Heastie: ‘Everything Is Interconnected’ In Budget

There is not an agreement yet on a final state budget, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said on Tuesday, even after Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested deals had been reached on raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 or allowing ride hailing apps to operate outside of New York City.

“I would say progress has been made on a lot of issues, but when all these things are interconnected for an issue that’s largely important to either us, the Senate or the governor that has not been dealt with, there’s no deal,” he said. “We haven’t really agreed to anything.”

Heastie met with Cuomo and legislative staff for about an hour on Tuesday afternoon. Heastie said the raise the age issue — a key policy concern for him — was not the main topic of discussion.

“I wasn’t speaking to the governor about specific bills. I was expressing to the conference where we are on certain things,” he said. “But there are no final deals on anything.”

At the same time, Heastie said Cuomo was “entitled to that opinion” when it came the the governor’s concern the budget could potentially be an “extender” measure given the uncertainty at the federal level. Walking back to the Assembly chamber, Heastie would not say if he believed Cuomo was using the federal government as a scapegoat or bluff in the budget.

“If we get a budget and things are that bad, we’ll always be ready and willing to come back,” Heastie said.

Cuomo: State Can’t Handle ‘Dramatic Increases’ In Spending

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Tuesday in Albany the state cannot handle “dramatic” increases in spending in its budget given the uncertainty on the federal level and potential budget cuts.

At the same time, Cuomo insisted key issues in the spending plan have been largely agreed to, including allowing ride-hailing apps to operate outside of New York City and raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York.

However, the claim should be taken with a grain of salt: Cuomo also said negotiations continued at the Capitol over the budget.

The sticking point stems from, in part, spending over Medicaid and education, typically the two largest portions of the state budget.

Nevertheless, Cuomo insisted the state could handle “modest” increases in spending, such as his $160 million proposal to provide free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools for families who earn less than $125,000 a year.

“That is certainly a manageable outlay,” Cuomo said of the plan.

“My position is we can handle modest adjustments in the budget,” he added. “We can handle modest increases. We have built in a certain amount of flexibility. We cannot handle dramatic increases.”

Cuomo is raising the potential, too, of an “extender” budget that largely keeps spending in place, though with some additional spending for education.

The federal budget, typically approved at the end of the calendar year, could force the state to open up its own spending plans again, Cuomo said.

“The Legislature loves to increase education,” Cuomo said. “The alternative would be to increase education now and then come back and reduce education. I don’t want to do that.”

Still, progress is being made, Cuomo reiterated.

Budget bills are being printed, possibly as soon as tonight, and the Senate was due to take up a debt service bill today.

“We will have bills tonight because we have agreement on the policy issues,” he said. “The big issue is anticipating the revenue or the revenue shortfall by possible revenue actions.”

The budget is expected to pass by March 31, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Cuomo, however, raised the possibility of extender bills that fund state government for a short-term period in order to react to federal changes as they come.

But Cuomo also called a barebones style budget also an option.

“That is a possibility, but if we can get a financially reasonable budget that could handle cuts from the federal government, that would be my first option,” he said.

Kaminsky: Don’t Delay Diesel Emissions Reduction

Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky, along with 16 other lawmakers, called on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a letter this week to rescind the proposed delay of the Diesel Emmissions Reduction Act of 2006.

The provision was included in the Senate’s one-house budget plan, but not in the Democratic-led Assembly proposal.

“The rationale is twofold,” Kaminsky wrote in the letter.

“First, neither Governor Cuomo nor the Assembly saw fit to include the delay DERA in their budget proposals. Second, a financial plan has been provided through roughly $117 million coming to New York from the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund. These funds are designed specifically to support programs that clean up air quality due to dirty diesel.”

At the same time, funding the effort to reduce emissions will mean more money for “New York’s most vulnerable population — children — will have cleaner air to breathe” he wrote in the letter.

Budget.dera (1) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Uber Releases New TV Ad In Final Ride-Hailing Push

The ride hailing company Uber on Tuesday released a new TV ad in a final push to have an expansion measure included in the state budget.

The ad will air in upstate TV markets on broadcast and cable from Tuesday through the end of the week, when the budget is expected to pass.

“Time and again, legislators have left the Capitol without delivering on ridesharing for Upstate New York,” said Josh Mohrer, General Manager, Uber NY. “Poll after poll after poll has shown that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers are demanding better transportation options in their communities and it’s time for Albany to ignore NYC special interests and pass a statewide framework for ridesharing immediately.”

In the ad, Uber urges for the passage of the provision in the budget, given New York is one of two states that do not have ride hailing services statewide.

“Tell Albany to get moving,” the ad’s narrator says. “Let’s get ridesharing across the finish line.”

Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are considering a plan in the budget, but differ on local control issues as well as how to tax hails.

Broad-Based Reform On Albany Back Burner

From the Morning Memo:

For anyone who has followed state government in recent years, or decades, the news may come as no surprise.

As the state budget season enters its final week, broad-based ethics and government reform legislation appear to be falling out of the talks, days after yet another lawmaker was charged with public corruption.

Lawmakers have defended their past work, noting recent legislation has made for new disclosure requirements for outside income.

“We’ve made very substantial ethics changes in the state of New York,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday. “We have more transparency and disclosure and more requirements for legislators than any state in the country.”

Good-government groups see it differently, saying that after a parade of corruption scandals in recent years, including the top leadership in the Assembly and Senate removed due to their arrests and convictions, it’s time to do more.

“I mean, what does it take? What does it take for Albany to act?” asked NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner.

Cuomo in January proposed a package of reforms that include term limits and banning private-sector income for the legislature, and included the measures in his budget proposal. But government reform advocates worry lawmakers and Cuomo may tinker around the edges once again.

“It seems like the problem they’re running into is they want to do something that seems like a lot, but is something that doesn’t actually do a lot,” Horner said.

As far as what has been discussed, lawmakers have sought to require members of the governor’s regional economic development councils to disclose information on their outside income — a proposal Cuomo has rejected as a backdoor way of having the Legislature assume control over the panels.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has also sought more oversight of contracting in the state through a new chief procurement officer, appointed by him — a proposal that reformers and state attorney general needs more independence. The proposal was unveiled after the arrest of a former close aide to the governor, Joe Percoco, in a sweeping bribery and bid-rigging case.

And then there’s the budget itself, a $152 billion spending plan largely drawn up in secret and behind closed doors, negotiated by the governor and legislative leaders — frustrating rank and file lawmakers.

“It’s business as usual, it seems like, around here,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a Republican. “The results speak for themselves. We legislate in darkness, we get the bills at the last minute and then you get this steady stream of ‘well, this has been out there for weeks.’ ”

For his part, Cuomo last week indicated he was eager to focus on fiscal issues, saying measures aimed at making easier to vote in New York may wait until after the budget is done.

“If there’s a policy matter that is related to the finances, I try to include it, because the budget is a good vehicle to reconcile as much as you can,” the governor said. “Many of the policy matters you mention, we’re going to take up after the budget.”

The legislative session runs through June, but Cuomo typically has maximum leverage in the budget process.

Today: In Search Of A Deal

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an interview on NY1 on Monday declared “everyone postures” during budget week.

It remains to be seen if the governor himself was posturing a bit in the interview, in which he declared a straight “extender” budget is necessary because of uncertainty on the federal level.

This could mean no serious boost in education aid and a straight extension of expiring tax rates on millionaires — an ox gored for Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans alike.

It could also mean Cuomo is trying yet another form of hardball in the talks, suggesting the negotiations are blowing up, even as plenty of time remains on the clock for a deal and voting to take place before the end of the fiscal year.

Cuomo is indeed budgeting for the first time with Republican control of all three branches of the federal government in Washington. And he has singled out President Donald Trump’s budget as another x-factor in what could happen to New York.

But the governor, a former cabinet official himself, knows full well it is a Republican congress that controls the federal government purse strings. Cuomo has lived with the uncertainty of the federal government before, including a government shutdown.

The federal budget itself is not unusually in place until October, building in more time for Albany to act.

And, as he has frequently noted, there’s the uncertainty of external events like the weather, which sometimes require money be moved around.

What has been at issue for lawmakers and Cuomo is the governor’s push to have unilateral changes over the spending plan after it is approved — a non-starter for the Senate and Assembly, but the only nod the $152 billion budget proposal gave to the upheaval in Washington.

Buffalo Leaders Divided Over Future Train Station Site

From the Morning Memo:

It’s not a secret the city of Buffalo has undergone a massive overhaul over the past five years or so. Along the waterfront, the Buffalo-Niagara medical campus, and downtown, elected leaders are happy to point out the cranes in the sky.

Many of the construction projects have been a result of cooperation at the local, state and federal levels of government, but there are some indications that not everybody’s on the same page for one of the city’s next big endeavors.

In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to town and pledged $1 million for a formal study investigating the best location to build a new Amtrak station. He did not suggest a particular site, but said the money would disappear unless the study was finished in six months.

At the time, Rep. Brian Higgins said he was pleased the state was helping to fast track the project. With the findings due at the end of April, it appears decision makers have whittled things down to two sites – the city’s former railroad hub the Central Terminal or Canalside near the downtown waterfront.

Higgins is in favor of the former.

“Let’s make the investment as a demonstration of confidence and commitment that Buffalo’s renaissance means nothing unless it includes the forgotten neighborhoods of Buffalo,” he said.

But, the congressman believes the data is skewed in favor of the downtown location. Outside consultants hired by the site selection committee said the cost for a Canalside station would be between $34 million and $86 million, while the Central Terminal costs could rise as high as $149 million.

Higgins believes federal historic tax credits which could be available for the old station are not accounted for, and he said at least $70 to $100 million could be generated between private investment and state and matching federal funds. He also noted there could be cost savings elsewhere if the Central Terminal is chosen.

“Why hasn’t that been considered?” he asked. “Why hasn’t the cost associated both in terms of operations and capital costs, relative to the Depew station, which would not be necessary if you did the Central Terminal, why was that not considered?”

A spokesperson for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the chair of the site selection committee, (and also, incidentally, Cuomo’s hand-picked head of the state Democratic Party and a longtime ally of the governor), said potentially closing the Amtrak station in Depew is something that’s on the radar but it’s not within the scope of the current study.

He said final recommendations will be made based on the financials, data, and community input.

Here and Now

Good morning.

Technically speaking, legislative leaders and the governor should reach a budget deal today in order to have bills printed and sufficiently “aged” to be passed by the April 1 constitutional deadline.

However, thanks to messages necessity, which allow the circumventing of that three-day aging period, getting an agreement today isn’t strictly necessary in order for the powers that be to claim an on-time – or at least timely – budget.

Things haven’t been going terribly well down at the state Capitol in terms of budget talks, with so-called “raise the age” emerging as a major sticking point.

There’s no talk of a late budget, or perhaps a bare bones budget – passed in anticipation of big cuts headed New York’s way rom Washington. A lot remains up in the air, making a deal seem rather far away. But the day is (very) young, and this is Albany, where time is somewhat fungible. Hope springs eternal. We’ll keep you posted.

Officially speaking, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public events scheduled.

Meanwhile, down in D.C., President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to participate in a listening session with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Pence then will attend the Senate Republican Policy Luncheon, before reconvening with Trump in the evening for a reception with senators and their spouses in the East Room of the White House.

A full calendar of the day’s events in Albany appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

President Donald Trump went on a tweetstorm last night, railing against a bipartisan committee investigating potential ties between his associates and Russia.

Trump wrote: “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech”…money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!”

As support for Trump declined around the country last week, it did so in his home state of New York, too. He has not had this low a favorable number since October 2016, before he won the election, and this is the third month in a row that his favorability has dropped, according to a Siena College poll.

Moving forward with a campaign pledge to unravel former President Obama’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, Trump today is set to sign an executive order that will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

Business groups were hoping a quick repeal of the Affordable Care Act would give employers more flexibility on health care and create momentum for priorities like a tax overhaul, but last Friday’s decision to abandon a vote on the Republican health plan left them less certain on both fronts.

Trump headed to one of his golf courses again Sunday, marking his 13th visit to one since taking office and the eighth consecutive weekend he has spent at properties bearing his name.

Roger Stone says he’s apologized to Paul Manafort for getting him involved in all the inquiries about possible Russian connections to Trump’s 2016 campaign, but hasn’t apologized for anything he’s done himself because he doesn’t believe there’s anything to be sorry for.

Nearly two dozen people from five states are accusing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his communications with the Russian government and subsequently trying to cover up that lie, according to a complaint sent to the Department of Justice.

U.S. Senate Democrats forced a one-week delay in a committee vote on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who remains on track for confirmation with solid Republican backing.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly caused a scene at a Manhattan restaurant when he began yelling at a wealthy and well-connected Trump supporter that the POTUS is “a liar.” (A Schumer spokesman denied any “heated exchanges” took place).

Trump and GOP leaders enter their next big battle facing stubborn opposition in both parties that increases Republicans’ worries that they will need more Democratic support than previously expected to avert a government shutdown by the end of April.

A Government Accountability Office has agreed to review how classified information is kept secure at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the agency said, after Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about the issue last month.

With worries about Trump and Republicans in Congress, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested he may sign off on a extension of the current state budget rather than a draft a new one for the fiscal year that starts on Saturday.

“This budget is particularly problematic,” Cuomo said. “I’m unwilling to do a budget then find out a month down the road, two months down the road, the federal government made a new legislative change that costs us $2 billion.”

Cuomo’s comments, made during a call-in interview with NY1, were a shot across the bow of state lawmakers, who he warned may want to spend recklessly amid potential reductions in assistance.

As Cuomo and lawmakers seek to wrap up budget negotiations this week, a state appeals court threw a $69 million wrench into the talks, lifting a stay that allowed the state to hold off from releasing millions of dollars that were earmarked for failing schools but has been tied up in litigation.

More >

Cuomo Says Federal Government Has Scrambled Budget

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February unveiled a budget that included a menu of policy measures, an extension of an expiring tax rate on millionaires and a boost in school aid.

At the time, Cuomo did not include any contingency plans for action on the federal level, such as a repeal of the Affordable Care Act or cuts in spending that would impact the state, save for a desire to have expanded powers over the budget without the consent of the Legislature — a non-starter with lawmakers.

On Monday, days before a budget is supposed to be in place, Cuomo suggested the federal government and President Donald Trump’s administration has made for too much uncertainty at the state level.

“Ultraconservatives are targeting Washington,” he said in an interview on NY1 late Monday afternoon. “Make no mistake.”

Cuomo raised the possibility of an “extender” budget that would be in place, suggesting current spending levels — and tax levels — would stay the same as a result.

Still, Cuomo insisted he and state lawmakers are “very, very close” to an agreement on a thorny policy issue in the spending plan: Raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18.

And Cuomo said he still was seeking a budget approved before the start of the new fiscal year, which takes effect on April 1 — a streak he has more or less been able to keep to since taking office.

Cuomo has postured over the budget virtually every year he has been in office in the final days of the negotiations, emerging from closed-door meetings to suggest the talks remain up in the air or major issues are yet to be locked down, sometimes to the bewilderment of legislators who thought they were close.

The schtick can be seen as a way to bluff or under promise in public and over deliver on the final result, even as other, more politically sensitive issues, potentially fall off the negotiating table. Earlier on Monday, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan denied an “extender” budget was on the table.

“Everyone postures in budget week,” Cuomo said on Monday.

It’s not yet clear if Cuomo is indeed bluffing once again. Cuomo has had visibly tougher budget seasons, including changes to the state’s education policies that had been deeply opposed by Democratic lawmakers and the state’s teachers unions.

Cuomo said he is “not willing to pass a budget that spends more money than we have a reasonable expectation of collecting.”

“This budget,” he added, “has been particularly problematic.”

Schneiderman Blasts Trump Administration, Once Again

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday once again signaled his opposition to actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration on labor and immigration issues.

Schneiderman in a statement on Monday afternoon blasted the claim by the U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, that states and local governments do not have the authority to refused participation in immigration enforcement actions with the federal government.

“As my office’s legal guidance makes clear, President Trump lacks the constitutional authority to broadly cut off funding to states and cities just because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families,” Schneiderman said.

“Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and those they bravely serve; yet, again and again, President Trump’s draconian policies only serve to undercut that trust. My office will continue to ensure local governments have the tools they need to legally protect their immigrant communities – and we won’t stop fighting to beat back President Trump’s un-American immigration policies.”

Later in the day, Schneiderman knocked the Trump administration for scaling back a key labor regulation for wages.

“President Trump says he is fighting for American workers, and then signs a law that lets companies that repeatedly steal from their employees get federal contracts,” he said.

“Once again, Trump’s actions speak far louder than his words.
“As I’ve said, if the federal government falls down on the job, we won’t hesitate to act to protect workers. Over the past five years, my office has used state law to recover over $27 million in stolen wages for over 20,000 workers – and put those who steal their workers’ wages behind bars. That work will continue at full speed, no matter what President Trump does. New York’s workers deserve nothing less.”

Schneiderman has repeatedly blasted Trump and his policies, even since before he was sworn in, suing the businessman over the claims made by his Trump University for-profit school.