From the Morning Memo:

One might argue that the joke’s on New Yorkers this year. 

Over the weekend, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a $175 billion budget deal – a fact announced via a very early morning press release from the governor’s office. Reporters awoke to find said release in their emails, which they were prodded to read by tweets from members of the governor’s press office.

Sleepy-eyed reporters read through the announcement, and dutifully wrote up the bare bones details, though when some headed to the state Capitol, it quickly became clear that a number of last-minute details had yet to be finalized.

They – and rank-and-file lawmakers – waited around until those details got hashed out behind closed doors. By the time Sunday rolled around, the deal was finally done, and with the ink not yet dry on the final product, lawmakers begin the arduous task of debating and passing the 2019-2020 budget.

On a Sunday. When almost no one, except various special interests, advocates, lobbyists and members of the media, was paying an iota of attention.

The three-day aging period usually necessary to make sure lawmakers have time to actually read what they’re voting on before they vote, was circumvented – as usual – by messages of necessity issued by the governor. 

And, thanks to the fact that they got it done more or less in a timely way, though not necessarily by the stroke of midnight, they all qualified for the next bump in their salaries, which for state lawmakers is $10,000. 

This is not to say that there isn’t some goods stuff in the budget.

Environmentalists are happy with the plastic bag ban, though they aren’t thrilled it also includes a paper bag tax from which counties can opt out if they want.

There’s more money for public schools, though, again, not as much as advocates – not to mention the Board of Regents – had sought.

There’s a congestion pricing system for Manhattan, with carve outs on certain bridges and for certain drivers and cash for upstate, too. This will be funded in part through a real estate transfer tax that’s taking the place of the proposed pied-a-terre tax, which the powerful real estate industry was quick to kill. 

There’s criminal justice reform, though not a full eradication of the cash bail system. (The state’s district attorneys are furious about this portion of the agreement, and have made no secret of that). 

There’s a commission tasked with setting up a statewide public campaign finance system, which again, isn’t what advocates wanted – nor what progressive lawmakers promised, particularly members of the New Democratic majority in the state Senate.

The 2 percent property tax cap is being made permanent. 

As for that new Senate majority…

Despite all lawmakers’ saber-rattling throughout the start of the session, and despite their willingness to pass legislation – much of which the governor included in his executive budget proposal – and despite their tough talk about drawing lines in the sand on various issues (like education aid, for example), the reality is that Cuomo got pretty much everything he wanted in this deal.  

The constitutional set up of an enormously powerful executive who can more or less single-handedly control the budget process wins again. 

So, while though there was a massive change at the state Capitol this year, with an entirely Democrat-controlled state government, leading some people to think the whole process of budgeting might change, the reality is that is was really the same, secretive process it ever was.

Except arguably more so, given the timing of the whole thing.

Good government reformers had hoped for more. Voters deserve more. Maybe next year, they’ll get it. But this year’s precedent-setting budget doesn’t bode well for that.