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Green roofs blocked by the historic and the new
October 26th, 2007

While a solar powered subway terminal and a variety of Brooklyn greening construction projects bloom, two buildings have had to cut environmentally-friendly design elements.

First, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a canopy proposed by local architects for the structure’s solar paneled roof because it would be visible from the street and clash with the historic district of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.

Several blocks away, elected officials just broke ground on an 80-unit residential development, but shadows from the planned buildings at the Atlantic Yards site would render the planned solar paneled roof unusable.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz praised Governor Eliot Spitzer for proposing new for global warming regulations and “for recognizing that with a little courage, being green is much easier than people think.” But it can be harder with the conventions of the past and shadows from the new.

By on October 26, 2007, 3:53 pm
In category: Environment,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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A Protest Against New Rules on Filming
August 2nd, 2007

Today in Union Square from 11:30am to 2:00pm, activists and filmmakers will rally to protest the proposed rules changes from the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting that would require amateurs shooting footage and pictures in New York City to get permits and insurance.

The blog Picture NY is covering the issue extensively and gathering signatures for a petition to the mayor’s office, which is accepting public comment until tomorrow. According to a recent AP news article, larger scale filmmakers already need to get such permits and insurance, but the new regulations would also affect groups of five or more people using a tripod for 10 minutes or more, as well as groups of two people filming for 30 minutes or more. Reporters credentialed by the New York Police Department would be exempt from the regulation, but the changes would affect “independent journalists doing street interviews,and amateurs making videos to post online.” If the rules go into effect, Tthe New York Civil Liberties Union says it will consider legal action.

By on August 2, 2007, 11:06 am
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Update: Sonny Carson Avenue
May 30th, 2007

The dispute over whether to rename a portion of a Brooklyn street for black activist Sonny Carson sharply split the City Council today. With support from the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, Councilmember Albert Vann introduced an amendment to add Sonny Carson Avenue back to the street renaming package bill. The move failed.

Carson Avenue, along with the rest of the street name proposals had been introduced in April and removed from the street renaming bill after a contentious vote in the parks committee. Councilmembers, the media and the public have debated the merits of honoring Carson and the process by which streets are renamed.

At today’s meeting, Vann urged his colleagues to vote their conscience and emphasized the importance of honoring the wishes of local communities.Earlier, Vann connected the issue to self-determination and freedom, If you tell us who we cannot honor today, youll tell us who we cannot worship tomorrow.

Councilmembers Albert Vann and Charles Barron with supporters of the Sonny Carson Avenue on City Hall steps before the council voted on the amendment.

On Memorial Day, Councilmember Charles Barron led an effort to rename a Brooklyn parkafter Sonny Carson by putting up new signs. Today, Barron spoke at length on the issue, singling out Letitia James for abstaining from voting on Sonny Carson Avenue while on the Parks Committee and criticizing Council Speaker Christine Quinns efforts to block the renaming. Quinn responded by emphasizing that those who the city honors with street names must reflect the citys core values and principles and unite, not divide, us.Before the meeting, Barron, who has referenced the numerous streets named after slaveholders and the councils honoring of entertainer Al Jolson who dressed in blackface, spoke about the controversial Irish New Yorkers and members of the Irish Republican Army who had been honored by the city in the past and supported by the local African American community.

Spectators in the crowded City Hall chambers chanted Whose streets?Our streets.Whose streets? Sonnys streets? and self-determination, but the council voted against adding Sonny Carson Avenue with 15 in favor of the amendment, 25 against and 6 abstaining. Some councilmembers voiced concerns about the process as they voted no, while others cited allegedly hateful comments by Carson as they emphatically voted no.

By on May 30, 2007, 5:31 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Electoral Politics,Gotham City | 4 Comments »

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Razed Pay Raises?
May 30th, 2007

New Yorkers oppose giving the legislature a pay raise, but might support one for judges.

A Siena College poll found that nearly two thirds of New Yorkers oppose giving the legislature a pay raise. Legislators earn $79,500 per year and have not had a pay raise since 1999, but are among the better paid state legislators in the country. Technically, serving on the legislature is a part-time job, and other states offer salaries as low as several dollars per day.

But New York’s judges do not fare as well as their counterparts. The National Center for State Courts released a report finding that New Yorks judges are paid less than judges in 36 other states (adjusted for cost of living). Chief Justice Judith Kaye earns $156,000 — about the same amount as a first-year associate at a top New York City law firm. Like the members of the legislature, New York judges havenot had a pay raise since 1999.

Legislation connecting judicial pay raises to legislative pay raises and creating a separate commission to handle such decisions disintegrated when negotiations on campaign finance reform legislation unraveled.And Kaye has warned that she might sue Governor Eliot Spitzer and the legislature if they do not increase judicial salaries before the end of the session in June.

By on May 30, 2007, 7:06 am
In category: Albany,Gotham City,Law | 1 Comment »

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Eugene Sworn In
May 9th, 2007

Mathieu Eugene was officially sworn in as councilmember for the 40th district at today’s stated meeting. Swearing in of Councilmember Eugene

Though Eugene did not sign and provide all of the voluntary paperwork documenting his ability to serve in the city council, an investigation found him to be in compliance with the requirements to hold office, such as being over the age of 18, a resident of the district, a citizen, and not in violation of the public officers law.

Topping Mayor Bloomberg’s new Spanish proficiency, Eugene gave a few remarks and thank yous in English, Spanish and Creole.

By on May 9, 2007, 3:52 pm
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Jay-Z Visits City Hall for Ceremony Honoring Mom Gloria Carter
May 9th, 2007

Jay-Z at City Hall

Today, the City Council commended Gloria Carter for her work overseeing the Sean Carter Foundation, local toy drives, assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims and other civic roles. Just a few days before Mother’s Day, her son Jay-Z accompanied her to the ceremony

By on May 9, 2007, 3:50 pm
In category: Gotham City | 8 Comments »

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Groups Stepping up for Budget Talks
May 9th, 2007

With city budget talks commencing, the City Hall steps were full of supporters for various causes.

CUNY and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (featured in photo) rallied in front of the building today.

Rally for Landmarks Preservation

A full calendar of the Finance Committee hearings is on the council webpage.

By on May 9, 2007, 3:42 pm
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New York and Federal Spring Flings
April 12th, 2007

Conservative federal leaders and progressive New York politicians are uniting on issues.

Governor Spitzer blocked the deal to allow Clipper Equity to buy the Starrett City apartment complex and raise the rents on 6,000 units. The Bush administration applauded the intervention. Appearing with several New York elected officials, President Bush’s housing secretary Alphonso Jackson stated that instituting market rents, would be the worst kind of theft to steal all of this from them. The President and the Governor are united on maintaining affordable housing, and the New York Sun sums up its dissent by calling the proposed sale of Starrett City, “something to embrace as a sign of the city’s vitality and success.”

Former house speaker Newt Gingrich voiced his urge to advance radical environmental policy change this week. He publicly denied the global warming problem just 18 months before. To reduce harmful greenhouse gases, Gingrich supports a market-based approach instead of more regulation. His book Contract with the Earth which is due out this fall should explain his full strategy.

The New York Sun also reports that Bloomberg is considering both stricter rules and tax incentives to address the citys pollution problem. He released a survey of New York City carbon emissions and seeks to reduce them 30 percent by 2030. Because the city cannot enact energy policy changes independently of the state government, Bloomberg will likely also focus on a market-based approach. Further details of policy changes will be announced in the coming weeks and perhaps environmentalist Gingrich will make an appearance at Bloombergs Earth Day press conference.

By on April 12, 2007, 5:00 am
In category: Gotham City | 8 Comments »

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April Fools! Bloomberg Vetoes Own Pedicab Limit
April 2nd, 2007

Just in time for April Fools’ Day, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed a city council bill he had negotiated and supported just weeks before that would have limited the number of pedicabs to 325. Bloomberg and pedicab drivers agree that some regulation is needed, but the concerns are more about safety assurances than the number of vehicles.

Council Speaker Quinn stated that the change would have helped to unclog streets but an onNYTurf blog post dismisses that argument, instead listing benefits like the visibility and agility of the vehicles. The blog also links to a video from Times Up! on the pedicab industry in New York City, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and concerns about the environment.

For more from the pedicabbers themselves, check out the Gotham Gazette article on the topic and the Pedicab Blog, or read the signs on the pedicab vehicles at a recent rally “Pedicabs Love New York” and “Pedicabs-Cornerstone of Mayor’s 2030 plan.”

By on April 2, 2007, 1:29 pm
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Of Budgets, Battleships and Other Wordplay
March 29th, 2007

State Senator Thomas K. Duane joked that there’s some “theater” involved in the budget process. Judging by their language, inspired reporters writing about the negotiations seem to agree.

The New York Times documents the “darkness” of the process with a little “wiggling” and “lamenting.”

The New York Sun has one article describing Albany’s “confusion,” “groping” and “kicked up dust,” as well as another unsettling article of bruising and braking.

The New York Daily News describes the process’s “striking,” “pounding” and “grabbing,” all in an effort to turn the “ship” that is New York around.

The New York Times‘s active prose on the subject also features a “steamroller,” “hardball,” and more sailing.

For Newsday the issue is about “striving,” “bare bones” and “open doors.”

New York 1 covers the need for “ironing,” “huddling” and “conceptualizing” on the negotiations.

The Times Union explains the “wrangling,” “looming” and “softening” going on at the capital.

Another Time Union article on the budget emphasizes the difficulty of the “writing process,” but perhaps Spitzer summarized it best with “you do not turn a battleship inside a bathtub.”

By on March 29, 2007, 11:17 am
In category: Albany,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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Fixing the Flaws in Homeless Policy
March 26th, 2007

Despite the Bloomberg administration’s effort to combat homelessness, the number of homeless families in the city is rising. Over the weekend, the Times looked at the issue in an editorial entitled “Homeless Maze.”

While the number of homeless single men and women has decreased, the number of homeless families reached 9,250 this month–a record high since the city began keeping records.The article cites the flaws in mayor’s five year plan, specificallythe Housing Stability Plus program, as themain cause. This program limitedhousing assistance to those on welfare, but when welfare benefits experience interruptions, so do families and landlords depending those linked housing subsidies. The Times suggests shifting some families to Section 8, a federal program, which points to the larger question of how thecity can bestdistribute the 22,000 such subsidies recently allocated to the city when thehomeless and theworking familiesare both in need.

Bloomberg’s management expertise is being increasingly questioned in his second term , but a recentNew York Observer editorial is optimistic that Bloomberg will respond well to the challenge.

By on March 26, 2007, 3:41 pm
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Kicked out of the Campaign Solar System
August 27th, 2006

On the same day that Pluto was dropped from the planet roster, Assembly District 58 candidate Wellington Sharpe was ejected from his race against incumbent Nick Perry. Sharpe is just one of several state legislature hopefuls who had their status challenged this summer. Like so many Plutos, many of these candidates have been bumped off the ballot, emptying the solar system of primary elections and excluding the public from the decision of who their next representative will be.

To be considered a planet, an object must be massive enough to stay in a round shape and be in a steady orbit of a star. Candidates running for the New York state legislature have similar requirements. Instead of planetary mass, an individual must demonstrate the weight of his or her candidacy through petition signatures. Instead of following a specific orbit, an aspiring candidate must reside within the district of the office sought. While an international conference of astronomers did Pluto in, candidate claims have been made by individuals filing challenges with the board of elections, sometime escalating to the courts.

Candidates must collect 1,000 signatures to run for state senate and 500 to run for state assembly. To ensure enough valid signatures, candidates typically submit twice the required amount. Challenges are frequent, and can be lobbied by any individual. Two of the candidates running in open seats who were recently challenged on their petitions, Juan Pagan (Assembly District 74) and Terrence Park (Assembly District 22), took the battles to court. In Pagans case, the court called the petition forms and rules inherently oblique and confusing. Unlike Pluto, both candidates have since been reinstated on the ballot, but only after burning up time and money to defend their candidacies.

A candidate for state legislature must also reside in the state for five years and in the district he or she is running in for at least one year prior to the election, with some flexibility in a redistricting year. Just as astronomers questioned Plutos orbit ducking into Neptunes path, some candidates have had their residencies questioned. Grace Meng (Assembly District 22) had to withdraw from the election because of this requirement, and Ken Diamondstone (Senate District 25) successfully defended his residency claim against election lawyer and incumbent senator Martin Connor. Diamondstone fought through the challenge, as well as the subsequent court case and appeal, to stay on the ballot.

In 2004, this residency requirement prevented popular insurgent candidate Hakeem Jeffries from challenging incumbent Roger Green after Greens resignation because Jeffriess home had been cut out of the district. This districting maneuver could be the equivalent of Neptune shifting its own path to sabotage Plutos trajectory, though Neptune was never forced to resign from the solar system because of misdemeanor charges.

Though demoted, Pluto remains in the solar system with popular support, but Sharpe, Meng, and other bumped candidates may as well be in another galaxy. In the end, New Yorkers have one less planet and many fewer primary elections to watch.

By on August 27, 2006, 11:44 pm
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NYS Campaign Finance Laws and Practices Exposed
July 25th, 2006

On July 20th, the Brennan Center released Paper Thin: The Flimsy Faade of Campaign Finance Laws in New York, a report on the apparent toothlessness of campaign finance laws in New York and abundance of loopholes. The report highlights several flaws in state campaign finance law and makes recommendations to reform public financing, contribution limits, disclosure and enforcement.

As the report mentions, reforms are especially needed when the Campaign Disclosure Project gave New York a C- in accessibility of campaign finance disclosure information and an F in the usability of that content.

Though the state is failing, the municipal and federal campaign finance laws can offer guidance.The city has a model campaign financing system, matching up to $250 of an individuals contribution 4 to 1 for participating candidates, with additional funds for candidates facing wealthy, self-financed opponents.

Over the course of primary and general elections, an individual donor in New York can give more money to a candidate running in the state legislature ($13,900) than one running for federal office ($4,200 ). These lax limits in the statemagnify the power of individual dollars, along with special interests and other contributors.

Campaign finance reform is a perennial issue for Albany and good government advocates.WiththeLegislature andGovernor loathe to agree on specifics, both get to claim reform while actually passing little. Perhaps this report and continued conversations will finally force consensus and genuine action.

By on July 25, 2006, 7:00 am
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Could New York State Shutdown Too?
July 10th, 2006

New Yorkers love to dump on New Jersey, but this week, Albany officials should thank the Garden State for making New Yorks state government look good, despite its infamous dysfunction. The Garden States fiscal peril and government shutdown make Albanys late budgets and inaction seem less appalling, but could New York get stuck in such a position too? A fight over taxes triggered New Jerseys shutdown, and some warn that a duel in New York could incite similar tensions. New Jersey Governor Corzine ended the shutdown after he and the Legislature were able to agree on sale and property taxes, as well as other budget cuts, though Corzine will only sign off on the rest of the $30.9 billion budget after reviewing it. In New York, these negotiations are taken care of privately, thus preventing shutdown, but perhaps the threat of an actual shutdown from a Legislature and Governor that do not always agree would open up the process…almost violently.

Rather than suffering the inconvenience and shame of a shutdown, New York State always seems to eke out a budget and pass enough stop gap measures to keep services running. New York City came closest to a shutdown during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Accused by the federal government of handling its money like a heroin addict, the city pulled itself together through loans and oversight from the Financial Control Board, which continues to serve as a friendly probation officer even decades later. With the city generating so much of the states revenue, the state government took a hit as well, but did not have to shutdown.

Over the years, the Legislature and Governor have employed a variety of tools to solve budget tensions, such as leaving budgets unbalanced, borrowing money, parking debt outside the usual budget process in public authorities, and more. Reformers have advocated for measures to make state officials more responsible in budgeting, and with the 2006 election approaching, the Legislature, Governor and Comptroller are having a more public discussion about some of these policies. At the end of the session, the Legislature introduced a package of budget reforms intended to make budget negotiations more transparent and punctual. The Citizens Budget Commission analyzes and comments on the various proposals. Just a couple of days after the Legislature seemed to be taking specific steps to improve the budget process, the Albany Times Union sued the Legislature over its refusal to disclose the details of member item moneys and requests from the $200 million of assorted allocations Budget Cleanup bill, which made its way through the committees, floor and vote in just one day. The release of such information would expose the full details of which districts and local projects received which money at whose suggestion. The Legislature may be slow on reform, but demonstrated that it can be efficient when it wants to take care of its own, passing the multimillion dollar bill in one day. Twenty out of twenty one budgets have been late, but all eventually passed.
If the Legislature and Governor stall even longer, what is usually a late budget may turn into a budget. This selective expediting of bills and coordination between Legislature and Governor have staved off budget collapse in the past, but perhaps next Independence Day, New Yorkers might have to sweat out a shutdown, forcing legislators to skip BBQs and fireworks displays to hash out the budget.

By on July 10, 2006, 7:00 am
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Notable Lobbying County by County
June 12th, 2006

Teachers often seek illustrative examples that are comprehensive enough to tie all the school year’s lessons together into one final lecture or exam question. In time for finals this legislative session, Mike Spano, HAVA and circumstance have provided us with just such an elegant story.

After a failed bid for mayor and growing family responsibilties, Mike Spano (R-Yonkers) retired from the state assembly in 2004 after six terms in office. The following year, he joined the Patricia Lynch and Associates lobbying firm and doubled his salary. As a former elected official, Spano is not allowed to lobby the state legislature for two full years, but he has been able to use his clout at another, perhaps more lucrative, level.
Around the same time as Spano was settling into his desk at Lynch and Associates, legislators were slowly implementing legislation in accordance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). On the issue of picking the new voting machines, Albany kicked the state decision down to each of the 62 counties in New York.

This manuever allowed Mike Spano, a well-connected former legislator and son offormer Westchester County Clerk Leonard Spano with a brother (Nick Spano) in the state senate for decades, to lobby the counties on behalf of voting machine manufacturer SequoiaVoting Systems, Inc.

Though well positioned to continue in this task, Spano will be campaigning this fall for a return to his old assembly seat, which is currently being vacated by Lou Mosiello, who is seeking a government job. As Phil Reisman of the Journal News writes, Moseillo was tapped in by Nick Spano to fill the gap, and is now being tapped out of the game so Mike Spano can return.

That concludes today’s lesson. For extra credit, see if you can guess what would happen to Mosiello’s pension after three years of service in a new non-assembly position.

By on June 12, 2006, 7:10 am
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Budget Finale: He shoots…he scores?
May 18th, 2006

From March Madness to May Mayhem the final budget was released last Friday in a full report.

Legislative Gazette 5/1/2006. Hotdogs, Hamburgers and Hoops–Gov. Pataki shooting aroundwith the University at Albany bball team after a lunch honoring the team’s success.

Time to update yourfantasy budget negotiationsleague stats.

Resulting Budgets:

2006-07: balanced

2007-08: projectedgap of $3.7 billion

2008-09: projected gap of $4.3 billion

Team Numbers:

Governor vetoes: 207 items and the entire “revenue” bill

Legislature overrides: 165 items, including many education funding and member appropriations.

Constitutionality questions raised during the season: numerous

Player Stats:

Number of Governors potentially running for president: 1

Number of legislative seats up for election this fall: 212

By on May 18, 2006, 7:12 am
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Somos El Futuro and Hispanic Representation in Albany
May 1st, 2006

This past weekend, the 19th annual Somos El Futuro conference took place in Albany, bringing nearly 9,000 political, community, business and labor leaders together for three days. The three-day event Celebrating Arts included panels on topics such as immigration reform, education, and voting, as well as karaoke events. Gubernatorial candidates Eliot Spitzer and Thomas Suozzi were in attendance while sitting Governor George Pataki was in New Hampshire thinking of his own futuro.

Somos El Futuro is the nonprofit extension of the New York State Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. The 51-member taskforce is made up of Assembly representatives whose districts have 20% or more Hispanic constituents in their districts. The NYS Senate has a similar body as well.

Despite demographic shifts, minority representation at the statewide level is lacking and entry into the middle class is lagging. The New York City Hispanic population is growing at nearly three times the rate of the city’s overall growth and make up an ever-increasing constituency in the state. Though the Hispanic candidate for New York City mayor, Freddy Ferrar, lost, Miguel Bloomberg, as his campaign literature called him, was able to win support from many Hispanic voters.

In 1966, the now titled Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus formed as a political alliance that has consistently given all minorities, middle-class, the poor, and working people a real voice in state government. According to the websites roster, the caucus currently has 43 Senate and Assembly members, as well as a vacant vice chair position.

Recently, this body weighed in on everybodys favorite budget negotiations with a report especially critical of reductions in aid for education and services for the elderly and working families, as well as zealous tax cuts.

By on May 1, 2006, 7:00 am
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March Madness…Wonk Style
March 27th, 2006

Theresprideon the line, murmurs around the water cooler and intense competition.
Instead of office pools, your tax dollars and government services are at stake.
Instead of stats and brackets, youre focused on appropriations and negotiations.
Instead of ESPN news, youre reading Albany Matters.
Instead of the final four, youre enraptured by tax cuts, school aid, Medicaid funding and municipal projects.

If any of the above apply, you might have a case of March Madnesswonk style.

While the NCAA basketball championship will be settled by next Monday, the New York State budget could drag on for weeks past its March 31 deadline.

A basketball play can take as little as a couple of seconds, but proposed budget bills must be printed and aged (ideally, even read by members) before legislature can vote. In Albany, the shot clock has to last several days, clearly thwarting the states chance to boost revenues by selling tickets and television spots to the big drawn-out event.

Will Albany pass an on time budget for the second time in a row, or will this years budget talks go into overtime? It all depends on the Albany final fourBruno, Silver, Pataki and the Courtsas the remaining contentious items are settled.

Despite his health problems last month, Pataki (and his surrogates) spent little time on the bench during the negotiations. He recently returned to the state capitol to continue these remaining days of deliberations in person.

Currently, the proposed Senate and Assembly budgets are larger than the Governors, with discrepancies, such as competing plans to deal with Medicaid fraud and what sort of tax cuts to offer, including per child education credits, as well asreductions in sales, property and other taxes. Two other important stats that don’t seem to reconcile are the $48 billion in state debt (up from when Pataki took office and significantly higher if you include public authority debt loads) and this Novermber 7th…Election Day. Local aid is always a favorite topic for representatives, especially inan election year, and this time around the Legislature agreed upon a $648.6 million package to various municipalities.

The hottest match up this budget season may be the education issue. Just last week, the courts affirmed the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement decision, asserting that the state owes city schools somewhere between $4.7 and $5.63 billion due April 1, with an additional $9.2 billion to fix up school infrastructure.

Though the court issued a ruling, it does not have the standing to be an effective referee.As such, the Governor and Legislature can hustle the court on the specifics. Whether or not authorities will be able to enforce this budget foul is unclear, but lawyers will likely be coming off the bench again.

With the players all on the court in the final minutes (in reality days or weeks) of budget talks, the words are getting spicy. At a recent briefing, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said of the Patakis budget office, I think they ought to go back to kindergarten and learn how to count, and following up with the retort, I have a budget director who knows how to count. Pataki played the wrong and inappropriate comments off, also suggesting that Bruno was under pressure.

Perhaps Assembly minority leader and former NCAA basketball star Jim Tedisco (R-Schenectady) can push for changes. Journalists have suggested hell press the Legislature and now is the time, but being in the minority on the Assembly, he is effectively playing from the bench, perhaps serving as a cheerleader.

Officials may benefit in other ways from running down the clock as well. Slow budget negotiations give politicians leeway when handling crises. Just three weeks ago, Assemblymen Paul Tonko and Jim Tedisco assured constituents that a potential budget shortfall in the Mohonasen School District would not be a problem, stressing the budget is nowhere near finalized.Procrastination and stall tactics can have a comforting effect too, but now with regulation time ticking down, someone must act or at least explain the delays.

SUNY Albany lost to UCLA in the NCAA tournament this month, but perhaps the Governor and Legislature can turn things around for the capitol city in time for the big dance. Either way, be sure to pop plenty of popcorn for your budget watching party and remember to cheer loudly for your favorite appropriation.

By on March 27, 2006, 1:00 pm
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Speculating on the Surplus
March 6th, 2006

The theme for the Oscars this year was classic Hollywood glamour. With a decreasing tax base in New York State, Albany might also choose to peddle in nostalgia during this seasons budget negotiations, or at least a little denial.

The governor and the legislature have been tussling over the numbers, but the state’s tax revenue is decreasing as opportunities and residents leave, according to reports from the Comptroller and the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials.

Whether from a backroom or a hospital bed, budget negotiations are proceeding, with recent interpretations and discussions of the budget surpluswhich could amount to over $4 billion, thanks especially to gains on Wall Street.

Even though the surplus exceeds expectations, many advocate for frugality. A recent Newsday editorial emphasizes the need to invest in a rainy day fund, ween off of debt financing and begin to pay off the Campaign forFiscal Equity settlement.

Instead, SenateLeader Bruno described the amount of money owed for education as “lunacy” and announced planslast week to offer $8.4 billion in tax cuts. According to Pataki’s budget director John Cape, New York State relies on income tax receipts more than any other state,with as much as 30 percent of that revenue coming from less thanone pecentof residents.Growth in spending could outpace increased revenue (20 percentto 7.3 percent) this year.These sweeteners may or may not help reelect enough Republicans to maintain their dwindling majority in the Senate.

By on March 6, 2006, 2:20 pm
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The Budget Process and Other Blockages
February 27th, 2006

As Governor George Pataki recuperated in the hospital after the removal of his appendix this past Presidents Day, he might have been dreaming about his own presidential aspirations. But others were focusing on lower and more immediate concerns.

A month after the governor presented his twelfth and final executive budget, promising “Fiscal Integrity, Economic Freedom, a Secure Future for New Yorkers” — and the day before the governor’s appendectomy — New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi released a report criticizing the executive budget, for, among other things, “temporarily plugging” structural gaps. The comptroller and fellow critics are wary of the plan’s increases in spending and decreases in taxes. The governor’s potential shortsighted use of the estimated two billion dollar surplus and an over-reliance on debt, his critics say, undermine Pataki’s proposed integrity, freedom and security.

Perhaps the comptroller’s 237 page document irritated the governor’s appendix, an organ that would soon share the spotlight with his intestine, which was being blocked — an event on which columnists and reporters lavished especially dutiful (one might say gleeful) attention. Indeed, judging by a Google News search, Pataki’s problems with his organs had well over ten times the news coverage of the state budget.

Just months after the defeat of ballot proposal 1, which would have altered the budget process and shifted much budgetary authority from the governor to the legislature, a reform buzz continues, but Albany has yet to produce. Jo Brill of the Citizens Budget Commission points out that the comptroller’s report highlights that Pataki has “proposed numerous budget changes in the guise of [innocuous-looking] budget language.” Though the courts in Pataki v. Assembly and Silver v. Pataki might allow for some such language from the executive, the comptroller urged the governor to take caution with these new standards. Whatever the proposals, this push and pull between the executive and legislature will likely delay another budget this spring.

The calls for reform continue but are blocked by organ and Albany dysfunction. Here’s to a speedy recovery for both Pataki and the budget process.

By on February 27, 2006, 6:01 am
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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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