Apr 11th - 10:12 am
Jimmy Vielkind at the Times Union had a very good story today on the 200 or so line-item vetoes issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that highlighted the approval of funds to bury the remains of 15 slaves.
But here is what didn’t survive Cuomo’s budget scapel: Mostly redundant spending proposals, items that funding had already run out for and four new member items (aka legislative pork) that were improperly included in the fnial $142 billion budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Mar 29th - 10:56 am
From the morning memo:
“Compromise” for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is an art.
And the “art of compromise” is how Silver described the $375 million family rebate program yesterday when he revealed he was not completely thrilled with some of the program’s details, including the timing of the $350 check to a wide swath of families just before Election Day.
No matter, it’s in the budget, which passed just before the stroke of midnight on Thursday, marking the state’s third on-time budget in as many years. It’s also the earliest state spending plan to pass in 30 years. And it has been 30 years since three budgets in a row passed before the April 1 deadline.
Taken as a whole, all of the documents are compromise plans, forged between Republican and Democratic lawmakers and the adopted framework of a powerful and popular governor, Andrew Cuomo.
The first two budgets adopted during Cuomo’s tenure were largely the ones he wanted with some alterations thrown in by lawmakers who recognized a mandate when they saw one.
This time, Cuomo did not get everything he wanted and initially the spending plan seemed tailored to acknowledge that.
Almost immediately, a plan for siting casinos was dropped from the budget negotiations.
Eager to strike a deal in order to meet the aggressively early budget schedule this year, a stripped-down plan seemed likely.
But then Cuomo pushed forward with a minimum wage increase, an overhaul of marijuana laws and even alterations to the SAFE Act.
So in the end, lawmakers adopted a compromise budget that re-approved the millionaires tax, tossed in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits for families and businesses and raised the minimum wage.
That some lawmakers were upset with the final plan is not a surprise, nor is it unusual. Still, backbenchers in the Assembly on Thursday felt emboldened to speak out against the details.
A string of Democrats and Republicans blasted the proposal to cut $90 million in funding for service providers for the developmentally disabled. Democratic Assemblyman Tom Abinanti went as far as to call them “the Cuomo cuts” and accused the governor of not yielding on the reductions.
Latino lawmakers, too, were deeply unhappy with the exclusion of DREAM Act funding in the final spending plan and a “dilluted” minimum wage.
Cuomo began that year with a renewed emphasis on progressive and liberal causes, promises he’ll have to deliver on by 2014, when he runs for a second term.
Lawmakers are on break now until April 15, a two-week stretch that we should expect to see Cuomo take full advantage of heading into the post-budget session.
Mar 29th - 12:01 am
Lawmakers in the state Assembly approved a $143 billion spending plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year just before midnight on Thursday, marking the third on-time budget in as many years and one of the earliest budgets since 1983.
Voting in the Democratic-led Assembly concluded its work following a marathon day of voting that began at 11 a.m., with lawmakers considering nine out of 10 budget bills in a single day.
The spending plan that awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature includes a gradual increase to the state’s minimum wage to $9 by 2015, an early extension of the millionaires tax on high income earners and a $375 million family rebate program.
The coalition-led Senate finished votin on the budget early Wednesday morning.
It’s the third year in a row the state budget is being approved in advance of the April 1 deadline for the state of the fiscal year — an unusual streak for a state Legislature that had for years completed a string of late spending plans, sometimes into the summer.
“These three years in a row getting the budget passed on time and the integrity of the budget is better, I think it is irrefutable proof that government is working. Is it perfect? No. But it is functioning and working,” Cuomo said in a radio interview on Wednesday.
Both chambers of the Legislature concluded work on the budget when most of their constituents are likely in bed.
The Senate concluded its work at 4:30 a.m., while the Assembly finished just before the stroke of 12 midnight.
Not all lawmakers are pleased with the final product.
The spending plan does not include a state-level version of the Dream Act, which would provide tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants, drawing criticism from Latino lawmakers.
Liberal lawmakers remain unhappy with the minimum wage agreement that does not include a provision to index future raises to the rate of inflation.
Republicans grumbled, meanwhile, that the budget extended the high tax rates on the wealthy, while also slowly phasing out a surcharge on a utility tax over three years.
Both sides of the aisle were upset over a $90 million cut to programs for the developmentally disabled, done so the state could fill a $500 million hole blown in the budget over a Medicaid overbilling issue with the federal government.
Legislative leaders stressed the budget was, indeed, a compromise spending plan.
At first, the conventional wisdom at the Capitol was the budget would be a stripped-down document and the more thorny issues such as a minimum wage increase would be left for later in the legislative session.
But Cuomo in the budget negotiations sought a grand deal that would have included the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and even a clarification of the January gun control law.
In the end, the marijuana component was removed from the budget and the enforcement of a ban on magazines that can carry more than seven rounds will be suspended indefinitely.
Cuomo will likely now be turning his attention to post-budget issues such as campaign finance reform, as well as the marijuana decriminlization issue.
He will face the challenge of pushing Republicans in the Senate to allow a vote on his women’s equality package, which includes a strengthening of the state’s abortion laws to update them with the Roe v. Wade ruling.
The legislative session runs through June 20.
Lawmakers do not return to Albany until April 15.
Mar 28th - 12:59 pm
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver questioned the plan this morning to send a $350 check to a broad swath of income earners in the state just before Election Day 2014.
“I would have preferred to do it a different way, but the art of compromise required it be done that way,” Silver said just before his chamber began voting on the 2013-14 budget today.
Silver insisted that the rebate program, which impacts families earning between $40,000 and $300,000 with children under 18, is a “progressive” one as a tax surcharge on the wealthy is being extended a year early to pay for part of the $375 million proposal.
“It’s a progressive cut that, you know, at $40,000 the cut is the same as at $300,000,” Silver said.
For those families that earn less than $40,000, the speaker pointed out there is an earned income tax credit reducing their liability.
He also called the minimum wage increase to $9 by the end of 2015 a win for his large Democratic majority, even if they didn’t get everything they want such as an indexing future increases to the rate of inflation.
“It was a significant victory for our members,” Silver said. ”It’s not as pure as we wanted it but in two years it will be at nine dollars. Next year at 8.75 so I think we’re pretty good.”
Silver did take issue with the plan to encourage teen workers, that could impact older people.
“If I were doing it I would not have that provision in there at all or make it different,” Silver said.
Updated: Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif sent along this statement.
“We’re happy to take credit for providing meaningful tax relief to middle-class families with children, because it was Senate Republicans who introduced it, advocated for it and insisted that it be part of the enacted budget. It was the Assembly Democrats, after all, who voted to eliminate the STAR rebate checks in 2009 and took away tax relief for New Yorkers who needed it. What’s perplexing to everyone is that even before the Assembly actually gets around to passing the budget, the Speaker is already trying to revise history about items he himself signed off on, like a minimum wage increase phased-in over 3 years, with no indexing and a refundable youth credit that protects businesses.”
Mar 27th - 10:20 am
From the morning memo which, please keep in mind, was written on roughly three hours of sleep:
Raise and shine!
The Senate finalized voting on the 2013-14 spending plan early this morning, just after 4 a.m. And now Albany can take a breather during the more godly hours today as the Assembly prepares to take up the budget bills in its marathon voting session on Thursday.
The proceedings in the Senate chamber were rather anti-climatic at the end, even if the debate got a bit loopy at times as senators tossed out analogies to the budget being like a “fruit basket” with the occasional unwanted item, such as a “kumquat.”
We’ll have to consult a parliamentary historian, but it seems unlikely the word “kumquat” had been said so many times before in one legislative session as lawmakers found the word just too funny at 1:30 in the morning not to say repeatedly during the floor debate.
Indeed, work early this Wednesday got off to kind of a silly start as lawmakers wrapped up work on the health and mental health budget bill just after midnight. Sen. David Valesky, the presiding officer in the Senate , wrapped the gavel to declare the session day over. He promptly then gaveled the Senate back into session for a “new day” of legislative activity at about 12:10 in the morning.
The late night led Sen. Terry Gipson to once again tout his “vampire voting” bill that would bar legislative activity between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. Vampires, maybe, but several senators looked more like zombies as the night wore on.
A bit silly, sure. But budgets are serious business and the early morning vote stretched well into the morning. In an interview with Capital Tonight last night, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos defended the decision to hold such a late night.
“The budget has been able to age for three days, so everybody’s been able to study it,” Skelos said, adding that the budget this year was being negotiated and passed “in the mix of the holidays.”
“Passover, Easter, Holy Week — It sort of made it challenging in terms of scheduling and there many people who wished to get home for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, so they can observe,” Skelos said.
And sure enough this was a compromise budget for Skelos and his Republican conference, now in a technical minority, but saved from the legislative wilderness of true minority status after joining with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference to form a new coalition leadership structure in the Senate. The move meant Senate Republicans retain much of their power in the chamber, but have to compromise with Sen. Jeff Klein and the IDC on bills.
While Skelos and Klein like to call the budget “family friendly” it is really compromise friendly, representing a mix of tax extensions, tax cuts and a minimum wage hike.
Skelos was able to secure a gradual phase out of the 18a utility tax surcharge, but at the same time the budget extends the so-called millionaires tax another three years. Skelos (and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for that matter) have defined extending taxes a “tax increase.” Without directly acknowledging it, Skelos said the PIT extension was the product of a compromise as the state also approved a $375 million family tax rebate program.
“The governor felt very strongly the surcharge had to be continued,” Skelos said. “We were looking at a potential deficit down the road, plus we were able to obtain family friendly business tax cuts that we were not able to achieve for years. So this was somewhat of a compromise.”
As for working with Klein, Skelos said having the IDC in the room helped with hearing “more of an urban point of view.”
He wouldn’t say if Klein was vital to keeping the minimum wage increase in the budget, which itself was a compromise, too. Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris has knocked the minimum wage deal as a product of Skelos’ out-sized influence in the budget negotiations.
Skelos said the deal was crafted so all sides could declare victory.
“But both sides can in a way declare a win,” he said of the minimum wage. “We have it phased in, there’s no automatic cost of living that Speaker Silver wanted, And the area of tipped wages there’s no automatic increase in the base amount there.”
There is language, however, for allowing tipped workers a proportional wage increase, along with requiring employers follow existing state labor law and make tipped workers whole at the end of the day.
Mar 27th - 2:41 am
It’s just after 2:30 a.m. and the Senate is going strong with only the SECOND budget bill of the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Most of the LCA has left the Capitol at this point or they are among the 70 or so watching the livestream of the budget debate in the chamber.
Things became rather loopy at around 1:30 a.m., with Democratic Sen. George Latimer picking the analogy that the budget was a lot like a fruit basket containing a host of things you may not necessarily like.
Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione picked up the ball from there, saying in a subsequent speech from the floor that the SAFE Act was indeed or “kumquat” or unwanted fruit.
Things began to devolve from there, with discussions on kumquats and “vampire voting” — Sen. Terry Gipson of the Hudson Valley’s chosen phraseology for voting in the middle of the night. He’s sponsoring a bill — which he made sure to reference each time he spoke — that would ban voting on legislation between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Senate Republicans have defended the decision to hold a marathon voting session on budget bills immediately as they ripen for voting when most people are in bed (save for vampires, natch) because of the holiday schedule this week and the desire for most members to return home to their districts.
The bills have all aged properly on lawmakers’ desks without a message of necessity from the governor.
At this point in the evening, lawmakers are discussing the aid to localities measure after passing the education, labor and family assistance budget bill, along with the health and mental health bill.
Mar 26th - 9:58 pm
Grab ‘em while they’re hot off the presses. The school runs outline the targeted education spending in the coming 2013-14 state budget proposal.
The Senate is due to vote on the Education, Family and Labor budget bill after midnight tonight.
If you can’t read the Scribd document, here’s a link to the report.
Mar 26th - 5:32 pm
As the Senate prpeares to hold a post-midnight budget vote this evening, Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner says she would prefer the vote to take place in the light of day.
“When really important public business that impacts New Yorkers is conducted in the dead of night, it always raises issues,” Lerner said in a phone interview. “The budget, which is really the most imoprtant thing the Legislature does… when it’s passed in the ded of night it simply reinforces the separation ordinary New Yorkers have with their state government.”
Granted, the budget is being finalized without a message of necessity from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that waives the three-day aging process. That means lawmakers ostensibly had time to read what’s actually in the $143 billion spending plan.
The move is also being done in order to finish up work so lawmakers won’t be in town through the remaining religious holidays (Passover began Monday at sun down, and at least one Jewish member, Sen. Simcha Felder, is not voting tonight).
“It’s absolutely important they let the budget age” but listening to lawmakers debate the measure during waking hours counts, too, Lerner said.
The plan right now is for lawmakers in the Senate to convene session this evening and then approve two budget bills that have already aged. They’ll gavel back in after midnight — technically Wednesday morning — to take up the remaining bills.
The Democratic-led Assembly is be finalizing the budget on Thursday after declining to return on Sunday.
Mar 26th - 2:10 pm
Memo to those who owe New York more than $10,000 in tax liabilities: Pay up or see your driver’s license suspended.
A provision tucked in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial budget proposal and passed through negotiations unscathed is a plan that would allow the state departments of Motor Vehicles and Taxation and Finance to suspend the driving privileges of tax scofflaws in order to collect what’s owed.
There are some exceptions for traveling to work or seeking medical help and a restricted use license may be applied for in those cases, according to the budget language.
“Moreover, the license suspension would be lifted once the taxpayer pays their past-due tax liabilities or enters into an installment payment agreement or otherwise makes payment arrangements satisfactory to the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance. Due to certain federal preemption issues, a restricted license is not available to drive a commercial motor vehicle. To protect the ability of taxpayers holding such licenses to earn a living, it is necessary to exclude commercial driving licenses from the scope of the bill.”
The budget implications on this move aren’t significant. Tax receipts are expected to grow by $26 million in the coming 2013-14 fiscal year and then by $6 million annually.
Mar 25th - 12:01 pm
Passing budget bills in the middle of the night is often fodder for political opposition TV ads, but the coalition-led Senate is planning to take that gamble, anyway.
Lawmakers in the chamber are not considering any budget bills today, but will take the remaining six bills up in a marathon session beginning Tuesday and lasting into the wee hours of Wednesday morning when the final measures have “aged” properly on their desks.
All of the budget bills are now in print and will go live by Tuesday and Wednesday.
“At 12:01 Wednesday morning we will have everything live to bring before the Senate and will pass all of those bills,” Sen. Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, told reporters this morning.
The calculus appears to be that voters will ignore the midnight voting because no message of necessity is being used to fuel a speedy process.
“They’ll have aged for three days. If someone wants to know what’s in the budget bills, they’ll have access to them,” Libous said. ”They can go online and have access to them. They’ll be on the desks. I’m not going to buy into the whole argument that we’re not going to have time. One of the reasons why the governor is not sending us messages is so they age properly.”
The remaining budget measures include the spending plans for education, health and mental health, aid to localities and the revenue or tax bill.
The Senate approved three budget bills in a speedy Sunday afternoon session, a rare day for any chamber to be working in Albany.
The Democratic-led Assembly is not expected to come back until Thursday to take up the final budget votes.
That the Assembly isn’t here now has annoyed some Republican lawmakers who felt the Senate will pushing back the negotiations. A spokesman for the Assembly denied they would hold up passage of the budget and that negotiations as of Sundaty were still not completely finalized.
The budget is due Monday, the start of the state’s fiscal year.