Quantcast

Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union
Loading

STATE

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 24


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio had a busy weekend that took a tragic turn. On Saturday, the mayor made an Earth Day announcement on green jobs and spoke at the Sikh Day Parade. On Sunday, the mayor spoke at two churches and appeared on Univision before heading to Queens Village after a fire there killed five people. The mayor addressed the tragedy after being briefed by his fire commissioner. De Blasio was scheduled to speak Sunday evening at the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats Annual Dinner.

On Monday, "de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and Chancellor Carmen Fariña will make an education announcement" at P.S. 1 The Courtlandt School in the Bronx. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will also participate in the announcement. In the 7 and 10 p.m. hours Monday, the Mayor will make his weekly appearance on NY1’s Road to City Hall. At 7 p.m. Monday, de Blasio "will deliver remarks at the Queens County Democratic Organization’s Friends of Queens County Event."

And, we know that on Thursday evening, de Blasio is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Queens, co-hosted by City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

Post-budget legislative session begins in Albany on Monday and is scheduled to stretch until mid-June. With a great deal included in the recently-passed budget, many -- including Governor Andrew Cuomo -- are expecting a fairly quiet two months of session. There are a number of issues that were not resolved in the budget, though, but it is unclear how much life voting and ethics reforms will have, for example. The Legislature must deal with mayoral control of New York City schools given that the latest one-year extension will expire in June and nothing on it was included in the budget. We’ll see what legislators are talking about when they return to Albany this week.

Also this week, on Thursday Cuomo will be presiding over an opening ceremony for the new Kosciuszko Bridge, according to The Daily News -- see below for details.

Among many others listed below, a couple of other highlights for the week include: a City Planning hearing on the East Midtown rezoning proposal and, from Wednesday through the weekend, the annual National Action Network convention, hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton, which will feature Bernie Sanders, Eric Holder, and many others, including city officials.

It’s also a very busy week at the New York City Council, especially Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, with a variety of committee hearings, and a meeting of the full Council on Tuesday. See below for all the details.

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
The New York State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.

At 11 a.m. Monday, #CLOSErikers will rally on the steps of City Hall to react to the mayor’s recent decision to close Rikers Island jails in 10 years and "demand city move forward immediately with clear plans to Close Rikers Island." "Rosie O’Donnell, Megan Boone, and Matt McGorry will be among those there "to declare proposed ten-year timeline is too long" and demand that de Blasio: "appoint someone to lead a speedy process of closing the facility,put forward a serious plan for closure, and immediately act on criminal justice reforms to reduce the Rikers population."

At noon Monday, “New York City Council member Eric Ulrich will throw his support behind New York Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl on the steps of City Hall and make a major announcement.”

At the City Council on Monday

  • The Committee on Transportation will meet at 10 a.m. to vote on proposed laws in relation to “a study regarding transportation deserts” and “requiring the Department of Transportation to notify emergency service providers about resurfacing, including paving and milling.”
  • The Committee on Oversight and Investigations and the Committee on Public Housing will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing “examining DOI’s report on NYCHA’s permanent exclusion policy,” as well as to discuss a proposed law “in relation to reporting on persons who have been permanently excluded from public housing.”
  • The Committee on Women’s Issues will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws in relation to improving gender and racial equity in the city, as well as a resolution “calling upon the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”
  • The Committee on Education will meet at 10 a.m. to vote on a local law “in relation to expanding distribution of college savings plan materials in schools to include pre-kindergarten and to distributing college savings plan materials to parents or guardians within three months after a child’s date of birth.”
  • The Committee on Technology will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “privacy of city data.”
  • The Committee on Contracts will meet at 1 p.m. to vote on several proposed laws related to VENDEX and to online access to city contracts
  • The Committee on Small Business will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss several proposed laws.
  • The Committee on Environmental Protection will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss proposed laws related to “phasing out the use of fuel oil grade no. 4” and to “exemptions from air conditioning prohibitions.”

At 4 p.m. Monday, Manhattan BP Gale Brewer will host the “NYC Urban Manufacturing Symposium,” discussing the needs of manufacturers “in multiple sectors - what they’re making, what kinds of spaces they need, and how zoning can help or hurt them.” The event will be held at the High School of Fashion Industries.

Tuesday
The New York State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

Also Tuesday in Albany, the New York City Joint Commission on Public Ethics will hold its monthly meeting.

The full City Council will be in session on Tuesday starting at 1:30 p.m. This will be prefaced by the usual “pre-Stated” press conference led by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Also at the City Council on Tuesday, the Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, City & State will host the CSR Awards: Sustainability & Environmental Impact, honoring individuals and companies “that promote sustainability initiatives in the energy, transportation, food industries, and more.” The event will also feature a panel with Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation; Vincent Sapienza, acting Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection; and Mark Chambers, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, City Council Members Rafael Espinal and Stephen Levin, along with the Sierra Club, will hold a press conference “to announce City Council resolution regarding Electric bus fleet during the L train shutdown” at the Bedford Avenue L Train stop entrance at North 7th St. and Driggs Ave in Williamsburg.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute will host its “Urban Food Policy Forum: What Would It Take to Grow a Regional Food Economy?” Discussion will center around how upstate and downstate New York can more sustainably produce and trade food.

At noon Tuesday, Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Amy Paulin will hold a press conference at the Capitol in Albany “to discuss the Child-Parent Security Act, legislation they co-authored that would legally establish a child’s relationship to his/her parents when the child was conceived through third-party reproduction, which would include children born through gestational surrogacy arrangements.”

At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Vera Institute of Justice will host “The Making of Mass Incarceration in America,” featuring Harvard assistant professor of history and African & African-American studies Elizabeth Hinton.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal will hold a town hall meeting at Center at West Park on the Upper West Side.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, First Lady Chirlane McCray “will host the first of five Community Conversations to connect directly with New Yorkers in the Bronx.” She will be joined by City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Richard Buery, and Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio.

Wednesday
The New York State Legislature will be in session on Wednesday in Albany.

At the City Council on Wednesday

  • The Committee on Aging and the Subcommittee on Senior Centers will meet jointly at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws and resolutions.
  • The Committees on Veterans and Civil Rights will meet jointly at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law “in relation to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of uniformed service,” as well as resolutions to designate the month of May as “Military Appreciation Month” and June 22 as “Veterans Tribute and Advocacy Day” in New York City.
  • The Committees on Education, Public Safety, and Immigration will meet jointly at 11 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws relating to immigrant safety, particularly for minors.
  • The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding the “resiliency of NYC’s electric power.”
  • The Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “requiring agencies to notify food rescue organizations before disposing of food” and “facilitating food donations.”
  • The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to used car sales.

From Wednesday until Sunday, the National Action Network will hold its 26th Annual National Convention at the Sheraton Times Square. Numerous panels will be held throughout the convention featuring notable people discussing issues such as “voting rights, criminal justice reform, immigration, health care, education, corporate responsibility, economic equity and more.” The event will conclude with a televised forum called “Measuring the Movement” hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Others who will speak at the event include Senator Bernie Sanders, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, Samuel L. Jackson, Mothers of the Movement, Harry Belafonte, and many more.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Manhattan Institute will host “Student Discipline and Disorder,” discussing the impact of the Obama administration’s orders to reduce suspensions in schools.

At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the New York City Bar Association will host a panel to discuss New York’s Clean Energy Standard and Reforming the Energy Vision.

Starting at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development will hold its 7th Annual Community Development Conference. The keynote speaker will be Maria T. Vullo, the Superintendent of Financial Services for New York State.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, City Council Member Andy King will celebrate the Week of the Young Child “with book readings to pre-K youngsters” at the Williamsbridge NAACP Early Childhood Education Center in the Bronx.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Urban Lab at NYU’s School of Professional Studies will host “The New Urban Crisis” at NYU’s Kimmel Center, exploring “how America’s urban revival has turned into a new urban crisis.” Speakers will include NY1 anchor Errol Louis; Jonathan Bowles of the Center for an Urban Future; Juliette Michaelson of the Regional Planning Association; and others.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting. At this meeting, the proposed Greater East Midtown Rezoning will be considered.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Center for New York City Affairs will host “Winning Ideas: Prized Solutions Showcase,” honoring the winners of the Winning Ideas: Reimagining NYC competition for New School students on how to improve the City.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and OATH Commissioner Fidel Del Valle will host a “What to do when you get a summons” town hall at the Harlem State Office Building.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Manhattan Republican Party will host a mayoral candidates screening featuring Republicans Paul Massey and Michel Faulkner, and Independent Bo Dietl, at the Metropolitan Republican Club. Following the screening, there will be an info session “on how to run for elected office.”

Thursday
At the City Council on Thursday

  • The Committee on Health will meet at 10 a.m.
  • The Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws relating to bail and “permitting arrestees to access contact information.”
  • The Committee on Contracting will meet at 10 a.m. relating to “requiring city agencies to accept procurement invoices electronically” and “prohibiting discrimination in public contracting.”
  • The Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss a proposed law “in relation to reporting of pay and employment equity data.”
  • The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding the “tenant interim lease program.”
  • The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “increasing the cap on public funds available.”

At 8 a.m. Thursday, City & State will host “On Health Care,” with panels discussing the potential impact of “Trumpcare” and repealing Obamacare on New York, “addressing epidemics and risk factors,” and “working across sectors to address social determinants of health.” Speakers include Public Advocate Tish James, City Council Member Andrew Cohen, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts President Robin Chappelle Golston, State Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried, and more.

At noon Thursday, the New York City Bar Association will host “Public Affairs Luncheon: The Changing Face of Education,” discussing the problems public universities are facing, especially regarding “the fallen financial support from states and localities.” Dr. Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor Emeritus of CUNY, will speak.

At 1 p.m. Thursday, Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate Tish James, and City Comptroller Scott Stringer, all recently endorsed by the Kings County Democrats, “are expected to join Brooklyn elected and party officials at a Borough Hall rally.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, along with Council Members Rosie Mendez and Corey Johnson, will host a forum “to address the needs of trans and gender non-conforming community members in New York City.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education will hold a hearing at Harlem Hospital Center & Pavilion regarding “charter schools, public schools, and issues surrounding quality education.” The Task Force was formed following the passage of a resolution “calling for a moratorium on new charter schools until there was an examination of governance issues within charter schools, and a fuller determination of charter schools' relationship to, and effect on, traditional public schools.”

Thursday at 7 p.m., “Gov. Cuomo will officially open the new Kosciuszko Bridge this week with a party and a light show, the Daily News has learned.” There will be an accompanying light and music show.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Mayor de Blasio, Council Majority Leader Jimmy van Bramer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, and Senator Michael Gianaris will host a town hall at Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Long Island City.

Friday and the weekend
At 8 a.m. Friday, Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia will address the Queens Chamber of Commerce, discussing “commercial waste zone” policy and its effect on Queens businesses.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday, the Bronx Tech Summit will commence at the Metropolitan College of New York. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will give remarks, and numerous panels will convene discussing the borough’s tech scene and how technology is used and can be used in the borough’s infrastructure.

At 9 a.m. Friday, the Murphy Institute at CUNY will host “Confronting the Tragedy: Law Enforcement, Unionism, & Communities of Color,” discussing the role that the labor movement plays in the criminal justice system.

At 11 a.m. Friday, IGNITE will host New York Young Women's Political Mobilization Lunch at the Weissman School of Arts and Science at Baruch College.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Manhattan BP Gale Brewer will deliver opening remarks at “Harlem and the Future: Preserving Culture & Sustaining Historic Character in a Changing Environment,” discussing the question “what does the future of Harlem look like.” The keynote will be delivered by Chris Fair of Resonance Consultancy; closing remarks will be delivered by author Michael Henry Adams.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, City Council Member Ben Kallos and Manhattan CB 11 will host their “Spirit of Service” event at the Children’s Aid Society.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

‘Open The Books’ Site Tracks Government Spending, Aims to Reduce Waste


Adam Andrzejewski

Adam Andrzejewski (photo: The Manhattan Institute)


Illinois-based businessman and one-time candidate for Governor of that state, Adam Andrzejewski, boasts of running the “world’s largest private repository of public spending” with 3.5 billion individually captured government expenditures. Andrzejewski is the CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, an online transparency tool launched by his nonpartisan, nonprofit group, aptly named American Transparency, with the stated goals of reducing waste in government spending and combatting corruption.

Speaking to a room of about 90 people at an upscale club in Midtown Manhattan, at an event hosted by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, Andrzejewski laid out his organization’s mission: “Every Dime. Online. In Real Time.” His pet project stems from his unsuccessful run as a Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois in 2010, when he said he ran on a platform of “forensic audits of state spending” and “aggressive transparency,” which he believes resonated with voters.

Sourcing vast swathes of data through thousands of Freedom of Information Act requests each year, Andrzejewski says the website now contains nearly all federal expenditures since 2000, checkbook spending from 48 of 50 states from the last 10 years, and data on salary, pension, and vendor spending from about 60,000 municipalities.

In New York State, he said, they are close to having compiled all federal, state, and local expenditures. “We have about 90 cents on every dollar right now,” Andrzejewski said.

OpenTheBooks has made news in the past, with what Andrzejewski calls “oversight reports,” such as an analysis of spending on luxury art by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs; a report on the billions in public funds that go to Ivy League universities through tax benefits and other payments; and one on non-military federal agencies procuring military equipment; among others. The project also launched a mobile application, that allows users to pinpoint federal spending down to their zip code, allowing for “instant journalism,” Andrzejewski says.

More recently, after President Donald Trump’s threat to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities, the website analyzed the scope of those potential cuts and their possible effect on municipalities. Within the next 30 days, the nonprofit will release its latest report on cash compensation at all federal agencies.

“The amount of federal waste, fraud, corruption and taxpayer abuse is systemic, it’s embedded and we do need [a] war on waste to root it out,” said Andrzejewski in response to a question from one of the attendees. “We need a new arms race of federal transparency from the private sector up against government,” he later said, again painting the fight in military terms.

The transparency website is not completely novel for New York, where others both in the private and public sectors have attempted to make government data, particularly about spending, publicly available and accessible. Reclaim New York, a nonprofit government transparency project, has compiled checkbook spending while the Empire Center for Public Policy, a think tank, has more than 50 data sets on the state’s taxes, debt, spending, and other economic measures. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s Open Book New York portal shows state spending, while in New York City, Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Checkbook NYC shows city level indicators.

Andrzejewski praised those efforts (he worked with Reclaim New York on compiling New York’s spending data). “Kudos to the elected officials that don’t need a lawsuit but open the books by making that good government decision,” he told Gotham Gazette after the formal portion of the event, a lunch centered around his presentation. But he maintained that New York is the same as other states. “It’s a level playing field...New York is neither worse nor better but units of government do comply with the law, which is good news,” he said.

For a man whose mission is transparency, however, Andrzejewski would not disclose his group’s donors, saying only that they consist of “foundations, corporations and individuals” who may face pressure if made public. He insisted that none of the group’s funding came from government sources. When asked if this was at odds with his goals, he refuted the premise. “We don’t need more private sector transparency,” he said. “We’re demanding government transparency.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Ramped Up Economic Development Funding, Less Transparency in New State Budget


Cuomo Buffalo

Gov. Cuomo in Buffalo (photo: The Governor's Office)


The new state budget, passed nine days into the fiscal year, is by many accounts a win for New Yorkers, with the inclusion of, among other things, significant new funding for education and affordable housing, college affordability measures, billions for clean water infrastructure, and important criminal justice reforms.

The agreement hammered out by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature also included major provisions central to what is perhaps the governor’s top ongoing priorities. When he realized they would miss the April 1 deadline for a new spending plan, Cuomo squeezed into the state’s emergency budget extender bills funding for all of his signature economic development programs and splashy infrastructure projects, forcing lawmakers to accept them or risk a government shutdown.

The nearly $1.8 billion in funds remained when the deal was then reached for a full fiscal year budget, which overrode the extender bills a week later. This money includes $150 million for the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs); $500 million for the next phase of Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” investments; and $700 million for the creation of a new wing of Manhattan’s Penn Station.

The Legislature also agreed to a provision that would allow Cuomo the discretion to make mid-year changes to the budget in the event of major federal cuts to New York, though the governor conceded that the Legislature could have 90 days to come up with an alternative plan, which would override the executive’s plan. Citing uncertainty from the federal government, Cuomo made clear early on that he would not agree to a budget that did not include this type of flexibility.

“I want to make sure we do not overcommit ourselves financially. We have never been in this situation before, where you basically have a federal government that has said that, in both their rhetoric and their actions, that there will be a financial cost to the state of New York,” Cuomo explained on April 5, two days before he announced a budget deal.

But while it forges full speed ahead on the governor’s signature economic development and infrastructure programs and gives him additional budgetary powers, the final spending plan fails to beef up disclosure and oversight measures on the governor’s ambitious spending agenda. It also lacks any procurement reform and removes at least one crucial disclosure requirement previously attached to the governor’s Start-Up NY business development program that runs on tax incentives.

Critics say lax oversight and limited transparency requirements for state-run nonprofits, through which the state funnels tens of millions of dollars each year, make Cuomo’s economic development programs ripe for abuse. Last year, nine associates of Cuomo -- including top former aide Joe Percoco and economic development leader Alain Kaloyeros -- were arrested on federal charges for their roles in an elaborate pay-to-play scheme involving the governor’s signature programs. The charges center around bid-rigging, kickbacks, and bribes and laid bare gaps in contract review and oversight.

In the wake of these scandals, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released six recommendations for procurement reform, beginning with the restoration of the comptroller’s independent oversight of SUNY, CUNY, and Office of General Services contracts. The governor and Legislature stripped the comptroller’s office of this power in 2011 as they sought to speed the economic development process.

Other recommendations made by DiNapoli include prohibiting the use of non-profits to avoid procurement transparency laws, requiring state officials to follow the same procurement requirements as state agencies, creating tighter ethics requirements, implementing steeper penalties for those who abuse the procurement process, and requiring state agencies and their affiliates to make public all potential business opportunities in order level the playing field for all potential vendors.

In a statement after the new state budget was passed, DiNapoli expressed disappointment that procurement reform was not included.

“Hopefully before the end of session, the procurement reforms my office has advanced will be addressed,” said DiNapoli. “With heightened risks to federal aid, a clear understanding of the impact of spending, revenue and policy decisions in this budget is especially essential. My office will provide more detailed analysis of the enacted budget in the coming weeks.”

While it was immediately evident that procurement reforms -- like other government ethics, campaign finance, transparency, and voting reforms -- were not included in the budget, it will take time to unpack what is included, as DiNapoli indicated, in part because the budget was rushed through the Legislature over the weekend of April 7. Cuomo issued “messages of necessity” in order to waive the otherwise-necessary three-day bill review period.

One indication that reform measures were not likely to be included in the budget was how they were dealt with in the budget outlines put forth by Cuomo and each legislative majority. In their on-house budget resolutions, the Democratically- controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate both called for Cuomo’s 10 REDCs, which lawmakers have accused of self-dealing, to adhere to the Code of Ethics and FOIL requirements in the Public Officers Law, abide by the open meetings law, and mandate members file annual financial disclosure statements. However, the legislative houses rejected the governor’s proposals to require legislators to file conflicts of interest disclosure notices regarding their involvement in the spending of lump sum funds and to subject the Legislature to FOIL, among other reforms.

Ultimately, the governor and Legislature agreed upon more unspecified spending than before and fewer accountability measures at a fiscally uncertain time for New York State and in the wake of corruption scandals.

Since 2011, both the executive and legislative branches have been home to scandal, often featuring people on the inside seeking to exploit this unchecked cash flow for personal gain.

Cuomo’s executive budget proposal, unveiled in January, included $9.5 billion in funds in 44 separate economic development and infrastructure pots that do not specify any official as having authority and lack any disclosure and accountability about how the funds would be spent, according to Citizens Union, a government reform group, in its 2017 “Spending in the Shadows” report.

The analysis also identified $4.3 billion divided among 60 different pots of discretionary funding that are assigned to one or more elected officials and not subject to disclosure requirements -- a $2 billion increase from last year’s executive budget. “We do not know what the criteria is, we do not know what projects are being considered, and we don’t even know what projects are being denied,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union.

It is not yet clear exactly how much of the ‘shadowy’ money outlined in Cuomo’s executive budget made it into the final spending plan (Citizens Union has yet to do its analysis of the adopted budget).

Access to these vaguely defined funding streams make lawmakers particularly susceptible to corruption schemes like the ones executed by former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, according to Dadey. Both Silver and Skelos were convicted on federal charges, leading to unmet calls for government ethics reforms.

“It’s an increasing problem in New York. We have 33 legislators who were forced from public office since 2000 because of misconduct. In the last six years alone 16 have been forced from office,” said Dadey at a press conference last month.

Meanwhile, an annual reporting requirement for Start-Up NY participants has been removed from this year’s budget, as first reported by Newsday. Since 2013, business owners were mandated to report how many jobs their companies created and how much money they’ve invested in their operations, or they would be removed from the program. Instead, the new state budget directs the state’s Empire State Development, which runs Start-Up NY, to publish broader reports on the program. A Cuomo administration source told Newsday the omission was an accident.

The three-year-old program grants businesses creating at least one new job per year and their employees up to a decade of tax relief for moving to or beginning in designated zones on or nearby public college campuses.

The Start-Up NY program drew criticism last year when annual reports showed that 1,135 jobs were created in its first two-and-a-half years, while $53 million was spent by Empire State Development on advertising the program. Cuomo in his executive budget requested a name change on the start-up initiative, and proposed loosening the requirements for participation in the program. The Legislature did not agree to these changes.

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

Read more by this writer.

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.

10 Key Takeaways for New York City from the New State Budget


Cuomo de Blasio


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.

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.

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.

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.

[Related: Cuomo Announces $153 Billion State Budget Deal]

With a new deal in place, Governor Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, held a press conference at 9 p.m. Friday night and called the new state budget “a blueprint for the future of the state.”

In a Daily News op-ed column over the weekend, Cuomo wrote of the new budget, “Never has New York achieved more, built more or produced more impactful legislation.”

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."

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.

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.

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.

1. Cost Shifts & Funding Cuts
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.

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.

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.

2. Millionaire’s Tax & Mansion Tax
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.

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.

De Blasio along with allies in the Senate and Assembly put significant effort into pushing the “mansion tax” 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.

3. Mayoral Control of Schools
During negotiations, news reports indicated 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, seemingly because Senate Republicans opposed its inclusion.

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.

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.

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.

4. The New 421-a
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.

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.

“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.

According to Cuomo’s office, the “new program will create an estimated 2,500 new units of affordable housing per year.”

5. Affordable Housing & NYCHA
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.

De Blasio’s administration welcomed the influx of affordable housing cash, much of which will head to developers and projects in New York City.  “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.”

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  --  echoed those sentiments.

“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.”

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.

6. Infrastructure & Design-Build
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.

Construction of several major capital projects pertaining to New York City were approved, including the following projects for the coming year:

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.

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.

Long Island Railroad - The state will invest $120 million to provide enhancements to 16 LIRR stations and to improve system connectivity.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

7. Ethics and Voting Reforms
In November, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, De Blasio preached about reforming New York’s arcane electoral system, citing the energy around the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders as inspiration. He insisted that New York had a long way to go towards making government more transparent and accountable.

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.

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.

“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.”

8. Raise the Age
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.

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.

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.

“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.

9. Excelsior Scholarship
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.

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.

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.

10. Education Aid
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.

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.

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.

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.

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. The budget compromise 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.

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

Read more by this writer.

With reporting by Samar Khurshid.

Note: this article was corrected to more clearly explain the funding around senior centers.

Cuomo Announces $153 Billion State Budget Deal


Cuomo budget press conference

Cuomo and top aides (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 appeared to forget its existence on Wednesday night at his prior Red Room press conference.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

Assembly Speaker Heastie highlighted raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, increased education funding, and affordable housing funds.

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.

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

With reporting from Albany by Rachel Silberstein.

Deal or No Deal? State Budget Negotiations Drag & New York City Waits


Cuomo desk

Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


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.

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.

Having missed the April 1 budget deadline, lawmakers passed Cuomo's budget "extender" on Monday, 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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

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.

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.”

Tensions between Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Heastie of the Bronx, who represents New York City’s interests in state budget negotiations, appear to be at least partially behind the blow-up.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 will be the revenue bill, 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.

Assembly Speaker Heastie told reporters at about 4 p.m. Thursday that they were “headed towards a full budget deal -- today or tomorrow.”

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.

As New Yorkers all over the state and Mayor Bill de Blasio and others in New York City await the details of a new state budget, as of Thursday evening a partially clear picture has emerged of what’s in store for the big apple for the coming fiscal year.

Taxes
De Blasio put a good deal of energy into pushing a “mansion tax” 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.

Infrastructure
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.

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, reported The Buffalo News.

Charter Schools
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.

Charter school advocates and their allies among the Senate Republicans are, naturally, pushing for the Legislature 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.

“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.

Politico NY reports 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.

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.

421-a & Affordable Housing Money
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.

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.

A consensus on 421-a could move along the release of $2 billion in affordable housing and anti-homelessness funds. The funds, allocated last year, will only be released once Cuomo, Flanagan and Heastie a memorandum of understanding (MOU), detailing how the money will be spent.

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.

“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.”

Raise the Age
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.

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.

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.

“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.”

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.”

School Aid
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.

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.

College Affordability
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.

Mayoral Control of City Schools
Before talks collapsed Wednesday, the Daily News had reported 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.

Ethics & Voting Reform
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.

Cost Shifts & Cuts
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.

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

Read more by this writer.

For Cuomo, Ethics Reform Forgotten as Budget Lurches


Cuomo Mujica David budget

Gov. Cuomo, middle, with two top aides (photo: Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo forgot about government ethics reform. At a press conference Wednesday, the governor explained to reporters that state budget talks had fallen apart over a few core issues. He pointed out with pride, though, that virtually everything he had proposed earlier this year he had gotten the Legislature to agree on, other than two major sticking points related to criminal justice and affordable housing. Cuomo had to be reminded by his budget director, sitting to the governor’s right, that Cuomo’s ethics reform agenda was another item without agreement.

In fact, it appears that Cuomo’s government ethics, campaign finance, and voting reform platform, which he unveiled in January along with the rest of his 2017 policy agenda and budget outline, is the only entire category of proposals completely off the table as budget negotiations continue.

It is not surprising that government ethics was not top of mind for Cuomo, who is trying to negotiate a $160 billion state budget under challenging conditions. The state is already a week into its new fiscal year, operating under a budget “extender” in order to keep state government functioning. That extender was passed Monday and is good through May 31, but Cuomo and legislative leaders had continued to negotiate in hopes of passing a full fiscal year budget before legislators left the capital for their customary two-week April break. Cuomo announced Wednesday evening that there was no deal, speaking to reporters during a press conference in the Capitol’s Red Room and flanked by his budget director and lead counsel.

The governor gave a nearly 20-minute explanation of budget negotiations and his take on where things should head, then took questions from reporters, repeatedly stressing all that he had gotten legislators to come to terms on. Virtually all of his proposals, the governor said, had been accepted in some form, other than raising the age of adult criminal responsibility and a new property tax abatement program meant to spur affordable housing development in New York City. Cuomo then asked his budget director for confirmation. “Ethics reform,” Robert Mujica reminded him; “and ethics reform,” Cuomo repeated, adding it as a footnote to the conversation.

Through his omission and then recognition that ethics reform was nowhere to be found, Cuomo acknowledged that even with negotiations set to continue, his lengthy set of “good government and ethics reform” proposals would not pass the Legislature any time soon. The agenda includes closing the infamous LLC loophole, creating a public campaign financing system, instituting early voting, and more.

The lack of movement on these reform measures comes despite the fact that a recent public opinion poll by Quinnipiac showed that 80 percent of New York voters said state government corruption is a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem. And, after major corruption scandals brought down both recent leaders of the two houses of the state Legislature and several close associates of and donors to Governor Andrew Cuomo were indicted on corruption charges. On Thursday, a federal court judge set a trial date of October 30 in the case against former Cuomo aides and donors for bid-rigging, bribes, and kickbacks related to the governor’s signature economic development programs.

The lack of movement also comes after New York ranked 41st in voter turnout among states in the 2016 presidential election.

As Cuomo highlighted Wednesday night, many compromises have been reached through negotiation, including billions more funding for the governor’s economic development programs. “We have an agreement on many items,” Cuomo said. “We have agreement on the Millionaire’s Tax, on the middle-class tax cut, on the water program that’s actually passed, on ride sharing, on college affordability, on workers’ comp, on property tax reform and citizen empowerment to get people involved in their state and local taxes...we have agreed on a prescription drug program, which is the first-in-the-nation, on a opioid program, which is a very aggressive program – so, we’ve done a lot of good work.”

But, there has been no movement on the 14-plank reform agenda that Cuomo included in his executive budget, which was released in January just after he concluded his six-stop State of the State speaking tour in Albany with reform measures as a key piece of his final speech.

“State government must do more to restore the public trust because as public servants we earn the trust of the people we serve. Unfortunately, in Albany there have been a series of breaches of that trust,” Cuomo said in January. “We must take action to show the people of this state that we get it, and that when someone does something wrong, they are punished to the full extent of the law and we have a system that is going to catch them.”

Nor has there been any movement on adding new oversight measures to Cuomo’s economic development spending, such as renewed contract vetting powers for the state Comptroller.

“[I]t doesn't look like the issue of procurement reform or much of the other reforms that people have been pushing for seem to be included [in the budget],” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter on her show Wednesday morning, “so let's hope that that means that those issues will be dealt with post-budget. They're very important issues.”

“We need to tighten up our procurement procedures,” DiNapoli continued, adding that while economic development is important, “more checks and balance, more oversight, is appropriate.”

Those who watch state government closely see that in many cases, Senate Republicans, who control that chamber, form the blockade to proposed reforms. But, it is also evident that Cuomo appears to put little priority in seeing major reforms through. Known for his ability to get passed what he prioritizes, including controversial measures like same-sex marriage to gun control to minimum wage hikes, Cuomo has been notably silent on ethics and voting reform since his January State of the State.

One exception being when Cuomo was asked by a WNYC radio reporter about moving voting reforms through the budget and he replied that he was going to try, but they weren’t really budget matters and could be taken up in the legislative session to follow a budget agreement.

On Tuesday, Cuomo told reporters that raising the age of adult criminal responsibility should be done in the budget because it has financial aspects to it. The same could be said for early voting, which would require polling places to be open leading up to Election Day.

In the Quinnipiac poll from late March, voters were split on whether the governor and Legislature would address government corruption: 44 percent said they would, 43 said they won’t. Meanwhile, 43 percent of those polled said Cuomo is "part of the problem of ethics in government" and 44 percent said he's "part of the solution."

Cuomo’s office did not respond to two requests for comment about the governor’s “good government and ethics reform” agenda being fully absent from the budget.

It is important to note that some of that agenda called for more power for Cuomo, including governor-appointed inspectors general for the Port Authority and the State Education Department, as well as expanded power for already existing, governor-appointed inspectors general of the CUNY and SUNY systems.

While the Legislature did not go along with these proposals, it also failed to adopt measures Cuomo included that would apply more broadly, like closing the LLC loophole -- which the governor has benefited the most from -- and instituting public campaign financing, and a measure that would expand the state’s freedom of information law to include the Legislature.

On the other hand, the Legislature was seeking more transparency from the members of Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils through financial disclosures, in part to examine if REDC members had any business stakes in projects related to their volunteer work on the councils, which help dole out millions of state grants. Cuomo strongly objected to this proposal and it also appears to be out of the budget.

New Yorkers won’t know final details until a full 2017-2018 fiscal year state budget deal is reached.

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

After Negotiation Impasse, State Passes ‘Extender’ Budget


24993663172 12cbbcf8cc z

Cuomo and Flanagan (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.”

“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.

On the Senate floor, Flanagan pushed back on the suggestion that the minority conferences were not represented in the extender budget.

“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.

The measure did not pass as smoothly on the Assembly floor.

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.

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.”

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.

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, notes Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank.

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.

"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."

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.

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.”

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."

"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."

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.

***
by Ben Max and Rachel Silberstein

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

Read more by this writer.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 3


New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

All eyes are on Albany, where a new state budget is late and negotiations continue. The state’s new fiscal year began Saturday, April 1, but there is still no spending plan from the Governor and Legislature. At about midnight Sunday night, with negotiations at an impasse, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would move an "extender" budget on Monday and that legislative leaders had said they would pass it. The extender will largely continue state spending as it was for the most recent fiscal year, with a few adjustments, which are not clear as of Monday morning. It will also extend through the third week in May, when there will be more clarity on the federal budget and its effects on New York. However, a new state budget deal could come together before then and be passed to supercede the extender.

Issues that appear to have held up a larger deal on a new state budget include details of overall education aid to municipalities, funding for charter schools, raising the age of adult criminal responsibility, and detailing the allocation of about $2 billion affordable housing funds that were set aside in last year’s budget but never released by Cuomo and legislative leaders. There is also federal funding uncertainty hanging over everything.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio and 8.5 million other New York City residents await budget news from Albany.

De Blasio had a busy weekend, fresh off his Friday announcement that the city would begin formulating a plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex over ten years: on Saturday, he eulogized Timothy Caughman and participated in The Inner Circle Show. On Sunday, de Blasio will delivered remarks at the Christian Cultural Center and the New Life Tabernacle in Brooklyn. He voted in City Council Member Brad Lander’s participatory budgeting for Council District 39 and he and First Lady Chirlane McCray made remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Progressive Democrats Political Association of Central Brooklyn.

De Blasio has several public events scheduled Monday, including his weekly appearance on NY1’s Road to City Hall in the 7 and 10 p.m. hours -- see details of his schedule below.

Also this week, city budget season moves from City Council preliminary budget hearings to behind-closed-doors discussions leading to the Council’s formal preliminary budget response. That will then inform de Blasio’s executive budget, which will lead to another round of Council hearings and more negotiation. The Council continues with non-budget committee hearings this week.

Those and a whole lot more this week -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
e-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
The New York State Legislature is scheduled to be in session on Monday in Albany. 

At 9 a.m. Monday, the New York State Board of Regents will be in session. The board will also be in session at 5 p.m. Monday and at 11:10 a.m. Tuesday.

US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will headline Albany Law School’s speaker series, speaking on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio has several public events: at 11:15 a.m. he will visit and provide brief remarks to high school juniors preparing for the first-ever citywide SAT School Day on Wednesday, at Queens Vocational. At 12:40 p.m. de Blasio "will attend opening ceremonies for the New York Mets home opener at Citi Field. The Mayor will join members of the NYPD and FDNY for the ceremonial first pitch." At 2:30 p.m., "the Mayor and the Police Commissioner will host a press conference to discuss crime statistics." And in the evening, de Blasio will appear on NY1’s Road to City Hall.

At the City Council on Monday:
---The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law “in relation to the posting of information online regarding tree maintenance work.”
---The Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss a resolution “calling upon President Donald Trump to fully fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and not to eliminate or diminish any of these agencies in any form.”

Just before that 1 p.m. hearing, at noon at City Hall, Cultural Affairs committee chair City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito “will hold a Rally to Save the Arts to protest the Trump Administration’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” They’ll be joined by other City Council members; Tom Finkelpearl, Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner; Comptroller Scott Stringer; leaders of the city’s three library systems; leaders and members of “50+ cultural organizations” as well as “Broadway performers, dancers, several hundred artists and cultural workers.” 

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez "will hold a press availability following a planning meeting with over 60 organizations gearing up to take part in the 2nd annual #CarFreeNYC, taking place on April 22nd," at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders will host Valerie Barton-Richardson of CAMBA and a representative from the city Department of Homeless Services for a policy discussion on issues surrounding homelessness in the city.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito will attend Passover food distribution at Young Israel of Staten Island.

At 9 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will appear on BronxTalk with Gary Axelbank, BronxNet TV channel 67 and Fios 33, online at bronxnet.org.

Tuesday
The New York State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany. 

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon and Senator Martin Golden will host the second annual NY Dyslexia Awareness Day at the State Capitol. Amy Margolis, of Columbia and the Brooklyn Learning Center, and Carolyn Strom of NYU will give “expert presentations,” and Senator David Carlucci will join a panel of students with dyslexia to talk about their experiences.

On Tuesday Mayor de Blasio will make several media appearances -- on PIX11 and NY1 TV and Hot 97 and WABC-AM radio -- and then he'll fly west. He'll be in Washington and California for several fundraisers and government meetings over the next few days, according to Politico New York.

Public Advocate Letitia James will co-host and speak at "the 11th Annual NYC Equal Pay Day Rally," at City Hall at noon. James will appears on NY1's Road to City Hall in the 7 and 10 p.m. hours Tuesday evening. At 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, James will deliver remarks at the "Loaded Guns in Public Places? How Concealed Carry Reciprocity May Impact Us" forum. And, at 8:30 p.m., James will deliver remarks at A Taste of Fifth in Brooklyn.

Comptroller Scott Stringer will also speak at the Equal Pay rally at City Hall Tuesday.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
---The Committee on Civil Rights will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law “in relation to prohibiting employers from inquiring about or relying on a prospective employee’s salary history.”
---The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law “in relation to preventing the unauthorized practice of immigration law.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will host two talks. The first, “The City Budget & How it Works,” will feature Deputy Comptroller of the Budget Preston Niblack, who will “present the fundamentals behind New York City’s budget.” The second, “The Water & Sewer Network,” will feature Cas Holloway of Bloomberg LP, “who will discuss the scope of the city’s water and sewer network.” 

Wednesday
The New York State Legislature will be in session on Wednesday in Albany -- the last day of session for two weeks. 

At the City Council on Wednesday:
---The Finance Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws and resolutions.
---The full City Council is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. As usual, this will be prefaced by a press conference led by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting on Wednesday.

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bob Gangi will announce his mayoral run in the Democratic primary with a press conference at 1 Police Plaza.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., Commissioner Jacques Jiha, Sheriff Joseph Fucito, CB3 and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation will host a town hall, "Addressing Deed Fraud and Abuse" in Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Gotham Center at CUNY Graduate Center will host “Fixing Elections: The Politics of Electoral Reform in NYC, Then and Now,” discussing the causes of low turnout in City elections and how electoral reform can increase turnout. Brigid Bergin of WNYC will moderate a panel featuring Gerald Benjamin, formerly of the Center for New York State and Local Government Studies; Daniel O. Prosterman, author of Defining Democracy; Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York; and Rob Richie of Fairvote. The forum is co-sponsored by The Brennan Center for Justice (NYU)​, The Center for Urban Research (The Graduate Center, CUNY), The League of Women Voters of the City of New York, The New York Public Interest Research Group, New Yorkers for a Human-Scale City, The Green Party of New York, and the New Kings Democrats. 

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Riders’ Alliance will host its second L Train Shutdown Solutions Meeting for those in Brooklyn affected by the L train’s shutdown, at the Brooklyn Public Library Stone Avenue Branch in Brownsville.

Thursday
At the City Council on Thursday:
---The Committee on Public Safety will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “enforcement issues with revenge porn,” as well as to discuss two proposed laws: one criminalizing revenge porn, and the other “requiring the maintenance of an information sharing system regarding civil actions, claims, complaints, and investigations alleging improper police conduct.”
---The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a resolution calling for a Hudson River Greenway between Spuyten Duyvil, Bronx and Yonkers, as well as a proposed law regarding the renaming of two thoroughfares and public places in the Bronx.
---The Committees on Mental Health and Youth Services will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding youth suicide.

At 8:15 a.m. Thursday, the Center for New York City Law will host “Building Mega-Projects: Lessons from the Second Avenue Subway,” with Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction Company.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, JustLeadershipUSA will hold “Leading with Conviction in the Era of Trump.” This event “will bring together policy makers, ​journalists, ​formerly incarcerated leaders, and other supporters and allies to explore the crucial role of “leaders with conviction” in driving efforts to reduce mass incarceration and revitalize affected communities.”

At 9 a.m. Thursday, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce will host a workshop with several leaders from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, “who will share important lessons on how to reduce risks from employee fraud, unauthorized diversion of funds, and cyber breaches.”

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, former US Attorney Preet Bharara will deliver the John Jay Iselin Memorial Lecture at the Cooper Union.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer will hold a town hall meeting at Goddard Riverside Community Center on the Upper West Side.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will keynote City & State’s “Borough Series: Manhattan,” honoring 25 prominent Manhattan individuals.

Friday and the weekend
On Friday, Mayor de Blasio will likely make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

At noon Friday, the Manhattan Institute will host “Inside Job: How Government Insiders Subvert The Public Interest,” featuring Mark Zupan, author of a book bearing the same title. Discussion will center around “the tremendous damage that government insiders -- elected officials, bureaucrats, and other public employees -- inflict when they enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense.”

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Urban Democracy Lab will host “Humanizing Data: Data, Humanities, and the City.” The event will feature panels and workshops relating to how data can be used to “enhance and disrupt the kinds of research questions, methods, and narratives that define the humanities.”

At noon Saturday, Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will host the eighth annual Spring Open House, honoring female community leaders in his Queens district.

At noon Sunday, the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club will hold its annual Spring Brunch. City Comptroller Scott Stringer will present outgoing City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez with awards “for their service to New Yorkers.” Further, the Charles Buchwald Memorial Award for Community Service will be presented to Planned Parenthood Votes NYC.

***
Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

***
by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

The 'Three Men in a Room' and Millions Outside


Cuomo Heastie Flanagan 2015

Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan in 2015 (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


It’s the last week of March, which means the final stretch of New York State budget negotiations, and all are watching the “three men in a room,” an adage that has come to symbolize Albany’s opaque government processes and concentration of power.

Each March, for as long as anyone can remember, the governor, the speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate hold frequent, clandestine meetings to hammer out important policy decisions and decide the fate of billions of dollars in state funding. A state budget is due by the April 1 start of the new state fiscal year. For many years, the Assembly has been controlled by Democrats, largely from New York City, while the Senate has been dominated by Republicans, mostly from upstate and Long Island, though the margin in the Senate has been quite slim for several years and Democrats held control briefly.

In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, changed the paradigm slightly to allow a fourth man in the room: Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of the eight-member breakaway group known as the Independent Democratic Conference, which has a ruling coalition with the Senate GOP. The move was decried as unfair by both minority leaders, those of the Senate’s mainline Democrats and the Assembly Republicans.

Whether three or four, the depiction of an exclusive club of legislative leaders and the governor alone in “the room,” mapping out the state’s interests behind closed doors, is not entirely accurate. Often in the room are senior staffers -- including budget directors and chiefs of staff -- who are intensely involved in negotiation and planning, while outside voices -- interest groups, lobbyists, rank-and-file legislators, think tanks, and others -- also wield some, usually small degree of influence over the participants and their decisions. It is typically true that the legislative leaders in “the room” are there with some instruction from their conferences about top priorities, items they are willing to trade for others, non-starters, and degrees to which they are will to accept partial victories.

Legislative leaders will often run from the negotiating room back to their conferences to discuss some details and get a sense of whether their minions are willing to go along with the latest deals on the table.

But for the vast majority of the 150 members of the Assembly and 63 members of the Senate, who serve on largely powerless committees, subcommittees, legislative commissions, and task forces, the doors to the room are closed, and the opportunity to influence final details of what is in and what is out of the state’s most important annual document is minimal.

Also out of the loop is the public. During the final week of budget negotiations at the Capitol, the statehouse press corps can be spotted diligently waiting outside of closed-door meetings, hoping to garner nuggets of information about the status of major issues like “Raise the Age,” an upstate expansion of ride-hailing apps, water infrastructure funding, education aid, and other contours of the $150 billion spending plan. When legislative leaders -- Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, IDC Leader Klein -- do emerge from the governor’s office or various conference rooms, their comments are usually sparse and cryptic.

“I would say progress has been made on a lot of these issues,” Heastie told reporters on Tuesday. “But when all these things are interconnected for an issue that’s largely important to either us, the Senate, or the governor, that’s not been dealt with, there’s no deal.”

Following the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos in 2015, Cuomo and the new legislative leaders have even become more evasive of the press, holding negotiation sessions and leadership meetings at the Governor's Mansion.

On Monday, Cuomo noted that, unlike his predecessors, he has made point to involve Senate and Assembly committee members on high stakes policy issues like “Raise the Age,” which would increase the age that a person may be charged like an adult in criminal court, and has emerged as a major sticking point in this year’s negotiations.

"What I do -- which is a little different than past governors -- is on a truly complex issue like Raise the Age, like marriage equality, like gun safety, I actually bring in the senators and assemblymen who are the heads of those committees and work through the language myself,” Cuomo said Monday during an interview on NY1.

While this may be true for some high-profile issues, negotiations are almost exclusively among Cuomo and the legislative leaders when it comes to the rest of the policy and funding that is decided.

The system has shifted in other ways under Cuomo, who came to office in 2011 promising to restore function to state government and has delivered six consecutive on-time budgets, a point of pride for the governor that he regularly boasts about and has been given credit for. However, this usually means that the budget is passed late on March 31, sometimes spilling into April 1, with deals coming together in the final hours and almost no time for public review. Rank-and-file lawmakers usually only have a few hours to review complex budget documents before voting them through.

The deadline and Cuomo’s fixation on meeting it, along with the nature of negotiations among governing factions, have led the governor to issue a “message of necessity,” a motion to waive the aging period for bills required by the state constitution.

While the law calls for a three-day waiting period between printing of a bill and the day it is voted on, so that the public may review it, Cuomo, like previous governors, typically issues a "message of necessity" to bypass the requirement and speed the process along. It is a practice that has been criticized by good government groups and some legislators, who say timeliness should not be prioritized over transparency. Rather, these exceptions should be used sparingly, and for real emergencies like natural disasters.

“The ‘message of necessity’ in the passing of the state budget has become as predictable as snow is in January,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of government reform organization Citizens Union. “And it’s unfortunate, because that power should only be used in extreme circumstances. It has deprived the public the time to review and scrutinize the state budget before it has passed.”

Heastie and Flanagan, both relatively new to their leadership positions, appear more willing to involve rank-and-file lawmakers in budget talks than their predecessors. For example, Heastie sends frequent updates to his conference members on his interactions with Cuomo and Flanagan, sometimes hourly, according to Assemblymember Nily Rozic of Queens.

Calling the situation a “vast improvement” from the way the budget worked when she was first elected to the seat in 2012 and Silver was speaker, Rozic said that as a rank-and-file member of the Assembly now, “You certainly have opportunities to make your opinion known and to pick a few issues that you care about and to advocate for them in the budget process.”

On the Senate side, a spokesperson for Flanagan said the majority leader frequently seeks the input of his conference and brings issues back to its members for debate. "We are a member driven conference," said Scott Reif, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. "The legislative leaders and the Governor don't decide a budget on their own. Our entire Senate Republican Conference is working together every minute of every day to put together the best possible budget we can for hardworking. middle-class taxpayers and their families."

While legislators may feel more involved in final negotiations than in the past, messages to the public as the state budget deadline nears are often inconsistent or muddled by contradictory reports. On Monday, Flanagan, Heastie, and Klein expressed confidence that the budget would be delivered on-time, while Cuomo floated the idea of an “extender budget,” which would temporarily continue last year’s budget in order to account for uncertainties on the federal level.

On Tuesday afternoon, Assembly Democrats were told in a closed-door meeting that there would be no temporary budget extender, though Heastie, in an earlier interview said he was open to the budget being adopted in phases, The Buffalo News reported.

Members of the minority conferences, for their part, say they are privy to fewer details of budget talks and that they often learn the details of the budget bills when it is time to vote on them. According to Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, an upstate Republican, letters addressed to Cuomo and Heastie go unanswered so he must “get creative” in order to represent the interests of his conference on the budget.

“The avenues we employ is social media, interviews like I’m doing with you, certainly we put out any number of press statements and policy statements,” said Kolb, whose conference is about half the size of the majority. “I think it should be that way, but we are dealing with facts and reality, so we have to be creative at figuring out ways to articulate our views.”

For Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat whose chamber is controlled by Republicans by a razor thin margin and whose conference has long championed issues like Raise the Age, the stakes are higher. Stewart-Cousins has raised concerns that education aid and Raise The Age are being "watered-down," while ethics reforms and the DREAM Act are “being forgotten.”

“We obviously send written communication to our colleagues, I am in constant contact with Speak Heastie, I talk with the governor. People understand that we are invested in making sure that the right policy is in the budget,” said Stewart-Cousins in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

The leaders of both minority conferences say they believe they should be in the negotiating room, helping to formulate the budget and major policy deals. Spokespeople for Heastie and Cuomo did not return requests for comment on the transparency of the budget negotiation process.

"We should be in the room and it's because of the public, not because of Brian Kolb,” said the Assembly minority leader. “It's because of the millions of people that our conference represents and the millions of people that Andrea Stewart-Cousins represents," Kolb said, adding that none of the leaders in the room are from Upstate.

Last year, a campaign to let Stewart-Cousins participate in budget negotiations -- which would earn her the distinction of being the first woman “in the room” -- went nowhere. “Changing these types of institutions is very, very difficult,” she said Tuesday, about three-and-a-half days before the budget was due.

Note: The article has been updated to include comment from a Senate GOP spokesperson.

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

Read more by this writer.

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.


Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice


Gotham Gazette: East New York Rezoning, One Year Later East New York Rezoning, One Year Later Gotham Gazette: The March Money Race for 'Open' City Council Seats The March Money Race for 'Open' City Council Seats Gotham Gazette: Trump's Victory, De Blasio's State of the City Trump's Victory, De Blasio's State of the City Gotham Gazette: Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators Adjusting to Albany: Meet NYC's New Class of State Legislators


Comments
Comment(s)

The comments section is provided as a free service to our readers. Gotham Gazette's editors reserve the right to delete any comments. Some reasons why comments might get deleted: inappropriate or offensive content, off-topic remarks or spam.