Coverage of Albany and New York State government – April 12, 2017

  • Lawmakers Give Final Approval to 2017-18 State Budget
  • State Issues START-UP NY Report
  • Attorney General Sues Trump Administration Over Energy Efficiency Standards
  • Governor Directs State Department of Labor to Undertake Wage Gap Study
  • Governor Announces Crackdown on Distracted Driving
  • Attorney General Announces Settlement Regarding Internet Tracking of Children
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

Lawmakers Give Final Approval to 2017-18 State Budget

State Senators gave final approval the state’s $163 billion spending plan on Sunday  evening, passing the budget bills that the Assembly took up on Saturday.

Last Friday night, Gov. Cuomo announced that he and the legislative leaders  reached agreement on the state’s 2017-18 spending plan.  According to the Governor, the state will spend about $153.4 billion, an increase of 4 percent over last year’s budget. Press reports indicate that total state spending will reach about $163 billion.

The enacted budget includes a ‘Federal Funding Response Plan’ which will provide flexibility for the state to reduce spending if the state losses federal aid of more than $850 million.  If this happens, the Division of Budget can send a spending reduction plant to the Legislature, which will take effect unless the Legislature rejects or modifies it within 90 days.

Other highlights of the enacted budget include:

  • a two-year extension of the state’s “millionaires’ tax” on high earners;
  • increasing public school education state aid by $1.1 billion (or 4.4%), for total spending of $25.8 billion;
  • establishing the Excelsior Scholarship program to provide free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools for persons whose families make up to $125,000 per year;
  • providing Enhanced Tuition Awards for students attending private colleges and universities;
  • $2.5 billion for water infrastructure;
  • permitting ride hailing (such as Uber and Lyft) throughout the state;
  • $200 million to for opioid prevention, treatment and recovery
  • The release of $2.5 billion to address homelessness by proving affordable and supportive housing;
  • Prescription Drug Cost Cap program
  • re-enacting the 421-a program (now called Affordable New York), which will expire in 2022;
  • $750 million for a seventh round of the REDC (Regional Economic Development) process;
  • reforms to the Workers’ Compensation system;
  • establishing a Special Prosecutor for fraud at transportation facilities (Port Authority and MTA)
  • making union dues tax deductible;
  • billions of dollars in capital appropriations for infrastructure projects throughout the state, including JFK airport; Penn Station upgrades; Upstate Airport Economic Development, among many others; and
  • $77 million for the initial phase of the 750-mile Empire State Trail.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“With this Budget, New York is once again showing what responsible government can achieve. The result is a Budget that advances the core progressive principles that built New York: investing in the middle class, strengthening the economy and creating opportunity for all.

“This Budget enacts the Middle Class Recovery Act to continue the Empire State’s upward trajectory and creates a path forward for those striving to get ahead. By making college at our world-class public universities tuition-free, we have established a national model for access to higher education, and achieved another New York first.

“For too long, draconian punishments for youthful mistakes have ruined the lives of countless young New Yorkers. By coming together, we reversed this injustice and raised the age of criminal responsibility once and for all so that 16- and 17-year-olds are no longer automatically processed as adults.

“This Budget continues the progress we have achieved to improve the lives of New Yorkers, and build a stronger, better Empire State that truly lives up to its motto: Excelsior.”

This is the latest the budget has been enacted since Gov. Cuomo took office in 2011.  The state’s fiscal year began on April 1.

Read the Senate Majority’s budget press release, and statements on the budget from Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

State Issues START-UP NY Report

The START-UP New York job-creation program, which allows businesses the ability to operate tax free for 10 years if they locate in specific zones that are paired with eligible universities and colleges, released its annual report last week.

According to the report, the program has led to the creation of 314 new jobs in 2016, bringing the total number of jobs created under the initiative to 722.

The report touted the $31.3 million invested by companies participating in the program.  Last year, 80 businesses applied for START-UP participation, including 33 existing businesses that were expanded in New York, and 68 were approved.

Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky wrote in the report’s introduction:

“With START-UP NY, we are taking advantage of some of New York’s greatest assets – our world-class higher education system and human capital – to generate 21st century economic opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

Some have criticized the program, which the state has spent millions to advertise, because it has not resulted in the large number of new jobs that were expected.

Attorney General Sues Trump Administration Over Energy Efficiency Standards

Last week, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that his office will lead a coalition of groups in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to delaying energy efficiency standards for several common consumer and commercial products – including  ceiling fans, portable air conditioners, walk-in coolers and freezers, and commercial boilers.

The coalition is arguing that the federal Department of Energy is violating the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by delaying the effective date of final energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans, and by delaying the final standards for compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, power supply equipment, portable air conditioners, and commercial boilers by failing to publish them in the Federal Register.

Attorney General Schneiderman said:

“By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change – and denying consumers and businesses some $24 billion in savings. I will continue to use the full force of my office to compel the Trump administration to live up to its obligations to the law and the people of New York.”

Governor Directs State Department of Labor to Undertake Wage Gap Study

Last week, Gov. Cuomo marked Equal Pay Day by directing the state Department of Labor to study the causes, scope and economic impact of the gender pay gap in New York State, and to issue policy recommendations to help close it. According to the Governor, women working in New York State earn 89 cents for every dollar earned by men – the lowest wage gap of any state in the nation.

The state will hold at least four public hearings throughout the state to solicit testimony from academic experts, workers, business owners and others who wish to present solutions to end of the wage gap in New York State.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New York leads the nation in progressive values – setting the bar high for other states to follow suit, and it is critical that we do all we can to address the wage gap in our country. This wage gap study will ensure that we are evaluating every possible solution to ending this egregious inequity once and for all.”

Attorney General Announces Settlement Regarding Internet Tracking of Children

Last Thursday, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with TRUSTe (True Ultimate Standards Everywhere, Inc.), regarding the company’s failure to adequately prevent illegal tracking technology from being used on some children’s websites.  The company has agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and put in place new measures to strengthen its privacy assessments.

Attorney General Schneiderman said:

“Companies entrusted with protecting children’s privacy online have a responsibility that my office takes seriously – now, more than ever before.  TRUSTe failed to meet its obligations to keep children safe from the prying eyes of online trackers and its customers within the parameters of the law.  My office is committed to protecting children online and will continue to hold accountable those who violate this or any other online privacy statute.”

Political Update

State Senator Announces Run for Westchester County Executive

State Senator George Latimer (D – Rye) has announced that he plans to run for Westchester County Executive this fall.  Latimer has served in the Senate since 2013; he previously served in the Assembly and the Westchester County Legislature.  Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins, also a Democrat, has previously announced that he plans to run for County Executive.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face incumbent Rob Astorino, who is seeking a third term.

Winners & Losers

Each week, City & State New York publishes a list of the week’s political “winners” and “losers.”  Read last week’s list here.

Coming Up

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on April 20.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on April 25.

The Senate and Assembly are scheduled to return to session on April 24.

The State Board of Elections holds its next meeting on April 25.

The special elections to fill vacancies in the 30th Senate District (Manhattan) and the 9th Assembly District (Nassau/Suffolk) are scheduled for May 23.