroe County. Other committees, such as Codes and Education, may deliberate over a comparably high volume of bills, but come with a stipend of $18,000 each. The Ways and Means chair also has access to a significantly larger staff than any other chair in the Assembly.<br /><br />Geography and seniority have long played a role in who is selected for both leading Ways and Means and other top committees. For Ways and Means, other factors typically considered include knowledge of the budget process, diplomacy, ability to get along with Republicans in both legislative houses, and the stamina to sit through many hours of annual budget hearings. <br /><br />The longest serving member of the Assembly is Richard Gottfried, of Manhattan, who is followed by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, of Brooklyn. Gottfried, who has headed the Assembly Health Committee for more than 30 years, told Gotham Gazette he has expressed to Heastie and previous speakers that he is not interested in leading Ways and Means.<br /><br />“I almost can't imagine how lucky I am to have had this job; it is just about a dream position for me,” Gottfried said of leading the Health Committee. “I love being able to focus on health policy and consider myself enormously happy to have this job.” <br /><br />He noted that the Speaker must ultimately assess the person’s ability to speak on behalf of the Assembly majority's view of the budget and be someone who can represent the diverse views of the Democratic Conference. <br /><br />“The speaker has to be concerned with, among other things, maintaining the solidarity and cohesion of the Democratic Majority because there are always a lot of forces eager to pick us apart,” said Gottfried, who is currently focussed on trying to see single-payer health care passed in New York.<br /><br />An obvious choice for Heastie might be Lentol, the second most senior member of the Assembly, who has held his seat since 1972 and has served as chair of the critical Committee on Codes since 1992. Lentol <a href="http://observer.com/2015/01/lentol-laments-assembly-culture-that-made-him-drop-speaker-bid/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">competed</a> against Heastie in the race to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver in 2015, as did Assemblymember Catherine Nolan, of Queens, the sixth longest serving Assembly member. Lentol did not return a request for comment on whether he was interested in the Ways and Means position.<br /><br />Assemblymember Robin Schimminger, who represents a swing district encompassing Niagara and Erie Counties, follows Lentol and Farrell in seniority, but his district geography and more moderate place on the political spectrum could rule him out for such an influential position in the New York City-focussed conference. <br /><br />While women have historically been underrepresented in the Legislature, including in leadership positions, for the first time in history, several are in the mix for the Ways and Means post, including Nolan, who was first elected in 1984, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, of Brooklyn, who is the fifth longest serving member of the Assembly, having been elected in 1980, and others.<br /><br />Weinstein chairs the highly technical Judiciary Committee and Nolan heads the Education Committee.<br /><br />Between Weinstein and Nolan on the seniority list are Brooklyn Assemblymember Dov Hikind and Assemblymember David Gantt, of Rochester.<br /><br />Female Assemblymembers Vivian Cook, of Queens; Earlene Hooper, of Nassau County; and Deborah Glick, of Manhattan, also rank among the 15 longest serving lawmakers in the 150-seat chamber. Glick has the distinction of being New York's <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/13/nyregion/first-openly-gay-legislator-brings-a-full-agenda-to-albany.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first openly gay person elected to the state Legislature</a>. She has been outspoken on a range of progressive issues and chairs the important Higher Education Committee. <br /><br />Seniority withstanding, Heastie has made an effort to provide leadership opportunities to newer members in a way his predecessors did not, according to members of the Assembly who spoke to Gotham Gazette.<br /><br />“I think we have noticed that under this leadership [Speaker Heastie] has managed to bring a few new members, who have only been here a few months, to be chairmen of committees and subcommittees. It has never happened before. You know, it took me 20 years to get a chairmanship myself,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Félix W. Ortiz, who chairs the Cities Committee and serves as Assistant Speaker.<br /><br />He may also consider factors like gender, race, political beliefs, and other elements of diversity in making his decision.<br /><br />“Geography used to matter, but once you open up that door of identity, lots of people walk in. The Assembly is blessed with about 15 people whose seniority and talent and experience is considerable, it’s going to be hard for [Speaker Heastie] to make a bad choice,” said former Assemblymember Brodsky, who chaired both the Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions during his nearly three decades in Albany.<br /><br />A spokesperson for Heastie did not return a request for comment, nor did the offices of Assembly Members Nolan, Weinstein, Lentol, and Schimminger.</p> <p>Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the location of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle's district.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>
What's The [DATA] Point? Podcast 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/what-s-the-data-point Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="" /></p> <hr /> <p>What's The [Data] Point? is a podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission looking at important issues in New York policy and government. GG, which is published by Citizens Union Foundation, and CBC are both watchdogs dedicated to analyzing and explaining New York public policy and holding government accountable. The podcast will touch on a variety of issues that have significant impact to the everyday lives of New Yorkers as well as the workings of city and state government. It is hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Maria Doulis of Citizens Budget Commission, and produced by JaVon Rice of GG and Kevin Medina of CBC, with special guests on some episodes. Each episode is titled with a significant data point that helps frame the discussion.</p> <p>The podcast launched in June of 2017; find and listen to episodes through the links below, and/or download them wherever you get your podcasts (iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, etc). And, let us know what you think! We're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a>&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@MariaDoulis</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@cbcny</a>.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7320-what-s-the-data-point-44-with-city-council-member-dan-garodnick" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's The Data Point? Episode&nbsp;20 - 44 days</a>&nbsp;—&nbsp;Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann of CBC, &amp;&nbsp;City Council Member Dan Garodnick discuss&nbsp;his time in office and a variety of issues that he has worked on and is continuing to work on his final days in office.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7309-what-s-the-data-point-67-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's The Data Point? Episode 19 - $67 billion</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann of CBC, &amp; Jay Kriegel of Related Companies and Americans Against Double Taxation discuss State and Local Taxes or SALT, for short.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7293-what-s-the-data-point-348-and-74" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] Point? Episode 18 - 348 and 74</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann,&nbsp;Riley Edwards, &amp; Tim Sullivan of CBC discuss the effectiveness of LDC, IDAs, &amp; BIDs in New York City</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7272-what-s-the-data-point-95-billion-opeb-debt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] Point? Episode 17 - $95 billion</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann of CBC, &amp; Thad Calabrese, a &nbsp;discuss the current value of all of the future retiree benefits, except pensions, already earned by current retirees and current workers of New York City</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7263-what-s-the-data-point-1936" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What’s The [DATA] Point? Episode 16 - 1936</a> — Listen to Gerald Benjamin, a distinguished scholar from SUNY New Paltz and proponent of calling a convention, discuss the controversial topic that has many in New York focused on either securing approval or voting it down. He sat down with Ben Max of GG and Carol Kellermann of CBC.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7248-what-s-the-data-point-60-plus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] Point? Ep 15 - 60+</a> — Listen to an excerpt from a live Citizens Budget Commission event where two experts discussed government debt and financing, including lessons learned from Detroit and Puerto Rico that may help New York City.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7233-what-s-the-data-point-4-with-greg-david-of-crain-s-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What’s The [DATA] Point? Ep 14 - 4</a> — Ben Max of GG &amp; Greg David of Crain’s New York discuss his recent in-depth article on Mayor Bill de Blasio and de Blasio's record as mayor.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7218-whats-the-data-point-95-with-city-council-member-julissa-ferreras-copeland" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 13 - 95</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellerman of CBC &amp; City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland discuss why the soon-to-be former Council member decided against running for reelection, despite being the leading contender to become the next City Council Speaker.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7206-what-s-the-data-point-77-651-with-the-city-housing-commissioner" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 12 - 77,651</a> — In this episode, listen to excerpts of a speech the city's housing commissioner, Maria Torres-Springer, gave at a Citizens Budget Commission event on Wednesday, September 20, followed by 15 minutes of Q-and-A with the commissioner. 7206</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7178-what-s-the-data-point-66-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 11 - $66 billion</a> — In this back-to-school episode, Ben Max of GG and Dave Friedfel and Riley Edwards of CBC discuss the amount New York school districts receive in revenune and myths about school overcrowding.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7166-what-s-the-data-point-30-with-deputy-mayor-richard-buery" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 10 - 30%</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellerman of CBC, &amp; guest Deputy Mayor Richard Buery discuss the city's goals for awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses and how Buery is leading the effort to reach those goals.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7131-what-s-the-data-point-1-5-billion">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 9 - $1.5 Billion</a> — August 16, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Alex Matthiessen, President of Blue Marble Project and Campaign Director for Move New York, discuss the "congestion pricing" plan that aims to help repair and improve the city's mass transit, roads and bridges, while reducing traffic and creating more equity in tolling around the city.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 8 - $17 Billion</a> — August 10, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Shola Olatoye, chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the country's largest public housing authority, with over 400,000 people residing in its thousands of units across the city.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7106-what-s-the-data-point-2008" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 7 - 2008</a> — August 3, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest John Breit, a&nbsp;CBC Trustee, PhD Physicist, and former risk adviser to Merrill Lynch and the New York City Comptroller’s Office for the pension funds.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7090-what-s-the-data-point-100-000-with-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 6 - 100,000</a> — July 27, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development discussed the rezoning of East Midtown, the de Blasio administration's new jobs plan, and the recent tweaks to the administration's housing plan.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7060-what-s-the-data-point-30-days" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 5 - 30 Days</a> — July 13, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Jamison Dague, director of infrastructure studies at Citizens Budget Commission discuss issues facing the city's subway system, recent announcements made by Governor Andrew Cuomo that relate to the MTA, CBC analysis of transit system problems, and what to watch for as the MTA enters its summer "state of emergency."</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7048-what-s-the-data-point-with-janno-lieber-mta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's The [Data] Point? Ep 4 - $32.5 billion</a>&nbsp;— July 6, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Janno Lieber, new Chief Development Officer at the MTA discuss the state of the subways, MTA management and budgeting, major projects the MTA is undertaking and balancing them with upgrading and repairing the current subway system.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7034-what-s-the-data-point-comptroller-dinapoli">What's The [Data] Point? Ep 3 - $780 million</a>&nbsp;— June 29, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Comptroller Tom DiNapoli discuss the lack of reform in Albany after the bid-rigging scandal in the Governor Cuomo's economic development programs that will see several of the governor's associates and donors on trial this fall.</p> <p><a href="https://soundcloud.com/ggcbcpodcast/whats-the-data-point-ep-2-44">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 2 - 44%</a>&nbsp;— June 22, 2017&nbsp;— Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Alyssa Katz of the Daily News editorial board discuss New Yorkers' satisfaction with city services, quality of life in the city, and more, based on results from CBC's survey of New Yorkers.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6983-what-s-the-data-point-85-2-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 1 - $85.2 Billion </a>— June 9, 2017&nbsp;— Ben Max of GG and Maria Doulis of CBC launch the What's The [Data] Point? podcast with a breakdown of the recently-passed city budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017. What you need to know!</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="" /></p> <hr /> <p>What's The [Data] Point? is a podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission looking at important issues in New York policy and government. GG, which is published by Citizens Union Foundation, and CBC are both watchdogs dedicated to analyzing and explaining New York public policy and holding government accountable. The podcast will touch on a variety of issues that have significant impact to the everyday lives of New Yorkers as well as the workings of city and state government. It is hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Maria Doulis of Citizens Budget Commission, and produced by JaVon Rice of GG and Kevin Medina of CBC, with special guests on some episodes. Each episode is titled with a significant data point that helps frame the discussion.</p> <p>The podcast launched in June of 2017; find and listen to episodes through the links below, and/or download them wherever you get your podcasts (iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, etc). And, let us know what you think! We're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a>&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@MariaDoulis</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@cbcny</a>.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7320-what-s-the-data-point-44-with-city-council-member-dan-garodnick" target="_blank" rel="noopener">What's The Data Point? Episode&nbsp;20 - 44 days</a>&nbsp;—&nbsp;Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann of CBC, &amp;&nbsp;City Council Member Dan Garodnick discuss&nbsp;his time in office and a variety of issues that he has worked on and is continuing to work on his final days in office.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7309-what-s-the-data-point-67-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's The Data Point? Episode 19 - $67 billion</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann of CBC, &amp; Jay Kriegel of Related Companies and Americans Against Double Taxation discuss State and Local Taxes or SALT, for short.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7293-what-s-the-data-point-348-and-74" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] Point? Episode 18 - 348 and 74</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann,&nbsp;Riley Edwards, &amp; Tim Sullivan of CBC discuss the effectiveness of LDC, IDAs, &amp; BIDs in New York City</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7272-what-s-the-data-point-95-billion-opeb-debt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] Point? Episode 17 - $95 billion</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellermann of CBC, &amp; Thad Calabrese, a &nbsp;discuss the current value of all of the future retiree benefits, except pensions, already earned by current retirees and current workers of New York City</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7263-what-s-the-data-point-1936" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What’s The [DATA] Point? Episode 16 - 1936</a> — Listen to Gerald Benjamin, a distinguished scholar from SUNY New Paltz and proponent of calling a convention, discuss the controversial topic that has many in New York focused on either securing approval or voting it down. He sat down with Ben Max of GG and Carol Kellermann of CBC.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7248-what-s-the-data-point-60-plus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] Point? Ep 15 - 60+</a> — Listen to an excerpt from a live Citizens Budget Commission event where two experts discussed government debt and financing, including lessons learned from Detroit and Puerto Rico that may help New York City.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7233-what-s-the-data-point-4-with-greg-david-of-crain-s-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What’s The [DATA] Point? Ep 14 - 4</a> — Ben Max of GG &amp; Greg David of Crain’s New York discuss his recent in-depth article on Mayor Bill de Blasio and de Blasio's record as mayor.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7218-whats-the-data-point-95-with-city-council-member-julissa-ferreras-copeland" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 13 - 95</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellerman of CBC &amp; City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland discuss why the soon-to-be former Council member decided against running for reelection, despite being the leading contender to become the next City Council Speaker.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7206-what-s-the-data-point-77-651-with-the-city-housing-commissioner" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 12 - 77,651</a> — In this episode, listen to excerpts of a speech the city's housing commissioner, Maria Torres-Springer, gave at a Citizens Budget Commission event on Wednesday, September 20, followed by 15 minutes of Q-and-A with the commissioner. 7206</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7178-what-s-the-data-point-66-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 11 - $66 billion</a> — In this back-to-school episode, Ben Max of GG and Dave Friedfel and Riley Edwards of CBC discuss the amount New York school districts receive in revenune and myths about school overcrowding.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7166-what-s-the-data-point-30-with-deputy-mayor-richard-buery" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 10 - 30%</a> — Ben Max of GG, Carol Kellerman of CBC, &amp; guest Deputy Mayor Richard Buery discuss the city's goals for awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses and how Buery is leading the effort to reach those goals.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7131-what-s-the-data-point-1-5-billion">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 9 - $1.5 Billion</a> — August 16, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Alex Matthiessen, President of Blue Marble Project and Campaign Director for Move New York, discuss the "congestion pricing" plan that aims to help repair and improve the city's mass transit, roads and bridges, while reducing traffic and creating more equity in tolling around the city.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 8 - $17 Billion</a> — August 10, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Shola Olatoye, chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the country's largest public housing authority, with over 400,000 people residing in its thousands of units across the city.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7106-what-s-the-data-point-2008" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 7 - 2008</a> — August 3, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest John Breit, a&nbsp;CBC Trustee, PhD Physicist, and former risk adviser to Merrill Lynch and the New York City Comptroller’s Office for the pension funds.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7090-what-s-the-data-point-100-000-with-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 6 - 100,000</a> — July 27, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development discussed the rezoning of East Midtown, the de Blasio administration's new jobs plan, and the recent tweaks to the administration's housing plan.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7060-what-s-the-data-point-30-days" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 5 - 30 Days</a> — July 13, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Jamison Dague, director of infrastructure studies at Citizens Budget Commission discuss issues facing the city's subway system, recent announcements made by Governor Andrew Cuomo that relate to the MTA, CBC analysis of transit system problems, and what to watch for as the MTA enters its summer "state of emergency."</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7048-what-s-the-data-point-with-janno-lieber-mta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's The [Data] Point? Ep 4 - $32.5 billion</a>&nbsp;— July 6, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Janno Lieber, new Chief Development Officer at the MTA discuss the state of the subways, MTA management and budgeting, major projects the MTA is undertaking and balancing them with upgrading and repairing the current subway system.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7034-what-s-the-data-point-comptroller-dinapoli">What's The [Data] Point? Ep 3 - $780 million</a>&nbsp;— June 29, 2017 — Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Comptroller Tom DiNapoli discuss the lack of reform in Albany after the bid-rigging scandal in the Governor Cuomo's economic development programs that will see several of the governor's associates and donors on trial this fall.</p> <p><a href="https://soundcloud.com/ggcbcpodcast/whats-the-data-point-ep-2-44">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 2 - 44%</a>&nbsp;— June 22, 2017&nbsp;— Ben Max of GG, Maria Doulis of CBC, &amp; guest Alyssa Katz of the Daily News editorial board discuss New Yorkers' satisfaction with city services, quality of life in the city, and more, based on results from CBC's survey of New Yorkers.</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6983-what-s-the-data-point-85-2-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">What's the [DATA] point? Ep 1 - $85.2 Billion </a>— June 9, 2017&nbsp;— Ben Max of GG and Maria Doulis of CBC launch the What's The [Data] Point? podcast with a breakdown of the recently-passed city budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017. What you need to know!</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

&nbsp;</p>
Reviews Are In: What Watchdogs Say About The New State Budget 2017-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7003:reviews-are-in-what-watchdogs-say-about-new-state-budget Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/24334328716_29ac89de3e_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A new state budget was passed in April in typical Albany fashion: with almost no time for public scrutiny of the bills or proper review by the legislators who quickly voted them through. Since the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6867-10-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-the-new-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$153.1 billion budget was passed</a>, watchdogs both in and out of government have released analyses, helping to better inform citizens and increase accountability.</p> <p>The budget was adopted a little over a week into the new fiscal year, which begins April 1, after compromises were reached among legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo on contentious issues such as raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, education aid, a college tuition affordability program, the allocation of large sums of affordable housing monies, and more. The frantic and secretive nature of state budget adoption leaves a lot to digest afterward.</p> <p>Now, about two months after the budget was passed, those analyses by watchdogs can bring to light a few common themes and several other key points.</p> <p>Aside from general criticism of the process itself, there are the issues of the large lump sum appropriations, projects funded by mysterious sources, and the governor faulty marketing of his budgetary discipline.</p> <p><strong>Comptroller Tom DiNapoli</strong><br />State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2017/2017-18-enacted-budget-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> on the state budget that includes critiques of the budgeting process and the end result. The budget continues to rely heavily on appropriations from the federal government, at almost a third of state revenue, despite the unpredictability of state aid from Washington, D.C. under President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress.</p> <p>“Although the budget came together more than a week into the fiscal year, the Legislature and Executive acted on critical budget issues that will help New York move forward,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “However, billions of dollars in spending lacks key details that would better inform the public about how their tax dollars are being spent.”</p> <p>The Comptroller’s report included a lengthy chart showing the legislature’s inaction on ethics reform, criticizing the fact that, among other things, the budget “intentionally omits” measures such as requiring advisory opinions on legislators’ outside income, closing the LLC loophole in corporate political contributions, and extending the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to cover the Legislature. The Comptroller was equally pointed on the state’s procurement practices, which have come under fire due to rampant corruption in the state’s contracting process, stating that the changes were needed to “ensure spending accountability and transparency” in a statement. A measure to authorize the IG to investigate criminal wrongdoing in the state’s procurements was intentionally omitted.</p> <p>The Comptroller was critical of the quickness of the process, essentially disallowing public review. Also criticized was the prevalence of lump sum appropriations, which can make state money harder to track.</p> <p>“It should concern all New Yorkers that budget decisions in Washington may force tough fiscal choices for the state and raise new questions for local governments and nonprofits that rely on state funding,” DiNapoli said. “Federal actions that could adversely affect New York, as well as economic uncertainty, are key risks to this budget.”</p> <p><strong>Citizens Budget Commission</strong><br />In a statement on the day the budget was adopted, CBC President Carol Kellermann said “achieving a fiscally sound budget is more important than an ‘on time’ budget,” referring to the emergency budget extender passed when negotiating parties couldn’t reach a deal on time. Still, CBC expressed dismay that the state budget was neither on-time nor fiscally sound.</p> <p>In a later report, CBC also <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/when-2-percent-isnt-2-percent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">criticized</a> Governor Cuomo for misleadingly saying that the adopted budget continued his “record of holding State Operating Funds spending annual growth to no more than 2 percent.” In reality, CBC explained, spending growth is closer to 3.7%, well above the 2% benchmark that Cuomo prides himself on. The budget is able to exploit this loophole by not “adjusting for payment timing differences and accounting changes,” such as through premature debt service payments or “shifting expenditures out of state operating funds spending.”</p> <p>CBC has created a “<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/budget-navigator" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">budget navigator</a>” to allow citizens to see how city and state money is being spent.</p> <p><strong>Empire Center for Public Policy</strong><br />Empire Center, a conservative think tank based in Albany, has released a <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/budget/">slew of criticisms</a> of the budget. Condemnations expressed on the Empire Center blog cover health care spending, certain tax breaks, and the “free” college tuition program. Empire Center is also critical of the added tax deduction for union dues, “effectively a $35 million gratuity for an already privileged caste of (mostly government) workers.”</p> <p>“The positives in New York’s FY 2018 budget make up a pretty short list—while the negatives are in some respects worse than usual,” wrote E.J. McMahon, Empire Center’s founder and research director, in a budget breakdown <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/budget-pluses-and-minuses/">post</a> on the Center’s blog.</p> <p>McMahon argues for more transparency and accountability with the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which he says “used to be put before voters in New York.” Now that doing so is no longer a requirement, McMahon writes, “the governor and Legislature obviously figure, why bother?”</p> <p><strong>Citizens Union</strong><br />Citizens Union identifies the budget’s large non-specific lump sum funding in its “<a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/spending_in_the_shadows__nonspecific_lump_sum_funding_in_the_fy_2018_new_york_state_enacted_budget">Spending in the Shadows</a>” report. The watchdog identified nearly $13 billion in the budget in nonspecific funding: around $3 billion “subject to decisions of one or more particular elected officials,” and nearly $10 billion “in approximately 40 different economic development and infrastructure pots listing no official with spending authority.” The group also found that there was “inadequate reporting as to how these funds are eventually spent.”</p> <p>Citizens Union calls on the governor and Legislature to publicly identify all nonspecific funding and to publicly disclose information, such as purposes and the requester, regarding these funds, especially ahead of spending, not afterward as is often the case. Further, the organization calls for amending state finance law to introduce accountability and conflict-of-interest identification to public contracting, the disclosure of grants and contracts “awarded under nonspecific lump sum appropriations and reappropriations,” and for “aging the budget bills for three days.”</p> <p><strong>Reinvent Albany</strong><br />Reinvent Albany has focused largely on procurement reform, which has become a major point of contention, particularly after the Buffalo Billion corruption scandal broke. Along with other watchdog groups, Reinvent Albany issued a <a href="http://reinventalbany.org/2017/05/budget-and-transparency-watchdogs-groups-call-on-senate-assembly-and-governor-cuomo-to-pass-clean-contracting-reforms/">release</a> in May calling for “five clean contracting reforms,” all of which failed to make it into the budget:</p> <p>1. Require competitive and transparent contracting for the award of state funds by all state agencies, authorities, and affiliates. Use existing agency procurement guidelines as a uniform minimum standard.</p> <p>2. Transfer responsibility for awarding all economic development awards to Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and end awards by state non-profits and SUNY.</p> <p>3. Empower the Comptroller to review and approve all state contracts over $250,000.</p> <p>4. Prohibit state authorities, state corporations, and state non-profits from doing business with their board members.</p> <p>5. Create a ‘Database of Deals’ that allows the public to see the total value of all forms of subsidies awarded to a business – as six states have done.</p> <p>The groups have continued to call for such reforms, but legislative leaders have been hesitant to challenge Cuomo, who is opposed.</p> <p><strong>New York Public Interest Research Group</strong><br />NYPIRG also criticized the opacity of the state budget process, which notorious for taking place largely behind closed doors, especially in terms of the final, major deals reached, with the infamous “Three Men in a Room” process determining what stays and what goes -- largely without public input. (There’s been a fourth man in the room of late given the addition of IDC Leader Jeff Klein along with the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.)</p> <p>“The process by which these decisions were made was awful and arguably worse than in the recent past,” said the organization in a <a href="http://www.nypirg.org/capitolperspective/?p=1861">statement</a> shortly after the budget’s passage. “Virtually all the deliberations in developing the budget were conducted behind closed doors. There were no hearings, no open meetings, and with the three day legislative review period waived by the governor lawmakers were voting on bills that they had little time to comprehensively review.”</p> <p>***<br />by&nbsp;Ben Brachfeld &amp; Jynn Schubert<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/24334328716_29ac89de3e_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget presentation" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A new state budget was passed in April in typical Albany fashion: with almost no time for public scrutiny of the bills or proper review by the legislators who quickly voted them through. Since the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6867-10-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-the-new-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$153.1 billion budget was passed</a>, watchdogs both in and out of government have released analyses, helping to better inform citizens and increase accountability.</p> <p>The budget was adopted a little over a week into the new fiscal year, which begins April 1, after compromises were reached among legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo on contentious issues such as raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, education aid, a college tuition affordability program, the allocation of large sums of affordable housing monies, and more. The frantic and secretive nature of state budget adoption leaves a lot to digest afterward.</p> <p>Now, about two months after the budget was passed, those analyses by watchdogs can bring to light a few common themes and several other key points.</p> <p>Aside from general criticism of the process itself, there are the issues of the large lump sum appropriations, projects funded by mysterious sources, and the governor faulty marketing of his budgetary discipline.</p> <p><strong>Comptroller Tom DiNapoli</strong><br />State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a <a href="http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/budget/2017/2017-18-enacted-budget-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> on the state budget that includes critiques of the budgeting process and the end result. The budget continues to rely heavily on appropriations from the federal government, at almost a third of state revenue, despite the unpredictability of state aid from Washington, D.C. under President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress.</p> <p>“Although the budget came together more than a week into the fiscal year, the Legislature and Executive acted on critical budget issues that will help New York move forward,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “However, billions of dollars in spending lacks key details that would better inform the public about how their tax dollars are being spent.”</p> <p>The Comptroller’s report included a lengthy chart showing the legislature’s inaction on ethics reform, criticizing the fact that, among other things, the budget “intentionally omits” measures such as requiring advisory opinions on legislators’ outside income, closing the LLC loophole in corporate political contributions, and extending the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to cover the Legislature. The Comptroller was equally pointed on the state’s procurement practices, which have come under fire due to rampant corruption in the state’s contracting process, stating that the changes were needed to “ensure spending accountability and transparency” in a statement. A measure to authorize the IG to investigate criminal wrongdoing in the state’s procurements was intentionally omitted.</p> <p>The Comptroller was critical of the quickness of the process, essentially disallowing public review. Also criticized was the prevalence of lump sum appropriations, which can make state money harder to track.</p> <p>“It should concern all New Yorkers that budget decisions in Washington may force tough fiscal choices for the state and raise new questions for local governments and nonprofits that rely on state funding,” DiNapoli said. “Federal actions that could adversely affect New York, as well as economic uncertainty, are key risks to this budget.”</p> <p><strong>Citizens Budget Commission</strong><br />In a statement on the day the budget was adopted, CBC President Carol Kellermann said “achieving a fiscally sound budget is more important than an ‘on time’ budget,” referring to the emergency budget extender passed when negotiating parties couldn’t reach a deal on time. Still, CBC expressed dismay that the state budget was neither on-time nor fiscally sound.</p> <p>In a later report, CBC also <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/when-2-percent-isnt-2-percent" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">criticized</a> Governor Cuomo for misleadingly saying that the adopted budget continued his “record of holding State Operating Funds spending annual growth to no more than 2 percent.” In reality, CBC explained, spending growth is closer to 3.7%, well above the 2% benchmark that Cuomo prides himself on. The budget is able to exploit this loophole by not “adjusting for payment timing differences and accounting changes,” such as through premature debt service payments or “shifting expenditures out of state operating funds spending.”</p> <p>CBC has created a “<a href="https://cbcny.org/research/budget-navigator" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">budget navigator</a>” to allow citizens to see how city and state money is being spent.</p> <p><strong>Empire Center for Public Policy</strong><br />Empire Center, a conservative think tank based in Albany, has released a <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/budget/">slew of criticisms</a> of the budget. Condemnations expressed on the Empire Center blog cover health care spending, certain tax breaks, and the “free” college tuition program. Empire Center is also critical of the added tax deduction for union dues, “effectively a $35 million gratuity for an already privileged caste of (mostly government) workers.”</p> <p>“The positives in New York’s FY 2018 budget make up a pretty short list—while the negatives are in some respects worse than usual,” wrote E.J. McMahon, Empire Center’s founder and research director, in a budget breakdown <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/budget-pluses-and-minuses/">post</a> on the Center’s blog.</p> <p>McMahon argues for more transparency and accountability with the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which he says “used to be put before voters in New York.” Now that doing so is no longer a requirement, McMahon writes, “the governor and Legislature obviously figure, why bother?”</p> <p><strong>Citizens Union</strong><br />Citizens Union identifies the budget’s large non-specific lump sum funding in its “<a href="http://www.citizensunion.org/spending_in_the_shadows__nonspecific_lump_sum_funding_in_the_fy_2018_new_york_state_enacted_budget">Spending in the Shadows</a>” report. The watchdog identified nearly $13 billion in the budget in nonspecific funding: around $3 billion “subject to decisions of one or more particular elected officials,” and nearly $10 billion “in approximately 40 different economic development and infrastructure pots listing no official with spending authority.” The group also found that there was “inadequate reporting as to how these funds are eventually spent.”</p> <p>Citizens Union calls on the governor and Legislature to publicly identify all nonspecific funding and to publicly disclose information, such as purposes and the requester, regarding these funds, especially ahead of spending, not afterward as is often the case. Further, the organization calls for amending state finance law to introduce accountability and conflict-of-interest identification to public contracting, the disclosure of grants and contracts “awarded under nonspecific lump sum appropriations and reappropriations,” and for “aging the budget bills for three days.”</p> <p><strong>Reinvent Albany</strong><br />Reinvent Albany has focused largely on procurement reform, which has become a major point of contention, particularly after the Buffalo Billion corruption scandal broke. Along with other watchdog groups, Reinvent Albany issued a <a href="http://reinventalbany.org/2017/05/budget-and-transparency-watchdogs-groups-call-on-senate-assembly-and-governor-cuomo-to-pass-clean-contracting-reforms/">release</a> in May calling for “five clean contracting reforms,” all of which failed to make it into the budget:</p> <p>1. Require competitive and transparent contracting for the award of state funds by all state agencies, authorities, and affiliates. Use existing agency procurement guidelines as a uniform minimum standard.</p> <p>2. Transfer responsibility for awarding all economic development awards to Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and end awards by state non-profits and SUNY.</p> <p>3. Empower the Comptroller to review and approve all state contracts over $250,000.</p> <p>4. Prohibit state authorities, state corporations, and state non-profits from doing business with their board members.</p> <p>5. Create a ‘Database of Deals’ that allows the public to see the total value of all forms of subsidies awarded to a business – as six states have done.</p> <p>The groups have continued to call for such reforms, but legislative leaders have been hesitant to challenge Cuomo, who is opposed.</p> <p><strong>New York Public Interest Research Group</strong><br />NYPIRG also criticized the opacity of the state budget process, which notorious for taking place largely behind closed doors, especially in terms of the final, major deals reached, with the infamous “Three Men in a Room” process determining what stays and what goes -- largely without public input. (There’s been a fourth man in the room of late given the addition of IDC Leader Jeff Klein along with the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.)</p> <p>“The process by which these decisions were made was awful and arguably worse than in the recent past,” said the organization in a <a href="http://www.nypirg.org/capitolperspective/?p=1861">statement</a> shortly after the budget’s passage. “Virtually all the deliberations in developing the budget were conducted behind closed doors. There were no hearings, no open meetings, and with the three day legislative review period waived by the governor lawmakers were voting on bills that they had little time to comprehensively review.”</p> <p>***<br />by&nbsp;Ben Brachfeld &amp; Jynn Schubert<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p> Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union. </p> De Blasio Skeptical of Cuomo’s New Budget Powers 2017-04-24T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6889:de-blasio-skeptical-of-cuomo-s-new-budget-powers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/29475210540_731875fba4_z_2.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As part of the budget deal announced earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted the inclusion of new power his administration now has to adjust the state spending plan mid-year given significant federal cuts to New York. While Cuomo said it is an important provision in the state budget given uncertainty and threats from Washington D.C., Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed skepticism.</p> <p>When he announced a deal with the state Legislature on April 7, Cuomo outlined the major aspects of the new $153 billion budget, almost one-third of which comes from federal grants to New York. “This budget also has the first ever Federal Funding Response Plan,” <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/audio-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-agreement-fy-2018-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cuomo said</a> at a press conference at the state Capitol, explaining that if there are major federal funding cuts, his Division of Budget “will come up with a plan that corrects the state budget for that shortfall.” The plan would then be presented to the state Assembly, which would have 90 days to either pass its own plan or the Cuomo plan would automatically go into effect.</p> <p>The threshold for allowing this mid-year adjustment is $850 million in federal funding cuts to New York. Cuomo said that the federal response plan “gives me confidence that the ship of state, the financial ship of state...the financial integrity of the state will be OK.” He said that he did not want to have to rely on calling the Legislature back to Albany for a mid-year adjustment. State lawmakers, whose jobs are considered part-time, are only in session in Albany from January through mid-June. The federal government has a more fluid budget “season,” operating on a “continuing resolution,” and major funding cuts could come at virtually any time.</p> <p>When Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio about the new budget mechanism that gives Cuomo additional power and any concerns for New York City he may have, particularly about federal cuts trickling down to the city, the mayor said he wasn’t completely familiar with the provision, but from what he did know, he wasn’t sure why it was needed.</p> <p>"I’m not familiar enough – I don’t fully understand it – I don’t know if I’m alone in that fact,” de Blasio said during a question-and-answer session after an unrelated announcement on April 19. “You know, from our point of view, we would do that through a budget process...we have a normal process for budget modifications. We go to the City Council – they vote on it. I don’t understand, even though I know the Legislature has more of a fixed session than the Council does, that’s true, but I don’t fully follow the logic.”</p> <p>De Blasio went on to say, “I would think the normal thing to do would be, you know, set a course if those federal actions really fundamentally change things to come back to the Legislature and talk it through if it was major things. So, I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t fully understand what the vision is, but I think if it’s a major magnitude, you’d want to work with the Legislature to work it out."</p> <p>The governor’s office did not return a request for response to de Blasio’s comments.</p> <p>During his explanation of the budget deal, however, Cuomo had already responded to de Blasio’s critique. Relying on the Legislature to return to Albany and agree on budget modifications in the face of federal cuts “was too risky a proposition for me, frankly,” Cuomo said.</p> <p>“‘Well you could have always called the Legislature back into special session,’” the governor said, preemptively. “Yeah, but legislatures are not always quick to convene, they’re not always quick to agree and they’re never quick to cut funds, right? Legislatures prefer giving out funds, not calling up and saying, ‘I need you to return the money I gave you.’”</p> <p>“This is what gives me the greatest security in this budget,” Cuomo said of the new mechanism, “and it’s a device that we just came up with recently and if we didn’t have a device like this, I believe it would have been better to leave the budget open throughout the year so we’re sure we could adjust.”</p> <p>The mayor and governor have been engaged in a well-publicized feud for most of de Blasio’s term, conflict that has boiled over around budget issues at times. In the recently passed state budget, the city <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6867-10-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-the-new-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">saw something of a mixed bag</a>, though de Blasio appeared mostly pleased with the outcomes.</p> <p>For the good he saw in the new state budget, the mayor mostly praised Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat who de Blasio has said is the city’s strongest ally in budget negotiations among Cuomo, who is a second-term Democrat; Heastie; and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican.</p> <p>In January, de Blasio outlined his own $83 billion preliminary budget for next city fiscal year, which begins July 1. De Blasio will now take into account both the new state budget and the latest from Washington, D.C., among other factors, when crafting his executive budget plan, which he’ll unveil in May. That will set the stage for continued negotiations with the City Council before the two sides reach a deal by the end of June.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration did not yet have a number for total state grants coming to the city from the state, but de Blasio’s preliminary budget had projected about $14.5 billion. It’s unclear what state money to New York City could be at risk if federal cuts to the state occur and the Cuomo administration crafts a budget amendment. The city is also at risk of losing some of the roughly $7 billion in direct federal aid it may receive -- the Trump administration and Republican Congress’ priorities mostly do not match de Blasio’s, and there have already been both threats to withhold funding and proposed cuts to the city.</p> <p>As de Blasio intimated when discussing Cuomo’s new budget powers, the city has a regularly scheduled “budget modification” each November, at which time the mayoral administration and City Council adjust the current year’s spending plan and reestimate for the following year. The state has no such mechanism as part of its annual budget process.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/29475210540_731875fba4_z_2.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio &amp; Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As part of the budget deal announced earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted the inclusion of new power his administration now has to adjust the state spending plan mid-year given significant federal cuts to New York. While Cuomo said it is an important provision in the state budget given uncertainty and threats from Washington D.C., Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed skepticism.</p> <p>When he announced a deal with the state Legislature on April 7, Cuomo outlined the major aspects of the new $153 billion budget, almost one-third of which comes from federal grants to New York. “This budget also has the first ever Federal Funding Response Plan,” <a href="http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/audio-rush-transcript-governor-cuomo-announces-agreement-fy-2018-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cuomo said</a> at a press conference at the state Capitol, explaining that if there are major federal funding cuts, his Division of Budget “will come up with a plan that corrects the state budget for that shortfall.” The plan would then be presented to the state Assembly, which would have 90 days to either pass its own plan or the Cuomo plan would automatically go into effect.</p> <p>The threshold for allowing this mid-year adjustment is $850 million in federal funding cuts to New York. Cuomo said that the federal response plan “gives me confidence that the ship of state, the financial ship of state...the financial integrity of the state will be OK.” He said that he did not want to have to rely on calling the Legislature back to Albany for a mid-year adjustment. State lawmakers, whose jobs are considered part-time, are only in session in Albany from January through mid-June. The federal government has a more fluid budget “season,” operating on a “continuing resolution,” and major funding cuts could come at virtually any time.</p> <p>When Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio about the new budget mechanism that gives Cuomo additional power and any concerns for New York City he may have, particularly about federal cuts trickling down to the city, the mayor said he wasn’t completely familiar with the provision, but from what he did know, he wasn’t sure why it was needed.</p> <p>"I’m not familiar enough – I don’t fully understand it – I don’t know if I’m alone in that fact,” de Blasio said during a question-and-answer session after an unrelated announcement on April 19. “You know, from our point of view, we would do that through a budget process...we have a normal process for budget modifications. We go to the City Council – they vote on it. I don’t understand, even though I know the Legislature has more of a fixed session than the Council does, that’s true, but I don’t fully follow the logic.”</p> <p>De Blasio went on to say, “I would think the normal thing to do would be, you know, set a course if those federal actions really fundamentally change things to come back to the Legislature and talk it through if it was major things. So, I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t fully understand what the vision is, but I think if it’s a major magnitude, you’d want to work with the Legislature to work it out."</p> <p>The governor’s office did not return a request for response to de Blasio’s comments.</p> <p>During his explanation of the budget deal, however, Cuomo had already responded to de Blasio’s critique. Relying on the Legislature to return to Albany and agree on budget modifications in the face of federal cuts “was too risky a proposition for me, frankly,” Cuomo said.</p> <p>“‘Well you could have always called the Legislature back into special session,’” the governor said, preemptively. “Yeah, but legislatures are not always quick to convene, they’re not always quick to agree and they’re never quick to cut funds, right? Legislatures prefer giving out funds, not calling up and saying, ‘I need you to return the money I gave you.’”</p> <p>“This is what gives me the greatest security in this budget,” Cuomo said of the new mechanism, “and it’s a device that we just came up with recently and if we didn’t have a device like this, I believe it would have been better to leave the budget open throughout the year so we’re sure we could adjust.”</p> <p>The mayor and governor have been engaged in a well-publicized feud for most of de Blasio’s term, conflict that has boiled over around budget issues at times. In the recently passed state budget, the city <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6867-10-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-the-new-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">saw something of a mixed bag</a>, though de Blasio appeared mostly pleased with the outcomes.</p> <p>For the good he saw in the new state budget, the mayor mostly praised Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat who de Blasio has said is the city’s strongest ally in budget negotiations among Cuomo, who is a second-term Democrat; Heastie; and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican.</p> <p>In January, de Blasio outlined his own $83 billion preliminary budget for next city fiscal year, which begins July 1. De Blasio will now take into account both the new state budget and the latest from Washington, D.C., among other factors, when crafting his executive budget plan, which he’ll unveil in May. That will set the stage for continued negotiations with the City Council before the two sides reach a deal by the end of June.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration did not yet have a number for total state grants coming to the city from the state, but de Blasio’s preliminary budget had projected about $14.5 billion. It’s unclear what state money to New York City could be at risk if federal cuts to the state occur and the Cuomo administration crafts a budget amendment. The city is also at risk of losing some of the roughly $7 billion in direct federal aid it may receive -- the Trump administration and Republican Congress’ priorities mostly do not match de Blasio’s, and there have already been both threats to withhold funding and proposed cuts to the city.</p> <p>As de Blasio intimated when discussing Cuomo’s new budget powers, the city has a regularly scheduled “budget modification” each November, at which time the mayoral administration and City Council adjust the current year’s spending plan and reestimate for the following year. The state has no such mechanism as part of its annual budget process.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Déjà Vu in Cuomo's Highlight Accomplishments from New Budget 2017-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6878:deja-vu-in-cuomo-s-highlight-accomplishments-from-new-state-budget Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32878862206_601390a6d4_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo property taxes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo's <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-passage-fy-2018-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">April 10 announcement on the passage of the state budget</a> cited several new initiatives and innovations that were included in the budget bills for the new 2017-2018 fiscal year, which began April 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">But history suggests that at least three of them actually are not really new.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Tuition-free SUNY and CUNY</strong><br />"With the 2018 Budget, New York leads the nation by making college tuition-free at SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges for working and middle-class families making up to $125,000 per year," says the governor's announcement.</p> <p dir="ltr">That sounds like a major step forward. Actually, it is something of a reversion to the original philosophy of the two public university systems. SUNY, established in 1948, was created in part as a result of the rising cost of higher education after World War II. Its units were mostly tuition-free or very low tuition until the 1960s. CUNY, established in 1961, was <a href="http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2011/10/12/when-tuition-at-cuny-was-free-sort-of/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mostly tuition-free or low tuition</a> until 1976. The tuition-free policy was discontinued that year as a result of New York City's fiscal crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr">But since then, state and federal grants have been available to help low-income students at CUNY as well as at SUNY. The new policy at least partly hearkens back to policies and ideals of the past rather than departing from them.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>"Raise the Age"</strong><br />"The FY 2018 State Budget raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old and ensures that young people who commit non-violent crimes receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need," notes the governor's announcement. "New York was previously one of only two states in the nation that automatically processed all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, no matter their offense."</p> <p dir="ltr">The governor is certainly right in calling attention to this as a major reform. He deserves credit for its enactment. But proposals to raise the age date back quite a ways. As Governor Cuomo's Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Juvenile Justice noted in its 2014 report, <a href="http://www.njjn.org/uploads/digital-library/ReportofCommissiononYouthPublicSafetyandJustice_0%20(1).pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Recommendations for Juvenile Justice Reform in New York State</a>, which advocated for the change, most states raised the age many years ago. New York was one of the few states not to take this step despite criticism from youth advocates, recommendations from its own State Crime Commission in a report dating from 1931, and other experts.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Shrinking local government</strong><br />"The FY 2018 Budget continues the Governor's efforts to relieve the property tax burden and builds on the success of the 2 percent property tax cap," says the Governor's announcement. "The typical New York homeowner pays 2.5 times more in local property taxes than in state income taxes. The Budget will empower citizens to control the cost of local government by requiring counties to assemble local governments to find efficiencies for real, recurring taxpayer savings. To ensure transparency and an active role for citizens in reducing their tax burden, public hearings and input will be required as part of the development of the shared services plans."</p> <p dir="ltr">New York has about 4,000 local governments. The governor's initiative is a fresh variation on an old theme: reducing the number of local governments, consolidating them, or urging them to share services in order to reduce the burden on taxpayers.</p> <p dir="ltr">History suggests Governor Cuomo's new initiative may have a hard time getting traction.</p> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers may complain about taxes, but they seem indifferent to state initiatives to eliminate or consolidate services. Consolidation threatens the jobs of local officials. Citizens are apprehensive about changing something that is familiar even if it means greater efficiencies and more economical operation.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2013, Cuomo offered a program of state support to promote reduction of local governments through consolidation. There was little interest.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Eliot Spitzer appointed a Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor George Pataki had a Commission on Local Government Reform. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Mario Cuomo appointed a Commission on Consolidation of Local Governments.</p> <p dir="ltr">None made any appreciable headway.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 1935, Governor Herbert Lehman told the Legislature that "There are too many units of government in the State of New York and...the resulting complexity of local government cannot produce efficiency or economy." Legislators were not interested.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 1929, Governor Franklin Roosevelt asserted "even the school children know that we maintain many useless offices in our towns, that many functions now exercised by town officials should be assumed by county management...in the final analysis...the average taxpayer does not know why or where his tax money is being&nbsp;spent." In 1932, he cited "great waste and duplication" and "thoroughly unbusinesslike&nbsp;practices." But even then, with the Great Depression undermining local governments' tax base, very little happened.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 1926, Governor Alfred E. Smith, who had reorganized and consolidated state government, called New York's complicated system of local government "costly, wasteful and obsolete...we have too many political divisions, too many officials, too little efficiency." The pattern of counties, cities, and towns had changed little since the beginning of the state. Over the years, special districts for sewers, water, etc., "were created without any understanding of the results that would follow because they overlap one on the other and set up within one township all sorts of overlapping special governments and special tax&nbsp;districts."</p> <p dir="ltr">Two years later, Smith said the sprawling system of local governments represented "the old-fashioned, foolish way of doing things...inefficiency...we are still in the Middle Ages of government."</p> <p dir="ltr">Among Smith's proposals: abolish the five counties in New York City; elevate densely populated Nassau County to the status of a city; merge Dutchess and Putnam counties, Rensselaer and Columbia counties, and Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties into three large counties.</p> <p dir="ltr">Smith made a strong case: consolidation would save taxpayer money, improve services, make government more responsive, and streamline management of state aid for highways, welfare, and other&nbsp;services.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Smith's proposals produced very little public interest and support. The Legislature declined to take any action.</p> <p dir="ltr">There may be more action under Cuomo's new approach. But history does not offer much cause for optimism.</p> <p dir="ltr">These three examples suggest that looking back into history can often help inform current policy discussions. Often, there are reverberations of past policy proposals in innovative new ones.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6054-the-spirit-of-new-york.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History</a>, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.</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/2017/32878862206_601390a6d4_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo property taxes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo's <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-passage-fy-2018-state-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">April 10 announcement on the passage of the state budget</a> cited several new initiatives and innovations that were included in the budget bills for the new 2017-2018 fiscal year, which began April 1.</p> <p dir="ltr">But history suggests that at least three of them actually are not really new.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Tuition-free SUNY and CUNY</strong><br />"With the 2018 Budget, New York leads the nation by making college tuition-free at SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges for working and middle-class families making up to $125,000 per year," says the governor's announcement.</p> <p dir="ltr">That sounds like a major step forward. Actually, it is something of a reversion to the original philosophy of the two public university systems. SUNY, established in 1948, was created in part as a result of the rising cost of higher education after World War II. Its units were mostly tuition-free or very low tuition until the 1960s. CUNY, established in 1961, was <a href="http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2011/10/12/when-tuition-at-cuny-was-free-sort-of/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mostly tuition-free or low tuition</a> until 1976. The tuition-free policy was discontinued that year as a result of New York City's fiscal crisis.</p> <p dir="ltr">But since then, state and federal grants have been available to help low-income students at CUNY as well as at SUNY. The new policy at least partly hearkens back to policies and ideals of the past rather than departing from them.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>"Raise the Age"</strong><br />"The FY 2018 State Budget raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old and ensures that young people who commit non-violent crimes receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need," notes the governor's announcement. "New York was previously one of only two states in the nation that automatically processed all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, no matter their offense."</p> <p dir="ltr">The governor is certainly right in calling attention to this as a major reform. He deserves credit for its enactment. But proposals to raise the age date back quite a ways. As Governor Cuomo's Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Juvenile Justice noted in its 2014 report, <a href="http://www.njjn.org/uploads/digital-library/ReportofCommissiononYouthPublicSafetyandJustice_0%20(1).pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Recommendations for Juvenile Justice Reform in New York State</a>, which advocated for the change, most states raised the age many years ago. New York was one of the few states not to take this step despite criticism from youth advocates, recommendations from its own State Crime Commission in a report dating from 1931, and other experts.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Shrinking local government</strong><br />"The FY 2018 Budget continues the Governor's efforts to relieve the property tax burden and builds on the success of the 2 percent property tax cap," says the Governor's announcement. "The typical New York homeowner pays 2.5 times more in local property taxes than in state income taxes. The Budget will empower citizens to control the cost of local government by requiring counties to assemble local governments to find efficiencies for real, recurring taxpayer savings. To ensure transparency and an active role for citizens in reducing their tax burden, public hearings and input will be required as part of the development of the shared services plans."</p> <p dir="ltr">New York has about 4,000 local governments. The governor's initiative is a fresh variation on an old theme: reducing the number of local governments, consolidating them, or urging them to share services in order to reduce the burden on taxpayers.</p> <p dir="ltr">History suggests Governor Cuomo's new initiative may have a hard time getting traction.</p> <p dir="ltr">New Yorkers may complain about taxes, but they seem indifferent to state initiatives to eliminate or consolidate services. Consolidation threatens the jobs of local officials. Citizens are apprehensive about changing something that is familiar even if it means greater efficiencies and more economical operation.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2013, Cuomo offered a program of state support to promote reduction of local governments through consolidation. There was little interest.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Eliot Spitzer appointed a Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor George Pataki had a Commission on Local Government Reform. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Mario Cuomo appointed a Commission on Consolidation of Local Governments.</p> <p dir="ltr">None made any appreciable headway.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 1935, Governor Herbert Lehman told the Legislature that "There are too many units of government in the State of New York and...the resulting complexity of local government cannot produce efficiency or economy." Legislators were not interested.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 1929, Governor Franklin Roosevelt asserted "even the school children know that we maintain many useless offices in our towns, that many functions now exercised by town officials should be assumed by county management...in the final analysis...the average taxpayer does not know why or where his tax money is being&nbsp;spent." In 1932, he cited "great waste and duplication" and "thoroughly unbusinesslike&nbsp;practices." But even then, with the Great Depression undermining local governments' tax base, very little happened.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 1926, Governor Alfred E. Smith, who had reorganized and consolidated state government, called New York's complicated system of local government "costly, wasteful and obsolete...we have too many political divisions, too many officials, too little efficiency." The pattern of counties, cities, and towns had changed little since the beginning of the state. Over the years, special districts for sewers, water, etc., "were created without any understanding of the results that would follow because they overlap one on the other and set up within one township all sorts of overlapping special governments and special tax&nbsp;districts."</p> <p dir="ltr">Two years later, Smith said the sprawling system of local governments represented "the old-fashioned, foolish way of doing things...inefficiency...we are still in the Middle Ages of government."</p> <p dir="ltr">Among Smith's proposals: abolish the five counties in New York City; elevate densely populated Nassau County to the status of a city; merge Dutchess and Putnam counties, Rensselaer and Columbia counties, and Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties into three large counties.</p> <p dir="ltr">Smith made a strong case: consolidation would save taxpayer money, improve services, make government more responsive, and streamline management of state aid for highways, welfare, and other&nbsp;services.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Smith's proposals produced very little public interest and support. The Legislature declined to take any action.</p> <p dir="ltr">There may be more action under Cuomo's new approach. But history does not offer much cause for optimism.</p> <p dir="ltr">These three examples suggest that looking back into history can often help inform current policy discussions. Often, there are reverberations of past policy proposals in innovative new ones.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne's latest book is <a href="http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6054-the-spirit-of-new-york.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State's History</a>, published in 2015 by SUNY Press.</p> <p>

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

</p>
10 Key Takeaways for New York City from the New State Budget 2017-04-11T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6867:10-key-takeaways-for-new-york-city-from-the-new-state-budget Ben Max <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/15426845348_2ba84484d7_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio " width="600" height="434" /></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">A new $153 billion New York state budget was passed through the Legislature Sunday evening, nine days into the new fiscal year, following a particularly lengthy and tumultuous negotiation period.</p> <p dir="ltr">After Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a budget deal Friday night, the Assembly approved the budget Saturday, while State senators -- called back to Albany from their districts -- moved through the final budget bills the following day.</p> <p dir="ltr">Within the spending plan are items that have serious ramifications for New York City, many of them tied to the revenue bill, or this year’s budget “big ugly,” legislation that encompasses a hodgepodge of controversial issues. In this case, the criminal justice reform measure known as “raise the age,” New York City’s 421-a property tax abatement program, charter school aid, and an extension of the millionaires’ tax, were among this budget season’s most contentious topics.</p> <p dir="ltr">Deals were reached on these and other complicated matters, like new CUNY and SUNY scholarship parameters, after state lawmakers had passed a budget “extender” on Monday, April 3, two days after the new fiscal year had started.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6862-cuomo-announces-153-billion-state-budget-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cuomo Announces $153 Billion State Budget Deal</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">With a new deal in place, Governor Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, held <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6862-cuomo-announces-153-billion-state-budget-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a press conference at 9 p.m. Friday night</a> and called the new state budget “a blueprint for the future of the state.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/gov-cuomo-n-y-s-budget-embraced-politics-unity-article-1.3037786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a Daily News op-ed column</a> over the weekend, Cuomo wrote of the new budget, “Never has New York achieved more, built more or produced more impactful legislation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While Cuomo is touting a “legacy” achievement in raising the age and a “national model” in his college affordability program, among other headline accomplishments, a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement that “if 7 days late gets the state a plan this great, we will do it every year."</p> <p dir="ltr">For New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio, there are several victories in the new state budget, such as the release of a significant influx of affordable housing funds, but there are also a number of disappointments, such as the absence of the “mansion tax” or an extension of mayoral control of city schools. De Blasio has said several times this year and last that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, is a great ally and advocate for the city’s interests. He’s indicated that Gov. Cuomo is inconsistent in his help for New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">For the state’s largest city, the spending plan offers some funding clarity and a variety of important policy decisions. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council will now move ahead with their budget process -- a new city spending plan is due by July 1. Of the $153.1 billion in the state operating budget for the new fiscal year, it is not yet clear how much will flow to New York City. When de Blasio outlined his preliminary budget for next city fiscal year in February, he estimated $14.5 billion in state grants, contributing to the $83 billion in overall spending he proposed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Within all these numbers and major state policy decisions, there are a lot of important funding and policy points in the new state budget for New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Cost Shifts &amp; Funding Cuts</strong><br />During his state budget testimony on January 30, de Blasio pushed back on the more than $100 million in cuts and cost shifts to New York City proposed in Cuomo’s executive budget, primarily related to placement of foster children and special education services. Most of these cuts remained in the final spending plan, though some were modified or removed, according to the mayor’s office.</p> <p dir="ltr">Notably, a $32.5 million cut to the city’s public health programs proposed by Cuomo did not make it into the state budget. Also, the governor proposed a $17 million cut to New York City’s senior centers, but $13 million was restored in the adopted budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">As outlined in Cuomo’s executive budget proposal, $20 million was ultimately slashed from state reimbursement for special education services in private settings, effectively eliminating any state share of the costs. Finally, $44 million earmarked for foster care services was cut.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Millionaire’s Tax &amp; Mansion Tax</strong><br />Despite resistance from Senate Republicans, Cuomo got his way on the millionaires’ tax extension. The tax was first approved by the legislature after the 2007 financial crisis, extended multiple times, and was set to expire at the end of 2017. Cuomo insisted that a failure to renew it would leave a “tremendous hole in the budget,” but pushed back against the Assembly’s efforts to expand it to include higher taxes on more income brackets. The millionaire’s tax is extended for two years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo also opposed de Blasio’s proposed “mansion tax,” a 2.5 percent incremental tax on purchases of residential property worth more than $2 million. The mayor intended to use the tax, which would have been levied on buyers, in order to subsidize affordable housing for senior citizens.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio along with allies in the Senate and Assembly put significant effort into <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6826-in-albany-de-blasio-and-democrats-to-push-mansion-tax">pushing the “mansion tax</a>” as well as the expansion of the millionaires’ tax, but neither made it into the final budget. De Blasio, at an unrelated press conference Monday, noted that in light of the uncertainty coming from the federal government, the mansion tax could still be on the table. “We’re gonna continue to fight through the legislative session on some of these items,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Mayoral Control of Schools</strong><br />During negotiations, news reports <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/04/one-year-mayoral-control-extension-means-de-blasio-gets-to-skip-debate-entirely-111015" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">indicated</a> that a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools might be included in the state budget, rather than hashed out during the legislative session to follow, as it had been the last two years. But the enacted budget did not address the policy, <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/04/07/de-blasios-school-control-extension-causes-snag-in-state-budget/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">seemingly</a> because Senate Republicans opposed its inclusion.</p> <p dir="ltr">It would have been the third year in a row that de Blasio received a one year extension -- Cuomo has called for a three year extension, the Assembly has pushed for the same, if not longer, while de Blasio has called for making it permanent. Including it in the budget would've softened the blow for the mayor, who will now have to go hat in hand before the Legislature as he did last year and the year before.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the mayoral control snub at his Monday news conference, the mayor dismissed the issue as typical Albany shenanigans. “I never had the illusion that it would be easy to get it done in the budget, I would’ve liked to get it done in the budget. But you know I understood the way it’s played out in previous years was the most likely outcome again.” de Blasio said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor said he is confident it will be worked out during the coming session, which runs through June, like mayoral control, noting that no viable alternative to mayoral control has been presented by the Senate GOP, which has used authorization of mayoral control as leverage over the mayor since he tried to flip the chamber to Democrats in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. The New 421-a</strong><br />De Blasio has criticized the governor’s version of the 421-a property tax abatement, which is meant to spur affordable housing development in the city’s most expensive neighborhoods. The prior program expired two years ago and has been the source of significant strife between de Blasio and Cuomo.</p> <p dir="ltr">The governor rebranded 421-a as “Affordable New York” this year. De Blasio has been cool to the governor’s version of the program, noting that in the long-run it will be more expensive for city taxpayers and will produce fewer affordable units than the version de Blasio proposed in 2015. Still, the current version is an upgrade from the old, broken 421-a system, and one that New York City “can live with,” de Blasio said Monday.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I understand that in Albany a lot of things happen. There were changes made to the plan that weren’t the changes I would’ve have thought of, but they still left us with a plan we could live with,” said de Blasio.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Cuomo’s office, the “new program will create an estimated 2,500 new units of affordable housing per year.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Affordable Housing &amp; NYCHA</strong><br />Agreement on 421-a renewal helped trigger the release of $2.5 billion in funds that were earmarked for 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing in last year’s budget, but were tied up in disagreement among Cuomo and legislative leaders over how it should be distributed.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio’s administration welcomed the influx of affordable housing cash, much of which will head to developers and projects in New York City. &nbsp;“We always welcome additional money and assistance from the state,” said de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein. “This funding couldn’t come a day too soon.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A coalition of 11 housing advocacy groups -- including the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), AARP, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, and others &nbsp;-- &nbsp;echoed those sentiments.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The commitment made today will profoundly impact the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, including 88,000 people currently homeless throughout the state and nearly one million households paying more than half their income in rent each month,” reads a joint statement issued by the group. “What’s critical is that this budget doesn’t exclude anyone and it provides the long-term funding needed to bring about real change.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As promised in Cuomo’s executive budget, the final spending plan allows $200 million for NYCHA capital funds over five years for general repairs. Another $150 million will help preserve Mitchell-Lama buildings and other middle income buildings. The de Blasio administration will be eager to see the money spent through state agencies -- $100 million allocated two years ago for NYCHA repairs has yet to be spent, something de Blasio has cited frequently in recent months.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Infrastructure &amp; Design-Build</strong><br />While the budget included Cuomo’s entire wishlist of ambitious capital projects and economic development programs, it notably did not make changes to the state's procurement practices, the nature of which have contributed to a corruption scandal.</p> <p dir="ltr">Construction of several major capital projects pertaining to New York City were approved, including the following projects for the coming year:</p> <p dir="ltr">John F. Kennedy International Airport - For the coming fiscal year, Cuomo outlined $564 million out of $1.5 billion in spending by the Department of Transportation to improve the roadway congestion leading to JFK. The MTA and Port Authority will also evaluate two proposals: expanding JFK AirTrain service and exploring the possibility of creating a “one-seat” subway ride to the airport.</p> <p dir="ltr">Penn Station - The State is investing $700 million for the first phase of a $3 billion transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office building into a new train hall for the station.</p> <p dir="ltr">Long Island Railroad - The state will invest $120 million to provide enhancements to 16 LIRR stations and to improve system connectivity.</p> <p dir="ltr">MTA - The 2015-2019 MTA transit capital plan includes $28 billion in investments, including city and state funds, with the state continuing to contribute a larger share than the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Empire State Trail - This $200 million continuous, multipurpose bike and hike path would connect New York City Hudson River Greenway to Buffalo, Albany, and Canada. Though the Senate nixed the project in its one-house budget, and the Assembly recommended designating $20 million toward the Cuomo proposal, $53 million for the first phase has been approved in this year’s budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, construction of New York City’s own capital projects will not be expedited by authorization of design-build, which allows municipalities to save time and money by using a single contract for design and construction services. Despite pushback from de Blasio during his January budget testimony, the final budget expanded design-build for state agencies, but excluded New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In New York City, we have projects in every borough that could benefit from the time and money Design Build legislation would save. It’s disappointing to be excluded, even while the program expands across the State,” said de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>7. Ethics and Voting Reforms</strong><br />In November, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, De Blasio preached about reforming New York’s arcane electoral system, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6629-taking-up-voting-reform-de-blasio-cites-sanders-campaign-as-motivation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">citing the energy around the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders as inspiration</a>. He insisted that New York had a long way to go towards making government more transparent and accountable.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo also unveiled a package of electoral and government ethics reform proposals at the start of the year, as did Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Nonetheless, the issues failed to gain traction during state budget negotiations. De Blasio chose to prioritize affordable housing, and Cuomo threw little weight behind his own reform proposals.</p> <p dir="ltr">When de Blasio was asked whether he prioritized the mansion tax over electoral reform at Monday’s news conference, he defended his choice and renewed his promise to fight for electoral change.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t sort of think of them as on a grading system,” said de Blasio. “It’s a major priority. And we’re looking to get done as much as we can get done. We’re looking for every opportunity. You know these sessions have a life of their own. My job here is to really bang the drum for electoral reform -- and I know a lot of the folks that are going to as well -- and sort of create the momentum that makes this a year we can get it done.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>8. Raise the Age</strong><br />Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 was a priority for Democratic members of the Senate and Assembly, including Speaker Carl Heastie, but the measure has long faced opposition from Senate Republicans. The compromise reached in the budget is being touted as a major progressive victory for Cuomo and Democrats in the Legislature.</p> <p dir="ltr">This will have implications for New York City’s infamous Rikers Island jail and the city in general. The new measures will be phased in over time, raising the age of to 17 beginning on October 1, 2018, and subsequently raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 on October 1, 2019.</p> <p dir="ltr">Youthful offenders will no longer be permitted to be housed in adult facilities and offenders under the age of 18 will no longer be placed or held at Rikers Island in New York City as of October 1, 2018. They will instead be placed at a specialized juvenile detention facility.</p> <p dir="ltr">“New Yorkers should all be proud that their state has finally joined 48 others and will no longer treat the vast majority of 16- and 17-year-olds like adults in our criminal justice system,” said Goldstein on behalf of Mayor de Blasio.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>9. Excelsior Scholarship</strong><br />A major victory for Cuomo, the Excelsior Scholarship, introduced ahead of the governor’s 2017 State of the State with the help of former Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, will be phased in over three years and, once phased in, will provide tuition-free CUNY and SUNY schooling to full-time in-state students from families earning $125,000 a year or less.</p> <p dir="ltr">The program includes an expansion of the State’s Tuition Assistance Program, so as to be inclusive of students at private universities, but does not provide for student “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors.</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said de Blasio’s administration welcomes the program. “The tuition assistance provisions included in the enacted budget will further break down barriers to higher education and help equip the next generation of New Yorkers with the skills necessary to succeed in an ever-evolving economy,” said spokesperson Freddi Goldstein.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>10. Education Aid</strong><br />The enacted state budget increased education aid by $1.1 billion overall, an increase of 4.4 percent from last year. The state’s education aid budget now totals $25.8 billion, which includes a $700 million increase in Foundation Aid, the supplemental funding allocated to local school districts to ensure that each student receives a “sound basic education” as required by the state constitution.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York City is set to receive $10.2 billion in school aid for the 2018 fiscal year, an increase of $387 million, including $337 million in foundation aid.</p> <p dir="ltr">State lawmakers also reached a compromise over charter school funding, one of the major hold-ups in negotiations, according to Cuomo. They agreed to increase per-pupil state funding for charters by $500 in the upcoming school year instead of allowing it to increase to $1,500 per pupil after a tuition freeze was set to expire later this year and such an increase automatically. They also connected increases in future charter funding to district school spending increases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The $500 charter tuition increase will cost New York City, home to most of the state’s charters, $95 million each year, according to mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein. The city will bear those costs in the next school year.</p> <p dir="ltr">For Mayor de Blasio, an opponent of charter schools and a close ally of the teachers union, the education aid budget is a mixed bag. Although charter tuition costs will increase for the city, the enacted budget did not include a separate proposal to increase the cap of new charter schools that can open in New York City, which the governor had proposed in his executive budget. <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/04/10/after-heated-debate-new-york-charter-schools-receive-boost-school-aid-increases-by-1-1-billion/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The budget compromise</a> also includes an increase in funding for charters that use private buildings instead of public space. These charters will receive 30 percent of their rent or tuition rate for each student, up from 20 percent in the previous budget.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>With reporting by Samar Khurshid.</p> <p>Note: this article was corrected to more clearly explain the funding around senior centers.</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/15426845348_2ba84484d7_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo de Blasio " width="600" height="434" /></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">A new $153 billion New York state budget was passed through the Legislature Sunday evening, nine days into the new fiscal year, following a particularly lengthy and tumultuous negotiation period.</p> <p dir="ltr">After Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a budget deal Friday night, the Assembly approved the budget Saturday, while State senators -- called back to Albany from their districts -- moved through the final budget bills the following day.</p> <p dir="ltr">Within the spending plan are items that have serious ramifications for New York City, many of them tied to the revenue bill, or this year’s budget “big ugly,” legislation that encompasses a hodgepodge of controversial issues. In this case, the criminal justice reform measure known as “raise the age,” New York City’s 421-a property tax abatement program, charter school aid, and an extension of the millionaires’ tax, were among this budget season’s most contentious topics.</p> <p dir="ltr">Deals were reached on these and other complicated matters, like new CUNY and SUNY scholarship parameters, after state lawmakers had passed a budget “extender” on Monday, April 3, two days after the new fiscal year had started.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6862-cuomo-announces-153-billion-state-budget-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cuomo Announces $153 Billion State Budget Deal</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">With a new deal in place, Governor Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, held <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6862-cuomo-announces-153-billion-state-budget-deal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a press conference at 9 p.m. Friday night</a> and called the new state budget “a blueprint for the future of the state.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/gov-cuomo-n-y-s-budget-embraced-politics-unity-article-1.3037786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a Daily News op-ed column</a> over the weekend, Cuomo wrote of the new budget, “Never has New York achieved more, built more or produced more impactful legislation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">While Cuomo is touting a “legacy” achievement in raising the age and a “national model” in his college affordability program, among other headline accomplishments, a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement that “if 7 days late gets the state a plan this great, we will do it every year."</p> <p dir="ltr">For New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio, there are several victories in the new state budget, such as the release of a significant influx of affordable housing funds, but there are also a number of disappointments, such as the absence of the “mansion tax” or an extension of mayoral control of city schools. De Blasio has said several times this year and last that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, is a great ally and advocate for the city’s interests. He’s indicated that Gov. Cuomo is inconsistent in his help for New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">For the state’s largest city, the spending plan offers some funding clarity and a variety of important policy decisions. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council will now move ahead with their budget process -- a new city spending plan is due by July 1. Of the $153.1 billion in the state operating budget for the new fiscal year, it is not yet clear how much will flow to New York City. When de Blasio outlined his preliminary budget for next city fiscal year in February, he estimated $14.5 billion in state grants, contributing to the $83 billion in overall spending he proposed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Within all these numbers and major state policy decisions, there are a lot of important funding and policy points in the new state budget for New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Cost Shifts &amp; Funding Cuts</strong><br />During his state budget testimony on January 30, de Blasio pushed back on the more than $100 million in cuts and cost shifts to New York City proposed in Cuomo’s executive budget, primarily related to placement of foster children and special education services. Most of these cuts remained in the final spending plan, though some were modified or removed, according to the mayor’s office.</p> <p dir="ltr">Notably, a $32.5 million cut to the city’s public health programs proposed by Cuomo did not make it into the state budget. Also, the governor proposed a $17 million cut to New York City’s senior centers, but $13 million was restored in the adopted budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">As outlined in Cuomo’s executive budget proposal, $20 million was ultimately slashed from state reimbursement for special education services in private settings, effectively eliminating any state share of the costs. Finally, $44 million earmarked for foster care services was cut.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Millionaire’s Tax &amp; Mansion Tax</strong><br />Despite resistance from Senate Republicans, Cuomo got his way on the millionaires’ tax extension. The tax was first approved by the legislature after the 2007 financial crisis, extended multiple times, and was set to expire at the end of 2017. Cuomo insisted that a failure to renew it would leave a “tremendous hole in the budget,” but pushed back against the Assembly’s efforts to expand it to include higher taxes on more income brackets. The millionaire’s tax is extended for two years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo also opposed de Blasio’s proposed “mansion tax,” a 2.5 percent incremental tax on purchases of residential property worth more than $2 million. The mayor intended to use the tax, which would have been levied on buyers, in order to subsidize affordable housing for senior citizens.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio along with allies in the Senate and Assembly put significant effort into <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6826-in-albany-de-blasio-and-democrats-to-push-mansion-tax">pushing the “mansion tax</a>” as well as the expansion of the millionaires’ tax, but neither made it into the final budget. De Blasio, at an unrelated press conference Monday, noted that in light of the uncertainty coming from the federal government, the mansion tax could still be on the table. “We’re gonna continue to fight through the legislative session on some of these items,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Mayoral Control of Schools</strong><br />During negotiations, news reports <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/04/one-year-mayoral-control-extension-means-de-blasio-gets-to-skip-debate-entirely-111015" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">indicated</a> that a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools might be included in the state budget, rather than hashed out during the legislative session to follow, as it had been the last two years. But the enacted budget did not address the policy, <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/04/07/de-blasios-school-control-extension-causes-snag-in-state-budget/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">seemingly</a> because Senate Republicans opposed its inclusion.</p> <p dir="ltr">It would have been the third year in a row that de Blasio received a one year extension -- Cuomo has called for a three year extension, the Assembly has pushed for the same, if not longer, while de Blasio has called for making it permanent. Including it in the budget would've softened the blow for the mayor, who will now have to go hat in hand before the Legislature as he did last year and the year before.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked about the mayoral control snub at his Monday news conference, the mayor dismissed the issue as typical Albany shenanigans. “I never had the illusion that it would be easy to get it done in the budget, I would’ve liked to get it done in the budget. But you know I understood the way it’s played out in previous years was the most likely outcome again.” de Blasio said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor said he is confident it will be worked out during the coming session, which runs through June, like mayoral control, noting that no viable alternative to mayoral control has been presented by the Senate GOP, which has used authorization of mayoral control as leverage over the mayor since he tried to flip the chamber to Democrats in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. The New 421-a</strong><br />De Blasio has criticized the governor’s version of the 421-a property tax abatement, which is meant to spur affordable housing development in the city’s most expensive neighborhoods. The prior program expired two years ago and has been the source of significant strife between de Blasio and Cuomo.</p> <p dir="ltr">The governor rebranded 421-a as “Affordable New York” this year. De Blasio has been cool to the governor’s version of the program, noting that in the long-run it will be more expensive for city taxpayers and will produce fewer affordable units than the version de Blasio proposed in 2015. Still, the current version is an upgrade from the old, broken 421-a system, and one that New York City “can live with,” de Blasio said Monday.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I understand that in Albany a lot of things happen. There were changes made to the plan that weren’t the changes I would’ve have thought of, but they still left us with a plan we could live with,” said de Blasio.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Cuomo’s office, the “new program will create an estimated 2,500 new units of affordable housing per year.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Affordable Housing &amp; NYCHA</strong><br />Agreement on 421-a renewal helped trigger the release of $2.5 billion in funds that were earmarked for 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing in last year’s budget, but were tied up in disagreement among Cuomo and legislative leaders over how it should be distributed.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio’s administration welcomed the influx of affordable housing cash, much of which will head to developers and projects in New York City. &nbsp;“We always welcome additional money and assistance from the state,” said de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein. “This funding couldn’t come a day too soon.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A coalition of 11 housing advocacy groups -- including the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), AARP, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, and others &nbsp;-- &nbsp;echoed those sentiments.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The commitment made today will profoundly impact the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, including 88,000 people currently homeless throughout the state and nearly one million households paying more than half their income in rent each month,” reads a joint statement issued by the group. “What’s critical is that this budget doesn’t exclude anyone and it provides the long-term funding needed to bring about real change.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As promised in Cuomo’s executive budget, the final spending plan allows $200 million for NYCHA capital funds over five years for general repairs. Another $150 million will help preserve Mitchell-Lama buildings and other middle income buildings. The de Blasio administration will be eager to see the money spent through state agencies -- $100 million allocated two years ago for NYCHA repairs has yet to be spent, something de Blasio has cited frequently in recent months.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Infrastructure &amp; Design-Build</strong><br />While the budget included Cuomo’s entire wishlist of ambitious capital projects and economic development programs, it notably did not make changes to the state's procurement practices, the nature of which have contributed to a corruption scandal.</p> <p dir="ltr">Construction of several major capital projects pertaining to New York City were approved, including the following projects for the coming year:</p> <p dir="ltr">John F. Kennedy International Airport - For the coming fiscal year, Cuomo outlined $564 million out of $1.5 billion in spending by the Department of Transportation to improve the roadway congestion leading to JFK. The MTA and Port Authority will also evaluate two proposals: expanding JFK AirTrain service and exploring the possibility of creating a “one-seat” subway ride to the airport.</p> <p dir="ltr">Penn Station - The State is investing $700 million for the first phase of a $3 billion transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office building into a new train hall for the station.</p> <p dir="ltr">Long Island Railroad - The state will invest $120 million to provide enhancements to 16 LIRR stations and to improve system connectivity.</p> <p dir="ltr">MTA - The 2015-2019 MTA transit capital plan includes $28 billion in investments, including city and state funds, with the state continuing to contribute a larger share than the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">Empire State Trail - This $200 million continuous, multipurpose bike and hike path would connect New York City Hudson River Greenway to Buffalo, Albany, and Canada. Though the Senate nixed the project in its one-house budget, and the Assembly recommended designating $20 million toward the Cuomo proposal, $53 million for the first phase has been approved in this year’s budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, construction of New York City’s own capital projects will not be expedited by authorization of design-build, which allows municipalities to save time and money by using a single contract for design and construction services. Despite pushback from de Blasio during his January budget testimony, the final budget expanded design-build for state agencies, but excluded New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">“In New York City, we have projects in every borough that could benefit from the time and money Design Build legislation would save. It’s disappointing to be excluded, even while the program expands across the State,” said de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein in a statement.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>7. Ethics and Voting Reforms</strong><br />In November, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, De Blasio preached about reforming New York’s arcane electoral system, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6629-taking-up-voting-reform-de-blasio-cites-sanders-campaign-as-motivation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">citing the energy around the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders as inspiration</a>. He insisted that New York had a long way to go towards making government more transparent and accountable.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo also unveiled a package of electoral and government ethics reform proposals at the start of the year, as did Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Nonetheless, the issues failed to gain traction during state budget negotiations. De Blasio chose to prioritize affordable housing, and Cuomo threw little weight behind his own reform proposals.</p> <p dir="ltr">When de Blasio was asked whether he prioritized the mansion tax over electoral reform at Monday’s news conference, he defended his choice and renewed his promise to fight for electoral change.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t sort of think of them as on a grading system,” said de Blasio. “It’s a major priority. And we’re looking to get done as much as we can get done. We’re looking for every opportunity. You know these sessions have a life of their own. My job here is to really bang the drum for electoral reform -- and I know a lot of the folks that are going to as well -- and sort of create the momentum that makes this a year we can get it done.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>8. Raise the Age</strong><br />Raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 was a priority for Democratic members of the Senate and Assembly, including Speaker Carl Heastie, but the measure has long faced opposition from Senate Republicans. The compromise reached in the budget is being touted as a major progressive victory for Cuomo and Democrats in the Legislature.</p> <p dir="ltr">This will have implications for New York City’s infamous Rikers Island jail and the city in general. The new measures will be phased in over time, raising the age of to 17 beginning on October 1, 2018, and subsequently raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 on October 1, 2019.</p> <p dir="ltr">Youthful offenders will no longer be permitted to be housed in adult facilities and offenders under the age of 18 will no longer be placed or held at Rikers Island in New York City as of October 1, 2018. They will instead be placed at a specialized juvenile detention facility.</p> <p dir="ltr">“New Yorkers should all be proud that their state has finally joined 48 others and will no longer treat the vast majority of 16- and 17-year-olds like adults in our criminal justice system,” said Goldstein on behalf of Mayor de Blasio.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>9. Excelsior Scholarship</strong><br />A major victory for Cuomo, the Excelsior Scholarship, introduced ahead of the governor’s 2017 State of the State with the help of former Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, will be phased in over three years and, once phased in, will provide tuition-free CUNY and SUNY schooling to full-time in-state students from families earning $125,000 a year or less.</p> <p dir="ltr">The program includes an expansion of the State’s Tuition Assistance Program, so as to be inclusive of students at private universities, but does not provide for student “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors.</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said de Blasio’s administration welcomes the program. “The tuition assistance provisions included in the enacted budget will further break down barriers to higher education and help equip the next generation of New Yorkers with the skills necessary to succeed in an ever-evolving economy,” said spokesperson Freddi Goldstein.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>10. Education Aid</strong><br />The enacted state budget increased education aid by $1.1 billion overall, an increase of 4.4 percent from last year. The state’s education aid budget now totals $25.8 billion, which includes a $700 million increase in Foundation Aid, the supplemental funding allocated to local school districts to ensure that each student receives a “sound basic education” as required by the state constitution.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York City is set to receive $10.2 billion in school aid for the 2018 fiscal year, an increase of $387 million, including $337 million in foundation aid.</p> <p dir="ltr">State lawmakers also reached a compromise over charter school funding, one of the major hold-ups in negotiations, according to Cuomo. They agreed to increase per-pupil state funding for charters by $500 in the upcoming school year instead of allowing it to increase to $1,500 per pupil after a tuition freeze was set to expire later this year and such an increase automatically. They also connected increases in future charter funding to district school spending increases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The $500 charter tuition increase will cost New York City, home to most of the state’s charters, $95 million each year, according to mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein. The city will bear those costs in the next school year.</p> <p dir="ltr">For Mayor de Blasio, an opponent of charter schools and a close ally of the teachers union, the education aid budget is a mixed bag. Although charter tuition costs will increase for the city, the enacted budget did not include a separate proposal to increase the cap of new charter schools that can open in New York City, which the governor had proposed in his executive budget. <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/04/10/after-heated-debate-new-york-charter-schools-receive-boost-school-aid-increases-by-1-1-billion/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The budget compromise</a> also includes an increase in funding for charters that use private buildings instead of public space. These charters will receive 30 percent of their rent or tuition rate for each student, up from 20 percent in the previous budget.</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>With reporting by Samar Khurshid.</p> <p>Note: this article was corrected to more clearly explain the funding around senior centers.</p>
Cuomo Announces $153 Billion State Budget Deal 2017-04-08T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-08T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6862:cuomo-announces-153-billion-state-budget-deal Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33480897420_c4fb75c7e7_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget press conference" width="600" height="372" /></p> <p>Cuomo and top aides (photo:&nbsp;Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At just before 9 p.m. Friday night, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he had reached a deal with state legislative leaders on a $153 billion budget for the new fiscal year, which began one week ago.</p> <p>Cuomo and the Legislature had passed a budget “extender” on Monday to keep state operations running, but continued to negotiate throughout the week in order to put a full fiscal year budget together. After several fits and starts, many rumors, and several late nights, a deal was reached Friday on the most contentious issues. The two legislative houses are expected to vote the final budget bills through over the next several days.</p> <p>Speaking from the Capitol’s Red Room on Friday evening, Cuomo said that the deal included a great deal to boast about, and that state leaders had met “all challenges” facing them. He took the most time on four items.</p> <p>First, calling it a “legacy accomplishment,” Cuomo highlighted a deal on raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old for most crimes, an issue that had been a major sticking point in negotiations. According to the presentation Cuomo gave, it appears the policy will be implemented as of October 1, 2018.</p> <p>Cuomo also spoke highly of an agreement on a “first-ever federal funding response plan,” which gives his budget office the opportunity to make mid-year budget adjustments based on cuts from Washington, D.C. The policy allows the Legislature to pass its own response plan within 90 days, or the executive branch proposal would go into effect.</p> <p>Third, the governor highlighted an agreed upon plan to find county-level efficiencies. And fourth, Cuomo touted a college affordability plan that will, when phased in over three years, make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students from families making $125,000 per year or less. Cuomo had launched his 2017 agenda with this proposal, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders, known as the Excelsior Scholarship.</p> <p>The governor also announced agreements on almost all other measures that had been causing a budget hold-up or that were on the table generally, including but not limited to a new 421-a property tax abatement program meant to spur affordable housing in New York City; education aid to municipalities; a measured increase in aid to charter schools; release of $2 billion in affordable and supportive housing funds; extension of the millionaires’ tax for two years; legalizing ride-hailing apps outside New York City, where they are already legal; indigent legal defense funding; a major clean water infrastructure plan; union dues tax deductions; and more.</p> <p>Notably, there is no extension of mayoral control of New York City schools in the budget, meaning Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to seek an extension in the legislative session to come between now and mid-June.</p> <p>And, there was no movement on government ethics, campaign finance, or voting reforms. At the Friday press conference, Cuomo told Gotham Gazette that he was not able to get the Legislature to agree on reforms. “By the way,” Cuomo added, “if you think Raise the Age was hard, you have to see ethics." Cuomo, who had outlined an ambitious reform agenda in January, did little to push it thereafter and even <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6859-for-cuomo-ethics-reform-forgotten-as-budget-lurches" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appeared to forget its existence on Wednesday night</a> at his prior Red Room press conference.</p> <p>Despite their recalcitrance on ethics, Cuomo was still full of praise for legislative leaders, however. "It's easy to be political. It's not always easy to be a responsible government leader,” Cuomo said in praising Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, the men who were Cuomo’s top negotiating counterparts. None were in attendance as Cuomo briefed reporters Friday night. The governor was instead flanked by his budget director, Robert Mujica, and his counsel, Alphonso David.</p> <p>The budget, Cuomo said in a statement, “advances the core progressive principles that built New York: investing in the middle class, strengthening the economy and creating opportunity for all.”</p> <p>The agreement keeps spending growth to 2 percent, Cuomo also made sure to note, which continues his self-imposed cap. The governor was able to do this by freezing the budgets of most state agencies, as he has done in the past. The budget includes state operating funds spending of $98.1 billion -- this excludes federal funds and capital spending. With federal funds included, the plan reaches $153.1 billion. It includes an increase in overall education aid of $1.1 billion, bringing the total to $25.8 billion, or an increase of 4.4 percent, according to Cuomo’s office. Another area of growth in spending is Medicaid, on which the state will spend $23.5 billion.</p> <p>In the budget extender, Cuomo had already pushed through billions in funding to continue his economic development and infrastructure programs across the state -- these funds remain, the governor said, and he highlighted the fact that there is funding in the budget to build the Empire State Trail, his proposal to connect a biking, walking, and hiking trail from New York City to Albany, and Albany north to Canada and west to Buffalo.</p> <p>The millionaires’ tax extension will affect 45,000 taxpayers, Cuomo’s office says, 50 percent of whom are non-residents, and will preserve $3.4 billion in revenue for the year. This helps offset a middle class tax cut that is being phased in.</p> <p>For his part, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan highlighted, in a statement, that “our state spending plan meets the needs of middle-class taxpayers and their families and advances key initiatives to make our state more affordable.” Flanagan touted that the budget “rejects new fees and protects one of the biggest and boldest tax cuts in state history, makes the largest ever investment in clean water, helps families better afford the high costs of college and ensures all of our schools have the resources they need to give students a high-quality education.”</p> <p>He also highlighted “workers’ compensation reforms to cut costs and help businesses create jobs,” full funding for “direct care professionals who treat our most vulnerable citizens” and “more than $200 million available to fight and win the battle against heroin and opioid addiction.”</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Heastie highlighted raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, increased education funding, and affordable housing funds.</p> <p>It will require more complete review of budget bills to know if a variety of funding cuts and cost shifts from the state to New York City are included. As is typical in Albany, the budget will be passed with little review of the details by legislators or the public, helped along by "messages of necessity" from the governor, which waive the otherwise-required three-day aging period for bills.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>With reporting from Albany by Rachel Silberstein.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/33480897420_c4fb75c7e7_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo budget press conference" width="600" height="372" /></p> <p>Cuomo and top aides (photo:&nbsp;Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>At just before 9 p.m. Friday night, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he had reached a deal with state legislative leaders on a $153 billion budget for the new fiscal year, which began one week ago.</p> <p>Cuomo and the Legislature had passed a budget “extender” on Monday to keep state operations running, but continued to negotiate throughout the week in order to put a full fiscal year budget together. After several fits and starts, many rumors, and several late nights, a deal was reached Friday on the most contentious issues. The two legislative houses are expected to vote the final budget bills through over the next several days.</p> <p>Speaking from the Capitol’s Red Room on Friday evening, Cuomo said that the deal included a great deal to boast about, and that state leaders had met “all challenges” facing them. He took the most time on four items.</p> <p>First, calling it a “legacy accomplishment,” Cuomo highlighted a deal on raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old for most crimes, an issue that had been a major sticking point in negotiations. According to the presentation Cuomo gave, it appears the policy will be implemented as of October 1, 2018.</p> <p>Cuomo also spoke highly of an agreement on a “first-ever federal funding response plan,” which gives his budget office the opportunity to make mid-year budget adjustments based on cuts from Washington, D.C. The policy allows the Legislature to pass its own response plan within 90 days, or the executive branch proposal would go into effect.</p> <p>Third, the governor highlighted an agreed upon plan to find county-level efficiencies. And fourth, Cuomo touted a college affordability plan that will, when phased in over three years, make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students from families making $125,000 per year or less. Cuomo had launched his 2017 agenda with this proposal, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders, known as the Excelsior Scholarship.</p> <p>The governor also announced agreements on almost all other measures that had been causing a budget hold-up or that were on the table generally, including but not limited to a new 421-a property tax abatement program meant to spur affordable housing in New York City; education aid to municipalities; a measured increase in aid to charter schools; release of $2 billion in affordable and supportive housing funds; extension of the millionaires’ tax for two years; legalizing ride-hailing apps outside New York City, where they are already legal; indigent legal defense funding; a major clean water infrastructure plan; union dues tax deductions; and more.</p> <p>Notably, there is no extension of mayoral control of New York City schools in the budget, meaning Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to seek an extension in the legislative session to come between now and mid-June.</p> <p>And, there was no movement on government ethics, campaign finance, or voting reforms. At the Friday press conference, Cuomo told Gotham Gazette that he was not able to get the Legislature to agree on reforms. “By the way,” Cuomo added, “if you think Raise the Age was hard, you have to see ethics." Cuomo, who had outlined an ambitious reform agenda in January, did little to push it thereafter and even <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6859-for-cuomo-ethics-reform-forgotten-as-budget-lurches" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appeared to forget its existence on Wednesday night</a> at his prior Red Room press conference.</p> <p>Despite their recalcitrance on ethics, Cuomo was still full of praise for legislative leaders, however. "It's easy to be political. It's not always easy to be a responsible government leader,” Cuomo said in praising Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, the men who were Cuomo’s top negotiating counterparts. None were in attendance as Cuomo briefed reporters Friday night. The governor was instead flanked by his budget director, Robert Mujica, and his counsel, Alphonso David.</p> <p>The budget, Cuomo said in a statement, “advances the core progressive principles that built New York: investing in the middle class, strengthening the economy and creating opportunity for all.”</p> <p>The agreement keeps spending growth to 2 percent, Cuomo also made sure to note, which continues his self-imposed cap. The governor was able to do this by freezing the budgets of most state agencies, as he has done in the past. The budget includes state operating funds spending of $98.1 billion -- this excludes federal funds and capital spending. With federal funds included, the plan reaches $153.1 billion. It includes an increase in overall education aid of $1.1 billion, bringing the total to $25.8 billion, or an increase of 4.4 percent, according to Cuomo’s office. Another area of growth in spending is Medicaid, on which the state will spend $23.5 billion.</p> <p>In the budget extender, Cuomo had already pushed through billions in funding to continue his economic development and infrastructure programs across the state -- these funds remain, the governor said, and he highlighted the fact that there is funding in the budget to build the Empire State Trail, his proposal to connect a biking, walking, and hiking trail from New York City to Albany, and Albany north to Canada and west to Buffalo.</p> <p>The millionaires’ tax extension will affect 45,000 taxpayers, Cuomo’s office says, 50 percent of whom are non-residents, and will preserve $3.4 billion in revenue for the year. This helps offset a middle class tax cut that is being phased in.</p> <p>For his part, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan highlighted, in a statement, that “our state spending plan meets the needs of middle-class taxpayers and their families and advances key initiatives to make our state more affordable.” Flanagan touted that the budget “rejects new fees and protects one of the biggest and boldest tax cuts in state history, makes the largest ever investment in clean water, helps families better afford the high costs of college and ensures all of our schools have the resources they need to give students a high-quality education.”</p> <p>He also highlighted “workers’ compensation reforms to cut costs and help businesses create jobs,” full funding for “direct care professionals who treat our most vulnerable citizens” and “more than $200 million available to fight and win the battle against heroin and opioid addiction.”</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Heastie highlighted raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, increased education funding, and affordable housing funds.</p> <p>It will require more complete review of budget bills to know if a variety of funding cuts and cost shifts from the state to New York City are included. As is typical in Albany, the budget will be passed with little review of the details by legislators or the public, helped along by "messages of necessity" from the governor, which waive the otherwise-required three-day aging period for bills.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>With reporting from Albany by Rachel Silberstein.</p>
Deal or No Deal? State Budget Negotiations Drag & New York City Waits 2017-04-07T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-07T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6860:deal-or-no-deal-state-budget-negotiations-drag-new-york-city-waits Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32759812383_521a498159_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo desk" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Though Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders indicated for more than a week they were "very close" to a budget deal, negotiations appeared to collapse on Wednesday, and senators were sent back to their districts for their regularly scheduled Passover and Easter break. Cuomo held a press conference at the state Capitol outlining areas of agreement and major sticking points, but he indicated negotiations would continue - at some point.</p> <p>Now, seven days into the new fiscal year, it appears that a new compromise on a full year’s budget is close. Final details have yet to emerge, but word began to circulate Thursday that the governor and legislative leaders had ironed out the remaining points of contention, or were on the verge of doing so. Nothing had been announced as of noon Friday.</p> <p>Having missed the April 1 budget deadline, lawmakers <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6851-after-negotiation-impasse-state-legislature-passes-extender-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">passed Cuomo's budget "extender" on Monday</a>, then kept negotiating to lock down a final spending plan for the full fiscal year before they planned to depart Albany for the two-week hiatus.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Senate passed six of 10 necessary budget bills, and the Assembly passed four of them Wednesday afternoon and two more on Thursday. A non-controversial debt service bill had been passed last week. Friday could see the final budget bills printed, debated, and voted on, but the situation remained fluid mid-day Friday. The broad contours of a “framework” deal among Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan could come at any moment. Or, negotiations could go on for weeks.</p> <p>Bleary-eyed legislators from both houses expressed optimism that they would be voting through the final bills Wednesday afternoon, but Cuomo emerged at 6 p.m. -- without Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie or Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan -- to inform the public that there was no deal.</p> <p>Speaking to reporters in the Capitol's Red Room, Cuomo added that he would prefer holding off on finalizing the document due to the threat of budget cuts from the federal government, which itself operates under a continuing resolution, offering greater flexibility.</p> <p>"Picking a number now, and saying this is going to be the number, and not knowing what’s going to happen next week and next month and when the federal government passes the budget or when they don’t pass the budget, or when they do the next continuing resolution, is very hard," said Cuomo, who again mentioned that everyone will know a lot more from Washington by the end of May, which is when the state "extender" runs through.</p> <p>Lawmakers from both houses were quick to lash out at Cuomo over the breakdown, including Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “What is happening right now is ridiculous. Dysfunction and chaos has descended on Albany. This situation has spiraled out of control and New Yorkers deserve better,” she said in a statement.</p> <p>Senator Rich Funke, a Republican from the Rochester area, said in a statement, “There is only one reason we don’t have a final state budget right now and his name is Andrew Cuomo...The Senate has been working in good faith to deliver a budget that invests in our communities while protecting our taxpayers, but the Governor has been playing political games.”</p> <p>Tensions between Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Heastie of the Bronx, who represents New York City’s interests in state budget negotiations, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/04/what-actually-blew-up-the-budget/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appear to be at least partially behind the blow-up</a>.</p> <p>During his press conference, Cuomo outlined several areas where agreements had been reached, giving a fuller view of what the $162 billion budget would look like when passed, and explained the major hold-ups in reaching a final deal. The governor indicated agreement on tax policy, ride-hailing for upstate and Long Island, workers’ compensation reform, and more.</p> <p>Cuomo highlighted three major sticking points: raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, the 421-a property tax abatement program, and education funding, especially around charter schools.</p> <p>While Cuomo insisted that legislators were headed to break and they’d look to pass the full budget later this month or next, Assembly members said they were staying in town and ready to work.</p> <p>On Thursday it had become clear that Heastie and Flanagan had returned to the negotiating table with Cuomo, and the three were close to finalizing the loose ends.</p> <p>As of Thursday night, the final three budget bills -- operations, capital, and revenue -- had yet to be printed and sent to the Legislature by Cuomo's office. The most loaded of the bunch <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/04/still-in-search-of-a-revenue-bill/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will be the revenue bill</a>, known as the “big ugly,” which is expected to contain the more controversial items in the budget, such as upstate ride-hailing, the millionaires’ tax extension, 421-a, and Raise the Age, as it is known.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Heastie told reporters at about 4 p.m. Thursday that they were “headed towards a full budget deal -- today or tomorrow.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for the Senate majority leader said Flanagan needed to discuss the proposed changes with his conference members, who would presumably be called back to Albany if an agreement was reached. "While we have had these discussions, there is no final deal," said Flanagan spokesperson Scott Reif in an emailed statement at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.</p> <p>As New Yorkers all over the state and Mayor Bill de Blasio and others in New York City <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6834-15-questions-for-the-final-week-of-state-budget-negotiations" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">await the details of a new state budget</a>, as of Thursday evening a partially clear picture has emerged of what’s in store for the big apple for the coming fiscal year.</p> <p><strong>Taxes</strong><br />De Blasio put a good deal of energy into <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6826-in-albany-de-blasio-and-democrats-to-push-mansion-tax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pushing a “mansion tax”</a> he wants the state to allow the city to levy. It would charge the buyers of residential property over $2 million extra in order to pay for senior affordable housing subsidies. The mayor also supports the extension of the millionaires’ tax. Cuomo said Wednesday there is an agreement on extending the expiring millionaires’ tax, which is not expected to include the Assembly’s proposed expansion, but did not indicate for how many years. The governor has argued that the state cannot go without the revenue from the extension of the tax. Earlier this week, Cuomo dismissed the mansion tax de Blasio wants, and there has been no indication it has any life in negotiations.</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure</strong><br />Notably slipped into the extender budget is an allowance for billions of dollars a year in spending for all of Cuomo’s signature economic development and infrastructure projects, include major New York City projects -- including an MTA subway expansion and transformations of Penn Station and Laguardia Airport -- and the next phase of the Buffalo Billion. When a full fiscal year budget it passed, it is likely that these funds remain intact in full. On Wednesday evening Cuomo touted the fact that even in the extender he had ensured his signature efforts were fully funded.</p> <p>Before talks collapsed, there was also a tentative agreement for Cuomo’s $200 million Empire State Trail, which would connect New York City with Quebec, Albany, and Buffalo, <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2017/04/05/state-budget-starts-stops-coming-together/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported The Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p><strong>Charter Schools</strong><br />A charter school tuition freeze, first implemented after the recession in 2009, is set to expire in June. When the law expires, charter schools would automatically receive a $1,500 increase per student, paid for by the local government.</p> <p>Charter school advocates and their allies among the Senate Republicans are, naturally, <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2016/01/21/charter-schools-look-to-end-states-funding-freeze/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pushing for the Legislature</a> to let the freeze expire. This would mean a $2 million burden for New York City, according to Cuomo, who said he is urging leaders of both houses to move to prevent this increase by finding middle ground.</p> <p>“The Assembly must act or they are giving charter schools a $1,500 increase. The Senate must agree to act because if the Senate doesn’t agree, the increase automatically goes through in June. So that has taken the normal education discussion of “fair” in upstate and downstate and added a significant wrinkle,” Cuomo said on Wednesday evening.</p> <p><a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/04/assembly-dems-sign-off-on-charter-school-compromise-plan-thursday-voting-111083" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Politico NY reports</a> that there may be a compromise in the works, in which the freeze would continue, but charter schools would still see a boost in per-pupil tuition reimbursements.</p> <p>The cap on charter school expansion across the state, particularly in New York City, is also an issue to watch. Cuomo and Senate Republicans want the cap lifted, but it is not clear if there has been any movement on this with the Assembly, which is staunchly anti-charter. Charter school provisions are often traded for things like mayoral control of city schools or additional education aid to the broader public school system.</p> <p><strong>421-a &amp; Affordable Housing Money</strong><br />Heastie said Tuesday that there was significant agreement on the new 421-a property tax abatement program that is meant to spur affordable housing development in the most expensive New York City neighborhoods, and that while there were still concerns, the Assembly would pass Cuomo’s version, known as Affordable New York.</p> <p>Cuomo said Wednesday that the agreement hit a snag, because previously 421-a renewal was linked to rent regulations, meaning both programs would expire at the same time. “They are now separated, because of the delay in passing the new Affordable New York program. So that is an issue of concern more in the Assembly,” said Cuomo. Two years ago, when 421-a expired, the state extended the laws governing rent regulated apartments.</p> <p>A consensus on 421-a could move along the release of $2 billion in affordable housing and anti-homelessness funds. The funds, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6390-fate-of-2-billion-in-state-housing-funds-unclear-as-session-nears-end" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">allocated last year</a>, will only be released once Cuomo, Flanagan and Heastie a memorandum of understanding (MOU), detailing how the money will be spent.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio, who has repeatedly called on the state to release the affordable and supportive housing funding, as well as money earmarked for NYCHA repairs but not spent by the state, has been skeptical about a new 421-a deal.</p> <p>“421-a in the past was a giveaway to developers and it often funded luxury housing,” de Blasio said on Friday morning’s The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. “We have to be a lot better in terms of what the taxpayer gets for this subsidy....I would say it’s not by any means 421-a at all costs, it’s if there is a fair 421-a – a bill, then the good part is it does help foster the creation of affordable housing we need. But if it’s too burdensome to New York City, you know, it’s a different matter. So, it’s literally being – last report I hear just minutes before the show – things are still being hashed out.”</p> <p><strong>Raise the Age</strong><br />A priority for the Assembly, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old, has repeatedly been cited as a sticking point during the last weeks of budget discussions.</p> <p>While New York is among just two states in the U.S. to charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, previous efforts to end the practice were blocked by Senate Republicans. As New York City eyes a plan to continue reducing its jail population and close down the Rikers Island jail complex, raise the age is seen as one key component. Harrowing stories, like that of Kalief Browder, who was held for three years at Rikers without a trial, following his arrest for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16 and not being able to post bail, helped push the issue into the limelight.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Heastie had indicated that his conference was willing to accept a compromise, but by Wednesday the issue was reopened over which agency, corrections or the Office of Children and Family Services, should supervise discharged teens, according to lawmakers.</p> <p>“Raise the Age, remember, we’ve talked about for many, many years, and it hasn’t passed for many, many years, because it really is the most political, polarizing issue,” Cuomo said Wednesday evening. “Criminal justice laws are usually lightning rods for ideological differences. And raise the age poses a very important, but controversial hearing.”</p> <p>Asked about Raise the Age and the final negotiations in Albany, de Blasio said Friday morning on WNYC, “I care that whatever we do is going to focus on rehabilitating these young people although, obviously, some young people commit very serious crimes. I don’t take that lightly. But the goal here of course underneath the whole concept of Raise the Age is trying to recognize that a lot of our young people who go astray are particularly redeemable because it’s still early in their development.”</p> <p><strong>School Aid</strong><br />Of the $961 million statewide aid increase Cuomo outlined in his executive budget for the 2017-2018 school year, New York City schools would receive an increase of $294.9 million. Both Legislative houses, in their one-house budgets, called for education aid to be increased.</p> <p>In the absence of a full, permanent budget, Cuomo said schools to plan for the 3.9 percent funding increase outlined in his budget proposal. “If the actual budget winds up being a little higher, then so be it. But the 3.9 percent I think is a safe planning number,” Cuomo said on Wednesday evening.</p> <p><strong>College Affordability</strong><br />There also appears to be consensus on college affordability, which is likely to include some form of Tuition Assistance Program expansion, but does not include the Dream Act, which would grant tuition aid for undocumented immigrants. Cuomo had made free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools for students from families making $125,000 or less annually his top agenda item at the start of the year. It is not clear yet to what extent Cuomo will get what he had outlined.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control of City Schools</strong><br />Before talks collapsed Wednesday, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/cuomo-lawmakers-fail-settle-ideological-budget-issues-article-1.3019820?cid=bitly" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Daily News had reported</a> that the parties agreed to include in the budget a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools. It would be the third straight one-year extension for Mayor de Blasio, an ongoing insult to the mayor, but having it done in the budget as opposed to the legislative session to follow would be something of a win for the mayor.</p> <p><strong>Ethics &amp; Voting Reform</strong><br />There has been no movement from the governor and legislative leaders on government ethics, campaign finance, or voting reform. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Democratic senators tried to propose hostile amendments to the budget bill that pertains to public protection and general government (PPGG). The amendments related to Planned Parenthood funding, limits on outside income for lawmakers, LLC loophole closure, and no-fault absentee ballots for early voting. The amendments were ruled as non-germane by Acting Senate Chair Joseph Griffo, an upstate Republican. Mainline Democrats moved to appeal the ruling -- which would force a debate and vote on the issues -- but members failed to garner a majority show of hands to support their appeal.</p> <p><strong>Cost Shifts &amp; Cuts</strong><br />During his budget testimony, de Blasio pushed back on the more than $100 million in cuts and cost shifts to New York City proposed in Cuomo’s executive budget, primarily related to placement of foster children and special education services. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said it is still too early to tell if those cuts would make it into the final document.</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/2017/32759812383_521a498159_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo desk" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Though Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders indicated for more than a week they were "very close" to a budget deal, negotiations appeared to collapse on Wednesday, and senators were sent back to their districts for their regularly scheduled Passover and Easter break. Cuomo held a press conference at the state Capitol outlining areas of agreement and major sticking points, but he indicated negotiations would continue - at some point.</p> <p>Now, seven days into the new fiscal year, it appears that a new compromise on a full year’s budget is close. Final details have yet to emerge, but word began to circulate Thursday that the governor and legislative leaders had ironed out the remaining points of contention, or were on the verge of doing so. Nothing had been announced as of noon Friday.</p> <p>Having missed the April 1 budget deadline, lawmakers <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6851-after-negotiation-impasse-state-legislature-passes-extender-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">passed Cuomo's budget "extender" on Monday</a>, then kept negotiating to lock down a final spending plan for the full fiscal year before they planned to depart Albany for the two-week hiatus.</p> <p>On Tuesday, the Senate passed six of 10 necessary budget bills, and the Assembly passed four of them Wednesday afternoon and two more on Thursday. A non-controversial debt service bill had been passed last week. Friday could see the final budget bills printed, debated, and voted on, but the situation remained fluid mid-day Friday. The broad contours of a “framework” deal among Cuomo, Heastie, and Flanagan could come at any moment. Or, negotiations could go on for weeks.</p> <p>Bleary-eyed legislators from both houses expressed optimism that they would be voting through the final bills Wednesday afternoon, but Cuomo emerged at 6 p.m. -- without Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie or Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan -- to inform the public that there was no deal.</p> <p>Speaking to reporters in the Capitol's Red Room, Cuomo added that he would prefer holding off on finalizing the document due to the threat of budget cuts from the federal government, which itself operates under a continuing resolution, offering greater flexibility.</p> <p>"Picking a number now, and saying this is going to be the number, and not knowing what’s going to happen next week and next month and when the federal government passes the budget or when they don’t pass the budget, or when they do the next continuing resolution, is very hard," said Cuomo, who again mentioned that everyone will know a lot more from Washington by the end of May, which is when the state "extender" runs through.</p> <p>Lawmakers from both houses were quick to lash out at Cuomo over the breakdown, including Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “What is happening right now is ridiculous. Dysfunction and chaos has descended on Albany. This situation has spiraled out of control and New Yorkers deserve better,” she said in a statement.</p> <p>Senator Rich Funke, a Republican from the Rochester area, said in a statement, “There is only one reason we don’t have a final state budget right now and his name is Andrew Cuomo...The Senate has been working in good faith to deliver a budget that invests in our communities while protecting our taxpayers, but the Governor has been playing political games.”</p> <p>Tensions between Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Heastie of the Bronx, who represents New York City’s interests in state budget negotiations, <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/04/what-actually-blew-up-the-budget/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appear to be at least partially behind the blow-up</a>.</p> <p>During his press conference, Cuomo outlined several areas where agreements had been reached, giving a fuller view of what the $162 billion budget would look like when passed, and explained the major hold-ups in reaching a final deal. The governor indicated agreement on tax policy, ride-hailing for upstate and Long Island, workers’ compensation reform, and more.</p> <p>Cuomo highlighted three major sticking points: raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, the 421-a property tax abatement program, and education funding, especially around charter schools.</p> <p>While Cuomo insisted that legislators were headed to break and they’d look to pass the full budget later this month or next, Assembly members said they were staying in town and ready to work.</p> <p>On Thursday it had become clear that Heastie and Flanagan had returned to the negotiating table with Cuomo, and the three were close to finalizing the loose ends.</p> <p>As of Thursday night, the final three budget bills -- operations, capital, and revenue -- had yet to be printed and sent to the Legislature by Cuomo's office. The most loaded of the bunch <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2017/04/still-in-search-of-a-revenue-bill/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will be the revenue bill</a>, known as the “big ugly,” which is expected to contain the more controversial items in the budget, such as upstate ride-hailing, the millionaires’ tax extension, 421-a, and Raise the Age, as it is known.</p> <p>Assembly Speaker Heastie told reporters at about 4 p.m. Thursday that they were “headed towards a full budget deal -- today or tomorrow.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for the Senate majority leader said Flanagan needed to discuss the proposed changes with his conference members, who would presumably be called back to Albany if an agreement was reached. "While we have had these discussions, there is no final deal," said Flanagan spokesperson Scott Reif in an emailed statement at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.</p> <p>As New Yorkers all over the state and Mayor Bill de Blasio and others in New York City <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6834-15-questions-for-the-final-week-of-state-budget-negotiations" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">await the details of a new state budget</a>, as of Thursday evening a partially clear picture has emerged of what’s in store for the big apple for the coming fiscal year.</p> <p><strong>Taxes</strong><br />De Blasio put a good deal of energy into <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6826-in-albany-de-blasio-and-democrats-to-push-mansion-tax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pushing a “mansion tax”</a> he wants the state to allow the city to levy. It would charge the buyers of residential property over $2 million extra in order to pay for senior affordable housing subsidies. The mayor also supports the extension of the millionaires’ tax. Cuomo said Wednesday there is an agreement on extending the expiring millionaires’ tax, which is not expected to include the Assembly’s proposed expansion, but did not indicate for how many years. The governor has argued that the state cannot go without the revenue from the extension of the tax. Earlier this week, Cuomo dismissed the mansion tax de Blasio wants, and there has been no indication it has any life in negotiations.</p> <p><strong>Infrastructure</strong><br />Notably slipped into the extender budget is an allowance for billions of dollars a year in spending for all of Cuomo’s signature economic development and infrastructure projects, include major New York City projects -- including an MTA subway expansion and transformations of Penn Station and Laguardia Airport -- and the next phase of the Buffalo Billion. When a full fiscal year budget it passed, it is likely that these funds remain intact in full. On Wednesday evening Cuomo touted the fact that even in the extender he had ensured his signature efforts were fully funded.</p> <p>Before talks collapsed, there was also a tentative agreement for Cuomo’s $200 million Empire State Trail, which would connect New York City with Quebec, Albany, and Buffalo, <a href="http://buffalonews.com/2017/04/05/state-budget-starts-stops-coming-together/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported The Buffalo News</a>.</p> <p><strong>Charter Schools</strong><br />A charter school tuition freeze, first implemented after the recession in 2009, is set to expire in June. When the law expires, charter schools would automatically receive a $1,500 increase per student, paid for by the local government.</p> <p>Charter school advocates and their allies among the Senate Republicans are, naturally, <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2016/01/21/charter-schools-look-to-end-states-funding-freeze/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pushing for the Legislature</a> to let the freeze expire. This would mean a $2 million burden for New York City, according to Cuomo, who said he is urging leaders of both houses to move to prevent this increase by finding middle ground.</p> <p>“The Assembly must act or they are giving charter schools a $1,500 increase. The Senate must agree to act because if the Senate doesn’t agree, the increase automatically goes through in June. So that has taken the normal education discussion of “fair” in upstate and downstate and added a significant wrinkle,” Cuomo said on Wednesday evening.</p> <p><a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/04/assembly-dems-sign-off-on-charter-school-compromise-plan-thursday-voting-111083" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Politico NY reports</a> that there may be a compromise in the works, in which the freeze would continue, but charter schools would still see a boost in per-pupil tuition reimbursements.</p> <p>The cap on charter school expansion across the state, particularly in New York City, is also an issue to watch. Cuomo and Senate Republicans want the cap lifted, but it is not clear if there has been any movement on this with the Assembly, which is staunchly anti-charter. Charter school provisions are often traded for things like mayoral control of city schools or additional education aid to the broader public school system.</p> <p><strong>421-a &amp; Affordable Housing Money</strong><br />Heastie said Tuesday that there was significant agreement on the new 421-a property tax abatement program that is meant to spur affordable housing development in the most expensive New York City neighborhoods, and that while there were still concerns, the Assembly would pass Cuomo’s version, known as Affordable New York.</p> <p>Cuomo said Wednesday that the agreement hit a snag, because previously 421-a renewal was linked to rent regulations, meaning both programs would expire at the same time. “They are now separated, because of the delay in passing the new Affordable New York program. So that is an issue of concern more in the Assembly,” said Cuomo. Two years ago, when 421-a expired, the state extended the laws governing rent regulated apartments.</p> <p>A consensus on 421-a could move along the release of $2 billion in affordable housing and anti-homelessness funds. The funds, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6390-fate-of-2-billion-in-state-housing-funds-unclear-as-session-nears-end" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">allocated last year</a>, will only be released once Cuomo, Flanagan and Heastie a memorandum of understanding (MOU), detailing how the money will be spent.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio, who has repeatedly called on the state to release the affordable and supportive housing funding, as well as money earmarked for NYCHA repairs but not spent by the state, has been skeptical about a new 421-a deal.</p> <p>“421-a in the past was a giveaway to developers and it often funded luxury housing,” de Blasio said on Friday morning’s The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. “We have to be a lot better in terms of what the taxpayer gets for this subsidy....I would say it’s not by any means 421-a at all costs, it’s if there is a fair 421-a – a bill, then the good part is it does help foster the creation of affordable housing we need. But if it’s too burdensome to New York City, you know, it’s a different matter. So, it’s literally being – last report I hear just minutes before the show – things are still being hashed out.”</p> <p><strong>Raise the Age</strong><br />A priority for the Assembly, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old, has repeatedly been cited as a sticking point during the last weeks of budget discussions.</p> <p>While New York is among just two states in the U.S. to charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, previous efforts to end the practice were blocked by Senate Republicans. As New York City eyes a plan to continue reducing its jail population and close down the Rikers Island jail complex, raise the age is seen as one key component. Harrowing stories, like that of Kalief Browder, who was held for three years at Rikers without a trial, following his arrest for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16 and not being able to post bail, helped push the issue into the limelight.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Heastie had indicated that his conference was willing to accept a compromise, but by Wednesday the issue was reopened over which agency, corrections or the Office of Children and Family Services, should supervise discharged teens, according to lawmakers.</p> <p>“Raise the Age, remember, we’ve talked about for many, many years, and it hasn’t passed for many, many years, because it really is the most political, polarizing issue,” Cuomo said Wednesday evening. “Criminal justice laws are usually lightning rods for ideological differences. And raise the age poses a very important, but controversial hearing.”</p> <p>Asked about Raise the Age and the final negotiations in Albany, de Blasio said Friday morning on WNYC, “I care that whatever we do is going to focus on rehabilitating these young people although, obviously, some young people commit very serious crimes. I don’t take that lightly. But the goal here of course underneath the whole concept of Raise the Age is trying to recognize that a lot of our young people who go astray are particularly redeemable because it’s still early in their development.”</p> <p><strong>School Aid</strong><br />Of the $961 million statewide aid increase Cuomo outlined in his executive budget for the 2017-2018 school year, New York City schools would receive an increase of $294.9 million. Both Legislative houses, in their one-house budgets, called for education aid to be increased.</p> <p>In the absence of a full, permanent budget, Cuomo said schools to plan for the 3.9 percent funding increase outlined in his budget proposal. “If the actual budget winds up being a little higher, then so be it. But the 3.9 percent I think is a safe planning number,” Cuomo said on Wednesday evening.</p> <p><strong>College Affordability</strong><br />There also appears to be consensus on college affordability, which is likely to include some form of Tuition Assistance Program expansion, but does not include the Dream Act, which would grant tuition aid for undocumented immigrants. Cuomo had made free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools for students from families making $125,000 or less annually his top agenda item at the start of the year. It is not clear yet to what extent Cuomo will get what he had outlined.</p> <p><strong>Mayoral Control of City Schools</strong><br />Before talks collapsed Wednesday, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/cuomo-lawmakers-fail-settle-ideological-budget-issues-article-1.3019820?cid=bitly" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Daily News had reported</a> that the parties agreed to include in the budget a one-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools. It would be the third straight one-year extension for Mayor de Blasio, an ongoing insult to the mayor, but having it done in the budget as opposed to the legislative session to follow would be something of a win for the mayor.</p> <p><strong>Ethics &amp; Voting Reform</strong><br />There has been no movement from the governor and legislative leaders on government ethics, campaign finance, or voting reform. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Democratic senators tried to propose hostile amendments to the budget bill that pertains to public protection and general government (PPGG). The amendments related to Planned Parenthood funding, limits on outside income for lawmakers, LLC loophole closure, and no-fault absentee ballots for early voting. The amendments were ruled as non-germane by Acting Senate Chair Joseph Griffo, an upstate Republican. Mainline Democrats moved to appeal the ruling -- which would force a debate and vote on the issues -- but members failed to garner a majority show of hands to support their appeal.</p> <p><strong>Cost Shifts &amp; Cuts</strong><br />During his budget testimony, de Blasio pushed back on the more than $100 million in cuts and cost shifts to New York City proposed in Cuomo’s executive budget, primarily related to placement of foster children and special education services. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said it is still too early to tell if those cuts would make it into the final document.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
After Negotiation Impasse, State Passes ‘Extender’ Budget 2017-04-03T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-03T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6851:after-negotiation-impasse-state-legislature-passes-extender-budget Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/24993663172_12cbbcf8cc_z.jpg" alt="24993663172 12cbbcf8cc z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo and Flanagan (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>After the official deadline was missed and budget talks reached a weekend impasse, both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a set of bills Monday to extend the current budget, with tweaks, until May 31 in order to avoid a government shutdown.</p> <p>When it became apparent that they would not have a deal in place by the April 1 deadline, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who prides himself on on-time budgets, said he was allowing a weekend "grace period" to negotiate a consensus and pass a $150 billion spending plan. But several contentious issues led to a stalemate and a crisis point. Lawmakers could not agree to the contours of criminal justice reform, K-12 education funding, and affordable housing policy, leaving the rest of the budget on hold.</p> <p>Late Sunday night, the governor announced his intention to send the Legislature a budget "extender" and said in a statement that the majority leaders in the Senate and Assembly would pass it, which is what happened Monday at the Capitol.</p> <p>With an interruption in state operations or payroll at risk, lawmakers decided to pass what Cuomo outlined, though many held their noses while doing so, and some voted against the temporary spending plan. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, indicated they were continuing to negotiate the larger budget plan for the new fiscal year. The Legislature is in session this week in Albany before a two-week break.</p> <p>Even with the temporary extender, there will be consequences for legislators, according to a spokesperson for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. For lawmakers to get paid, the law requires that they take all actions necessary for the ongoing operations of state government and local assistance for the entire 2017-18 fiscal year. In other words, state law prevents legislators from being paid without a full spending plan in place.</p> <p>Though members of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference -- an eight member breakaway group of Democrats that forms a ruling coalition with majority Republicans -- and mainline Democrats had vowed not to pass a budget without raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old, the extender bills passed the chamber by a 46-15 vote.</p> <p>“I’m not shutting the government down,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said from the Senate floor during debate ahead of the vote. Senators indicated it was essential to keep the government running and to ensure that state employees would be paid on schedule.</p> <p>Senators who voted against the extender noted that it failed to address affordable housing programs, including a new 421-a program, critical education and health funding, and criminal justice reforms, particularly “raise the age.”</p> <p>“Children do not belong in prison; children should be treated like children. Thus, I cannot vote for this budget extender,” said Senator Jesse Hamilton, an IDC member from Brooklyn, in a statement.</p> <p>On the Senate floor, Flanagan pushed back on the suggestion that the minority conferences were not represented in the extender budget.</p> <p>“I don’t subscribe to the notion that minority members have been left out, because I read the tweets, I read the blogs, I read the media accounts, I see what people say. I know where people’s priorities are,” said Flanagan.</p> <p>The measure did not pass as smoothly on the Assembly floor.</p> <p>Exhausted Assembly members on both sides of the aisle lashed out at the governor for his lack of communication with rank-and-file lawmakers, especially those in the minority Republican conference, the absence of criminal justice reform or a satisfactory 421-a plan, and for citing federal uncertainty as one of the reasons for the gridlock.</p> <p>Assemblymember Diane Richardson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said “we will not be duped” by the governor’s tricks, while Assemblymember Steven McLaughlin, a Republican representing the Capital Region, accused Cuomo of “hiding like a coward” and encouraged his peers to push back on the “thug nonsense.”</p> <p>While the governor has described the budget bills as a bare bones extender that would just continue last year’s financial plan so that the government could continue to function, controversial details were worked into the more than 1,700 pages.</p> <p>The temporary budget includes billions of dollars in funds for the governor’s regional economic development programs, New York City infrastructure projects, and next phase of the Buffalo Billion. It also includes elements of the Assembly and Senate one-house budget resolutions, like the addition of bottled human breast milk as covered by Medicaid, which Assembly Democrats proposed, and $2.5 billion for upstate drinking water infrastructure, something Senate Republicans have wanted, <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/more-than-just-extenders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">notes Empire Center</a>, a fiscally conservative think tank.</p> <p>Two months is too long a period to keep New York residents in the dark about what policies and economic measures will make it into the budget, good government advocates said.</p> <p>"New Yorkers deserve to know why their elected representatives have given themselves an extension on their homework. We need open leaders meetings where people can understand the negotiation process that's holding up their $150 billion budget,” said Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, in a statement. “We need a public process."</p> <p>The budget extenders, like full budgets before them, were passed with “messages of necessity” from the governor, which waive the otherwise-required three-day aging period for bills before they can be voted on.</p> <p>Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, said in a statement that “this emergency legislation is preferable to a government shutdown, but creates uncertainties for school districts and local governments. Achieving a fiscally sound budget is more important than an "on time" budget, but the pressing outstanding issues could and should have been resolved as part of a more effective and accountable budget process.” CBC also called for a sound, full budget plan to be agreed on “promptly.”</p> <p>In an evening statement, Gov. Cuomo's office hailed the passage of the budget extender, "which funds all government operations through May 31 and advances key priority infrastructure, economic development, and environmental projects across New York." Cuomo's office highlighted the investment in clean water, cost controls on prescription drugs, and that the budget "increases direct care professional salaries 6.5 percent over the next two years."</p> <p>"Over the next two months, the state expects to spend $24.6 billion, which includes the general fund, aid to localities and school districts, special revenue, capital projects, and debts service," the statement from Cuomo's office says. "The Extender also authorizes $16.4 billion in new capital appropriations to advance critical economic development and infrastructure projects."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated Monday that he’s frustrated with how things played out in Albany. “The impact on the city of not having a state budget is more uncertainty,” de Blasio said on NY1’s Road to City Hall Monday evening. De Blasio also pledged on two different occasions Monday to continue to push for his “mansion tax,” which would provide the city with additional revenue to fund affordable housing for seniors but has been called a non-starter by both Senate Republicans and Gov. Cuomo.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max and Rachel Silberstein</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</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/2017/24993663172_12cbbcf8cc_z.jpg" alt="24993663172 12cbbcf8cc z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo and Flanagan (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>After the official deadline was missed and budget talks reached a weekend impasse, both houses of the New York State Legislature passed a set of bills Monday to extend the current budget, with tweaks, until May 31 in order to avoid a government shutdown.</p> <p>When it became apparent that they would not have a deal in place by the April 1 deadline, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who prides himself on on-time budgets, said he was allowing a weekend "grace period" to negotiate a consensus and pass a $150 billion spending plan. But several contentious issues led to a stalemate and a crisis point. Lawmakers could not agree to the contours of criminal justice reform, K-12 education funding, and affordable housing policy, leaving the rest of the budget on hold.</p> <p>Late Sunday night, the governor announced his intention to send the Legislature a budget "extender" and said in a statement that the majority leaders in the Senate and Assembly would pass it, which is what happened Monday at the Capitol.</p> <p>With an interruption in state operations or payroll at risk, lawmakers decided to pass what Cuomo outlined, though many held their noses while doing so, and some voted against the temporary spending plan. Legislative leaders, meanwhile, indicated they were continuing to negotiate the larger budget plan for the new fiscal year. The Legislature is in session this week in Albany before a two-week break.</p> <p>Even with the temporary extender, there will be consequences for legislators, according to a spokesperson for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. For lawmakers to get paid, the law requires that they take all actions necessary for the ongoing operations of state government and local assistance for the entire 2017-18 fiscal year. In other words, state law prevents legislators from being paid without a full spending plan in place.</p> <p>Though members of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference -- an eight member breakaway group of Democrats that forms a ruling coalition with majority Republicans -- and mainline Democrats had vowed not to pass a budget without raising the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old, the extender bills passed the chamber by a 46-15 vote.</p> <p>“I’m not shutting the government down,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said from the Senate floor during debate ahead of the vote. Senators indicated it was essential to keep the government running and to ensure that state employees would be paid on schedule.</p> <p>Senators who voted against the extender noted that it failed to address affordable housing programs, including a new 421-a program, critical education and health funding, and criminal justice reforms, particularly “raise the age.”</p> <p>“Children do not belong in prison; children should be treated like children. Thus, I cannot vote for this budget extender,” said Senator Jesse Hamilton, an IDC member from Brooklyn, in a statement.</p> <p>On the Senate floor, Flanagan pushed back on the suggestion that the minority conferences were not represented in the extender budget.</p> <p>“I don’t subscribe to the notion that minority members have been left out, because I read the tweets, I read the blogs, I read the media accounts, I see what people say. I know where people’s priorities are,” said Flanagan.</p> <p>The measure did not pass as smoothly on the Assembly floor.</p> <p>Exhausted Assembly members on both sides of the aisle lashed out at the governor for his lack of communication with rank-and-file lawmakers, especially those in the minority Republican conference, the absence of criminal justice reform or a satisfactory 421-a plan, and for citing federal uncertainty as one of the reasons for the gridlock.</p> <p>Assemblymember Diane Richardson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said “we will not be duped” by the governor’s tricks, while Assemblymember Steven McLaughlin, a Republican representing the Capital Region, accused Cuomo of “hiding like a coward” and encouraged his peers to push back on the “thug nonsense.”</p> <p>While the governor has described the budget bills as a bare bones extender that would just continue last year’s financial plan so that the government could continue to function, controversial details were worked into the more than 1,700 pages.</p> <p>The temporary budget includes billions of dollars in funds for the governor’s regional economic development programs, New York City infrastructure projects, and next phase of the Buffalo Billion. It also includes elements of the Assembly and Senate one-house budget resolutions, like the addition of bottled human breast milk as covered by Medicaid, which Assembly Democrats proposed, and $2.5 billion for upstate drinking water infrastructure, something Senate Republicans have wanted, <a href="https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/more-than-just-extenders/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">notes Empire Center</a>, a fiscally conservative think tank.</p> <p>Two months is too long a period to keep New York residents in the dark about what policies and economic measures will make it into the budget, good government advocates said.</p> <p>"New Yorkers deserve to know why their elected representatives have given themselves an extension on their homework. We need open leaders meetings where people can understand the negotiation process that's holding up their $150 billion budget,” said Common Cause NY executive director Susan Lerner, in a statement. “We need a public process."</p> <p>The budget extenders, like full budgets before them, were passed with “messages of necessity” from the governor, which waive the otherwise-required three-day aging period for bills before they can be voted on.</p> <p>Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, said in a statement that “this emergency legislation is preferable to a government shutdown, but creates uncertainties for school districts and local governments. Achieving a fiscally sound budget is more important than an "on time" budget, but the pressing outstanding issues could and should have been resolved as part of a more effective and accountable budget process.” CBC also called for a sound, full budget plan to be agreed on “promptly.”</p> <p>In an evening statement, Gov. Cuomo's office hailed the passage of the budget extender, "which funds all government operations through May 31 and advances key priority infrastructure, economic development, and environmental projects across New York." Cuomo's office highlighted the investment in clean water, cost controls on prescription drugs, and that the budget "increases direct care professional salaries 6.5 percent over the next two years."</p> <p>"Over the next two months, the state expects to spend $24.6 billion, which includes the general fund, aid to localities and school districts, special revenue, capital projects, and debts service," the statement from Cuomo's office says. "The Extender also authorizes $16.4 billion in new capital appropriations to advance critical economic development and infrastructure projects."</p> <p>Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated Monday that he’s frustrated with how things played out in Albany. “The impact on the city of not having a state budget is more uncertainty,” de Blasio said on NY1’s Road to City Hall Monday evening. De Blasio also pledged on two different occasions Monday to continue to push for his “mansion tax,” which would provide the city with additional revenue to fund affordable housing for seniors but has been called a non-starter by both Senate Republicans and Gov. Cuomo.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max and Rachel Silberstein</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>

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

Read more by this writer.

</p>