The Policy-Laden Budget

From the Morning Memo:

As has increasingly been practice, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152.3 billion budget includes a laundry list of non-budgetary policy issues that range from criminal justice and government ethics reforms to allowing ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft outside of New York City.

Cuomo’s budget proposal unveiled on Tuesday includes a good portion of what he had initially proposed in his overall 2017 agenda, underscoring the maximum leverage the governor has during the budget process as opposed to the back end of the legislative session.

Cuomo included a number of criminal justice issues in his budget plan, including decriminalizing marijuana and raising the age of incarceration. Cuomo also included the DREAM Act, a measure aimed at providing tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. All three are measures that have stalled over the years in the Republican-led state Senate.

The proposal to have county governments develop cost-savings plans designed to reduce property taxes and then have voters determine the plans’ fate in a referendum — the latest effort by Cuomo to have local governments share services or consolidate — is also in the budget.

Cuomo included all 10 items in his ethics agenda for the new year in which he has sought to revive proposals for a failed special session such as term limits for state elected officials and a ban on outside income as well as expanding the Freedom of Information Law.

And the governor’s budget includes the Buy American Act, a provision designed to require the state’s procurement seek domestic-produced goods.

Budget hawks have over the years grumbled at the inclusion of non-budgetary policy issues in a proposed state fiscal plan. Some of the measures that have been included in the budget do have modest budgetary impacts.

But Cuomo has also come under pressure from a variety of groups — good-government organizations, Democratic lawmakers — to include key issues in the budget as a sign of priority and seriousness for them in the overall agenda.

Advocates Say Education Spending Falls Short

From the Morning Memo:

The 2017-18 budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo increases education aid by $1 billion — a raise in spending that over the last seven years as seen an “historic” increase, according to lawmakers who had been briefed by the governor on the spending plan.

Cuomo himself in a public briefing stressed the state’s investment under his administration dwarfed the money spent by previous governors.

“The first year we had a real deficit so we actually cut education spending the first year,” Cuomo said, referring to the $10 billion budget gap when he took office.

“If you take out the first year, our average has been a 4 percent increase. So you can see that my budgets have always been exceedingly generous with education spending.”

The Alliance for Quality Education, however, was eager for more than twice the amount Cuomo proposed in the budget.

“This budget proposal will perpetuate systemic racism and economic injustice in school funding,” said Jasmine Gripper, the group’s legislative director. “By his own accounting, the funding increase is for ‘inflation,’ which means he is doing nothing about the $10,000 spending difference between rich and poor students.”

The group had sought more than $2 billion in education spending this year in order to satisfy the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling as Assembly Democrats have called for this year.

And to be sure, AQE in December had said the Board of Regents’ call for a $2.1 billion hike in education fell short too, saying that figure should be the cost of foundation aid alone.

Education spending overall is a perennially key battle in the state budget talks with lawmakers, who are typically able to increase the overall amount of school aid in the final product. And the total amount spent is not as important as where the money is spent throughout the state, setting the stage for battles over spending for suburban school districts, especially on Long Island, and in rural and upstate urban communities that have struggled to expand their tax bases over the years.

The Cuomo Budget Show Begins

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month appeared in six different venues across the state to unspool his 2017 agenda.

Now, it’s his cabinet’s turn.

As he has done in the past, Cuomo is deploying his agency and department heads to travel the state to promote his plans for Albany in the new year, usually in smaller settings to local business and government leaders.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, for instance, is touting the budget in Glens Falls later today, giving a truncated version of Cuomo’s State of the State and budget presentation.

The practice under Cuomo has been questioned over whether commissioners should be traveling the state to promote a broad agenda, and not running their state-level departments.

LDCs Near Dissolution In Monroe County

From the Morning Memo:

Monroe County is one step closer to getting rid of three controversial Local Development Corporations. Yesterday, a state Supreme Court justice signed an order directing the dissolution of Upstate Telecommunications Corp (UTC), Monroe Security and Safety Systems (M3S) and Monroe Newpower.

The action allows Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to return all operations to the county. Dissolving LDCs has been a priority of Dinolfo’s since she took office last year.

“The dissolution of these three LDCs will save the County $3.4 million this year alone,” the county executive said. “Now that Supreme Court has issued its Order it is time for all three LDC Boards to meet to take the last steps required to give control of their operations to Monroe County.”

“This important step in the process delivers on my promise to taxpayers that county government will run with transparency and efficiency.”

TUTC and M3S were the two LDCs at the center of a bid-rigging scandal in Monroe County that led to the conviction of four area businessmen. Monroe Newpower was not connected to the scandal but the county executive’s office said it found “massive savings” by dissolving it.

The judge’s order requires the dissolution within 90 days. The LDC board still needs to sign off and the county legislature will have to vote to accept the assets.

The county executive’s office noted these are the last steps in a long process toward dissolution that’s included several county legislature votes, approval from the state legislature, and the governor and attorney general signing off.  It’s been worth it according to Dinolfo, who estimated the refinancing of the LDC debt would save the county more than $12,000,000 in future interest payments.

Assuming everything goes to plan, only one Local Development Corporation will remain in Monroe County, the Civic Center LDC. It runs the Civic Center Parking Garage for the county.

A spokesperson for county executive said she is looking at potentially dissolving that last remaining LDC, too.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City, where he is scheduled to have his first face-to-face meeting since the November election with the president-elect at Trump Tower at a yet-to-be-announced hour.

After many departures from the norm this year, here’s one tradition the governor is keeping: Regional budget briefings delivered by members of his cabinet. Top officials will be fanning out around the state today to spread the gospel about the 2017-18 spending plan Cuomo unveiled last night.

At 9:30 a.m., there’s a court hearing in the NYC municipal ID lawsuit, Staten Island State Supreme Court; Courtroom 430; Judge Phillip Minardo; 26 Central Ave., Staten Island.

President Obama will deliver his final press conference at 2:15 p.m.

At 8 a.m., the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce hosts a post-election summit on the future of immigration reform featuring a keynote by Deputy Secretary of State for New York for Economic Opportunity Jorge Montalvo, New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, Manhattan.

At 8:15 a.m., New York Nonprofit Media hosts Nonprofit BoardCon, bringing together board members, executive directors and other senior leaders from nonprofits across New York to discuss methods and strategies to collaborate and work together, Pace University, 3 Spruce St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., homeless New Yorkers, community groups, and advocates demand that Cuomo and legislative leaders sign the affordable housing memorandum of understanding, outside Cuomo’s New York City office, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul highlights the governor’s budget proposals, Heritage Hall, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Glens Falls.

At 10:30 a.m., Secretary of State Rossana Rosado delivers a regional budget briefing, The Harvest Room, 90-40 160th St., Jamaica, Queens.

At 11 a.m., families from New York City’s charter schools call for 200,000 students in charter schools by 2020 on the #PathtoPossible Day of Action, The Well, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., the state Senate is in session, Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James releases recommendations to streamline the ACCESS NYC program used to access New York City, state, and federal benefits, David Dinkins Municipal Building, 15th floor, 1 Centre St., Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., Construction workers, NYC Councilman Carlos Menchaca and the Building Trades Council urge the City Council to remain vigilant in requiring stringent safety standards and rigorous training for all real estate projects in the city, outside 23 Park Row, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., OTDA Commissioner Samuel Roberts delivers a regional budget briefing, Town of Plattsburgh Offices, Board Room, 151 Banker Rd., Plattsburgh.

At 1:30 p.m., Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley delivers a regional budget briefing, SUNY New Paltz, Student Union, Room 62/63, 1 Hawk Dr., New Paltz.

Also at 1:30 p.m., the NYC Council holds a stated meeting, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., state Division of Veterans Affairs Director Eric Hesse delivers a regional budget briefing, Hornell City Hall, 82 Main St., Hornell.

At 3 p.m., state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball delivers a regional budget briefing, Morrisville State College, 120 Eaton St., Morrisville.

At 3:30 p.m., Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton delivers a regional budget briefing, Olean Business Incubator, 301 North Union St., Olean.

At 6 p.m., NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver and parks directors from Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Arlington hold a discussion on parks without borders and the value of a seamless public realm, the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, Fifth Avenue and 64th Street, Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Rep. Eliot Engel, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey and NYC Councilman Andy King host an MTA Open House, Evander Childs Educational Campus, 800 East Gun Hill Road, Bronx.

At 7:30 p.m., Labor Commissioner Robert Reardon delivers a regional budget briefing, Deer Park School District, Board Room, 116 Lake Ave., Deer Park.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152.3 billion executive budget proposal includes a $1 billion increase in state education aid and the beginning of an income tax cut for middle class New Yorkers, he announced last night as the deadline for submission of his fiscal plan loomed.

Cuomo is proposing a total $1 billion increase of school aid statewide to $25.6 billion. Full school aid runs can be found here.

The governor wants to extend the so-called millionaire’s tax, which is set to expire this year. Without the $4 billion he says it generates, the state won’t be able to close its $3.5 billion deficit, Cuomo maintains.

Cuomo also wants to extend mayoral control over New York City schools through 2020, allow movie theaters to sell beer and alcohol, and tax and regulate e-cigarettes and other vapor products.

In a significant departure from tradition, Cuomo not only did not deliver a public budget address, but – after much back-amd-forth – briefed members of the media at almost 8 p.m. at the executive mansion.

Lawmakers (those who did not boycott) were briefed in closed-door meetings, either at the executive mansion or at the state Capitol.

Cuomo’s plan to return the New York Racing Association to private control came about 30 minutes into yesterday’s state Senate hearing to consider NYRA’s future — a meeting in which horse-racing stakeholders and state lawmakers advocated for that very move.

The governor’s budget includes a three-year extension of the state’s film production tax credit. Launched in 2004 and extended by Cuomo in 2013, the $420 million-a-year program isn’t set to expire until 2019 but was expected to run out of money later this year without the additional funding.

Two of the most expensive budget question marks concern what are shaping up to be two of the governor’s signature proposals: Free tuition for qualifying New Yorkers at SUNY and CUNY, and a $10 billion overhaul of Kennedy International Airport.

Cuomo’s spending plan includes the possibility of a new way to experience the New York State Fair. A new round of funding, up to $70 million, would go to fair improvements including “a gondola to transport visitors and concertgoers between the Fairgrounds and Onondaga County’s Lakeview Amphitheater.”

Ken Girardin: Cuomo’s proposed budget “makes important changes to several secretive slush funds first brought to light by the Empire Center.”

Groups lauded Cuomo’s proposed expansions to New York’s emerging hemp industry, only a few years after federal regulators redefined the plant as different from marijuana.

The governor plans to discuss infrastructure, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and “issues of importance to New York” during his meeting with Trump today.

Backed by a large number of his conference and advocates, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie warned of “a slow and steady erosion” of reproductive rights hours before the Democrat-dominated chamber passed two measures designed to protect abortion availability and enhance access to contraception.

The GOP-controlled State Senate moved to block NYC from imposing a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper shopping bags. More here.

Government ethics experts and a senior New York Democrat question whether Rep. Chris Collins – by far the largest shareholder in an Australian-based biotech company called Innate Immunotherapeutics – and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s health secretary nominee, bought stock in the company last year based on inside information and made a lot of moneys a result.

The state Conservative Party has started a petition drive to rename the new Tappan Zee bridge after the three men murdered during the 1981 Brink’s truck robbery.

The mayoral election fight of 2017 may be slowly gearing up, with Mayor Bill de Blasio facing his stiffest challenge so far from Paul J. Massey Jr., a Republican real estate developer with deep pockets but little name recognition among New Yorkers.

De Blasio’s biggest campaign boosters over the past six months include Hollywood celebs promoting his progressive agenda and former top staffers who left him for the private sector.

More >

Cuomo Presents $152.3B Budget Plan

Typically it’s the governor of the state who delivers the news on his proposed budget.

This year, it was Republican freshman Senator Jim Tedisco, who broke the news to reporters that Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to keep high tax rates on the wealthy.

“What he said is most of it’s vanilla,” Tedisco told reporters outside of the executive mansion. “I don’t totally agree with him on that. One thing he says is there’s going to be consternation on is we’re not going to support taxes in the New York state Senate.”

Cuomo eventually did provide a public briefing on his $152.3 billion budget plan, albeit in the evening on Tuesday, insisting that keeping the surcharge in place was key.

“The shortest answer is the millionaires tax is the majority of closing the deficit,” Cuomo said. “If they don’t do the millionaires tax extension, you can’t do a billion dollars in education spending, you can’t do a middle class tax cut. You can’t do college affordability.”

Medicaid spending in the budget would increase by $567 million, or 3.2 percent. Education aid would increase by $1 billion, or 3.9 percent. Cuomo touted his administration’s push to increase school aid, but typically the fights in Albany is not over the lump sum, but how and where that money is distributed.

State spending overall increases by 1.9 percent.

Though Cuomo had initially claimed the budget includes only one new fee, the proposal in fact extends and creates new fees for in several areas, including permits that would serve alcohol in movie theaters and for oil and gas unit production values.

The budget proposes a long-sought re-privatization of the New York Racing Association as well.

When it comes to policy that have light fiscal implications for the budget itself, Cuomo’s spending includes the expansion ride-hailing services outside of New York City as well as a plan to reduce property taxes by placing the onus on county executives to develop a cost-savings plans on the local level.

It’s not entirely clear how that math will line up, however. Keeping the high rates on the rich will generated $700 million in the next fiscal year. At the same time, Cuomo says the action will help close a $3.5 billion deficit. Skepticism also abounds in the Legislature over the estimated cost of phased-out tuition costs for the state university system, which Cuomo claims will be $153 million.

The unconventional budget unveiling comes as Cuomo has largely eschewed public presentations at the Capitol. He delivered six State of the State addresses in different regions of the state. The budget roll out has angered some lawmakers.

“We’re going to keep secret what the details are and we’re going to feed that out piecemeal to different branches of the Legislature,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. “It’s beyond belief and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The state budget process itself has been criticized for being largely negotiated behind closed doors and even some lawmakers throughout the day were unsure of the specifics.

“The devil’s in the details,” said Majority Leader John Flanagan. “There’s going to be expensed-based aid, foundation-based aid, how does it get distributed and what does it mean for different regions of the state.”

One thing is clear: Cuomo’s continuation of a tax on the wealthy will set up a major fight with Senate Republicans.

“I believe in cutting taxes,” Flanagan said. “I want to create jobs in an environment of economic development policy. It’s very easy to say I want to tax the people, but I want to keep those people from moving.”

Cuomo plans to meet with President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday and wants to raise concerns with the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act on New York’s finances. For now, the budget does not contain what Cuomo called a “contingency plan” for the repeal of the federal law and the financial wallop New York might take as a result.


So, while we are waiting for an evening budget briefing from the governor’s office in one of the stranger budget rollouts I have seen in my two decades of covering Albany, here are some headlines for you to peruse…

Just days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York will meet with the president-elect tomorrow – the first face-to-face meeting between the two men since the election

Ken Lovett: “Already known for its secrecy, who would have thought the state budget process could get even worse?”

Hundreds of New Yorkers will spend about $6,000 per person to celebrate Trump’s inauguration in Washington this week, dropping big money to celebrate the state’s first resident elected to the White House in 72 years. (That includes hotel, but not travel costs).

Trump’s inauguration won’t actually be the first one civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis skips. AS the president-elect noted on Twitter, the Georgia congressman also boycotted George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001. (Lewis’ staff says it was 20 years ago, and he forgot).

The public spat between Trump and Lewis has had an unexpected side effect: skyrocketing sales of “March,” a graphic-novel of the congressman’s life as a civil rights activist.

A Washington-based hairstylist says the president-elect’s second wife, Marla Maples, tried to get out of paying her to style her tresses and those of her 23-year-old daughter, Tiffany Trump, for Inauguration Day.

Outgoing White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s final briefing for reporters was two hours long, and featured a surprise appearance by President Obama.

Vicki Been, one of the core architects of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, announced her intention to step down from her post, making her the third top city administrator do so since December.

Been will be replaced by Economic Development Corp. President Maria Torres-Springer, who also served as commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services under de Blasio, making this her third administration position in four years.

Rep. Tom Price last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company, raising new ethics concerns for Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Senate Democrats are pushing for Price’s confirmation hearing to be delayed amid renewed ethics concerns.

Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham confirmed she is thinking about challenging former Democratic VP nominee Tim Kaine for his Virginia U.S. Senate seat.

Charter school leader Eva Moskowitz threw her support behind Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary pick, arguing that the nation’s foundering public school system requires a systemic overhaul.

An internal report on the future of the New York Times recommends that the paper invest $5 million toward covering Trump and his administration.

Relatives of Ramarley Graham — the unarmed teen who was fatally shot by a cop after being chased into his mother’s Bronx apartment in 2012 — packed a courtroom for the officer’s administrative trial today.

Here’s the (growing) list of Democrats boycotting Friday’s inauguration so far.

A former university student charged pleaded guilty in St. Lawrence County Court to sending a note to a SUNY Potsdam professor in 2015 that threatened him and his family on the day is trial for a hate crime was originally scheduled.

Now that she has some time on her hands, Hillary Clinton has been power dining.

Plans to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant in four years could invigorate efforts to build what some have called an extension cord to transmit Canadian hydropower to New York City.

Former Nyack detective Arthur Keenan, who survived the 1981 Brinks murders and robbery, said he gave an hour-and-15-minute victim-impact statement to a New York parole board Friday with a simple purpose: Keep getaway driver Judith Clark in prison.

Potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says Cuomo’s proposal for counties to put shared-services plans before voters is an attempt to divert the public’s attention from state mandates being the root of local tax increases.

There’s a new male ocelot kitten at the Buffalo Zoo, and it needs a name. The choices are: Javiar, Nico, Pablo and Tacito.

The Coming Tax Fight

The inclusion of extending high tax rates on wealthy earners in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget proposal has the potential to set up an ideological fight over economics with Republicans in the state Senate.

“We do not agree with that,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “It will be a major source of discussion.”

It’s an unusual place for Cuomo to be as he has sought to make the state more business friendly and through his rhetoric has been adverse to increasing taxes.

But Cuomo and Senate Republicans have done this before, partially preserving tax rates on the rich at the end of 2011 while engineering a rate cut for middle income earners.

Senate lawmakers who left a private briefing with Cuomo this afternoon indicated they think this is a tax hike.

“We’re not going to support tax increases in the New York state Senate,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco. “We’ve got regulations, we’ve got mandates. It’s not a true millionaires tax. It impacts our small businesses which creates jobs.”

There are still places in which Republicans and Cuomo can agree, including cutting taxes on those who earn less than $300,000 as well as contending with property taxes.

“Those would be the two most important parts,” Flanagan said. “I hope the governor would find it in his way to support the spending cap at the state level. We should make it statutory.”

At the same time, Flanagan said keeping those tax rates in place would only lead to more people leaving the state.

“I believe in cutting taxes. I’m trying to create jobs in an environment of economic development policy that actually helps people,” he said. “I know it’s very easy to say tax people who are wealthy, a lot of those people can move tomorrow.”

Rep. Slaughter Joins House Democrats Boycotting Trump Inauguration

Veteran Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter will not attend Friday’s presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, joining more than 50 House Democrats who have already vowed to skip the ceremony.

The boycott comes after Georgia Rep. John Lewis last week said he did not see Trump as a legitimate president, pointing to alleged Russian interference in the election. More of his colleagues joined the movement after Trump fired back at the congressman on Twitter, saying he should spend more time fixing his “crime-infested district” than “falsely complaining” about the election results.

Lewis, a civil rights leader, was beaten by the Ku Klux Klan during a peaceful march in the sixties, and later in life received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. He and Slaughter both entered Congress in 1987 and she said she considers him “like a brother.”

“John Lewis did things for everybody that were so outstanding and gave up his life, almost, for it. (He) went to jail, I don’t know how many times, because of what he believed in and I’m going to stand with John tomorrow,” Slaughter said.

Lewis even helped campaign for the congresswoman in Rochester this past fall. Despite the close connection, Slaughter said she did not come to her decision lightly.

“I take my job very seriously. I’m so proud to be a member of Congress of the United States and the chances that I even get to go to an inauguration and sit there and watch the transition of power,” she said.

Slaughter said, as a ranking member of the House Rules Committee, she is still supposed to attend an inaugural luncheon and plans to do so. She said her boycott of Trump’s speech won’t affect her working relationship with the new president moving forward.

Flanagan Says He’s Focused On Budget, Not Potential Statewide Run

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan does not believe the talk of his potential run for governor in 2018 will undermine his efforts to negotiate the state budget.

“People are going to say whatever they want,” Flanagan told reporters staked outside of the executive mansion in Albany following a private briefing on the state budget. “Whatever the discussions are they will take place. All I care about right now is starting to work on the budget.”

Cuomo even jokingly referenced talk of Flanagan’s 2018 bid in the discussion, according to Sen. Jim Tedisco. Cuomo’s aides, too, have referenced Flanagan’s potential statewide campaign when sharply criticizing the Long Island Republican.

But Flanagan also noted he’s not the only one with aspirations.

“Look, (IDC Sen.) Tony Avella in there is running for mayor, the governor has talked about running for president — welcome to Albany,” Flanagan said.

Cuomo has called talking his running for president in 2020 “flattering” but said he’s focused on being governor. He has announced plans to run for a third term.