Here and Now – The Budget Battle Is Over Edition
Welcome to the first day of the 2015-16 state fiscal year!
The Senate passed the budget deal before the midnight deadline and were invited to the governor’s mansion for a post-budget party, where Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos predicted there would be “libations” consumed.
The Assembly did not make the midnight deadline, wrapping things up just before 3 a.m., thanks in part to a Republican conference on capital spending that was called off the floor at about 10 minutes to midnight.
“If they had these bills in print three days ago, all of us would be home by now,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, whose members reportedly rejected an in-person briefing on the ELFA bill by none other than Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself.
But that is apparently being viewed as a mere technicality, for no one is calling this budget late. Some Assembly Democrats even argued that since the bills authorizing spending for the continuing of state operations were passed before midnight, the deadline had actually been met.
At 12:15 a.m., a statement from Cuomo landed in my in-box announcing that both houses of the Legislature had “successfully passed the 2015-16 Budget spending plan to allow for the continued operation of government.”
“This is a Budget that every New Yorker can be proud of, and I look forward to continuing to work to move New York forward this legislative session and beyond.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s statement on his first-ever budget deal as leader of the Democratic conference arrived shortly thereafter (12:18 a.m.), even though debate in his chamber wasn’t yet complete. “Until we gavel out, it’s still Tuesday,” Heastie told Newsday (early on Wednesday morning).
The speaker again used the $1.6 billion figure when discussing the increase in education aid, even though the generally accepted number ifs $1.4 billion.
Heastie also touted $435 million to combat homelessness and the more than $14 million for additional child care subsidies and continuing support for child care programs at CUNY and SUNY in the budget, “so that parents can rest assured that their children are in safe and nurturing hands while they work to advance their education.”
“As I have said before, the priorities of New York’s families are the priorities of the People’s House,” Heastie concluded. “While we have delivered a fiscally responsible budget to the people of this state, we will also continue to fight for the reforms and investments that will strengthen our families and uplift all New Yorkers.”
Most of the Assembly Democrats, under pressure from NYSUT to vote “no” on the education portion of the budget, and called upon by the WFP and progressive groups to delay in order to renegotiate a better deal, ended up voting in favor of the measure after expressing their unhappiness about doing so. The Assembly passed the “ELFA” bill, 92-54, shortly before midnight.
The Daily News’ Glenn Blain reports that while NYSUT President Karen Magee urged lawmakers to reject the education reform measures, NYC lawmakers said they were told by representatives of Mike Mulgrew, president of the downstate teachers union UFT, that voting for the package would not be held against them.
Mulgrew said his union’s campaign against the governor’s education reform agenda – even the portions that made it into the final budget deal – will continue.
“Things got pushed out because of what we did, but in the end, because of the power that the governor has during the budget process in our state, we knew things were going to get through,” he told the New York Times.
In the end, lawmakers really didn’t want to reject $1.4 billion in additional state aid for public schools, even though they didn’t love many of the reforms the bill contained. Several rationalized their “yes” votes by saying the final product was far less onerous than what Cuomo had originally proposed.
Also, they didn’t want to be seen voting against the ethics reform plan that was inserted into the ELFA bill – even Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, now a rank-and-file member, voted “yes” on the proposal, which was pushed by the governor in the wake of Silver’s federal corruption case.
The ethics reform approved last night/early this morning is far from perfect, however, according to disappointed good government groups, who had hoped for much more. There are many loopholes and caveats in the new disclosure regulations, and advocates were unhappy that the bill language for the ethics deal did not appear in print until just a few hours before lawmakers started voting.
It has become something of a tradition for Cuomo to take a post-budget victory lap around the state – or, at the very least, hold a Red Room press conference touting his success at wrangling yet another on-time spending plan out of the Legislature.
Last year, he employed a baseball theme when he signed his fourth on-time budget into law, calling it a “grand slam” and handing out commemorative balls to legislative leaders, (Sen. Kemp Hannon accepted the token on behalf of Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who couldn’t make it).
We have no public schedule form Cuomo’s press office as of yet, so it’s unclear where he’ll be today.
So much of the policy Cuomo included in his executive budget proposal back in January fell off the negotiating table in recent weeks – from minimum wage and raise the age to property tax relief, the DREAM Act, EITC, raising the charter school cap and NYC mayoral control – that the post-budget session promises to be very busy, and also very contentious.
For the moment, however, lawmakers will take a break to observe the Passover and Easter holidays. They’re not due back at the Capitol until April 21.
Some (mostly) non-budget news did occur yesterday, for example…
Cuomo banned non-essential state-funded or state-sponsored travel to Indiana to express opposition to that state’s a religious freedom law, which critics say opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
FWIW, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, facing enormous criticism for signing the law, called on state lawmakers to pass legislation clarifying that it does not allow business owners to discriminate in providing services.
US Sen. Chuck Schumer doesn’t want Pence pulling him into the roiling debate over the state’s controversial religious freedom law by citing its basis in a 1993 law Schumer sponsored. “There’s no comparison at all,” the New York senator told reporters. “It’s a false comparison.”
Hidden behind the state budget kerfuffle, the state Department of Health quietly filed for adoption the regulations for the state’s fledging medical marijuana program.
Last year, an estimated 60,000 students refused to take state math and reading tests across the state. Organizers of an anti-testing movement hope to get 250,000 to opt out of the tests this month. The consequences of a large-scale opt-out movement are not yet clear.
The planned rollout this month of a standard vehicle for New York City’s yellow taxi fleet was halted by the state’s Court of Appeals. The court granted a stay in a continuing appeal over the vehicle.
Some construction funded by the record-breaking $3 billion Sandy FEMA grants won’t finish for 36 months – meaning NYCHA developments could go two hurricane seasons without the repairs, officials said.
The state budget includes language that effectively absolves Albany County of an $11.5 million debt to the state dating back three decades to the construction of the county civic center now known as the Times Union Center.
Law enforcement officials are investigating whether the explosion that destroyed three buildings and killed two men in the East Village last week resulted from an attempt to hide the unauthorized siphoning of natural gas for tenants in one of the buildings.
People in the business of selling high-end boats say New York State, as well as local industry workers and suppliers, would ultimately benefit from capping the sales tax on luxury vessels, which was accomplished in this year’s budget.
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has mixed feelings about the new state budget.
New York City will get a bit of a boost in anti-terror funding this year from the Homeland Security Department. The city and nearby counties will receive about $181 million in anti-terror grant funds for fiscal year 2015 – $2 million more than last year.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will travel to Iowa later this month at the invitation of former U.S. senator Tom Harkin to deliver remarks at Drake University. On the same trip, he will also speak in Nebraska.
Rebecca Kirszner Katz, a special advisor to the mayor who has become the primary protector of the de Blasio family’s public image, is departing City Hall. “It felt like the right time,” she said. Katz will be a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, which employs Mr. de Blasio’s former campaign manager and helps oversee a nonprofit group that promotes the mayor’s agenda.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton reportedly exploded with rage during a meeting Monday over police staffing with de Blasio’s top deputy — vowing to go around the mayor to get funding for 1,000 more cops before storming out of City Hall.
Nine New York doctors were among 23 people indicted in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in connection with a scheme in which homeless people were given free shoes to endorse hours of unnecessary tests and fake diagnoses to generate false Medicaid claims. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office said this scam made almost $7 million and took advantage of thousands of homeless people.
Manhattan Councilman Corey Johnson said he made a “stupid mistake” by walking between subway cars and is not pursuing a complaint against the NYPD over the incident.
The remnants of an 18th-century ship that were found in 2010 during construction work at the World Trade Center site will have a permanent berth at the NYS Museum in Albany.
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter reassured soldiers and civilians at Fort Drum that the post is here to stay.
New York’s trout and salmon fishing season opens today.
Events happening today…
At 9:15 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appears on “The Rundown” with Jose Diaz-Balart. MSNBC.
At 3 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will team up with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to jointly launch a “Talk To Your Baby” public awareness campaign and toolkit distribution, they will visit a classroom and participate in a roundtable discussion with parents, SCO/FirstStepNYC Early Education Center, 225 Newport St., Brooklyn.
At 6:15 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host the annual Greek Independence Day reception at Gracie Mansion, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on April 1, 2015 at 5:50 am, and is filed under Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|