Plugged In @ Hinman Straub – March 8, 2019

What’s Inside

  • No Agreement on Revenue Forecast, Comptroller Decides
  • Governor Pushes Permanent Tax Cap
  • Legislature Passes Safe Storage Gun Control Bill
  • Governor Announces $128 Million in Funding to Repave Roads
  • Attorney General Joins 21 State Lawsuit over Federal Title X “Gag Rule”
  • State Democratic Party Passes Resolution to End Fusion Voting
  • City Council Speaker Calls for City Control of MTA
  • Updates, Reminders, and Links
  • Coming Up

No Agreement on Revenue Forecast, Comptroller Decides

The end of last week marked the deadline for a consensus revenue forecast, reached by three-way negotiated agreement between the Governor, Assembly, and Senate. The revenue forecast is the foundation of the state budget, it is an agreement between the parties on how much money is available to spend in the upcoming spending plan. State law requires an agreement to be reached by a specific time, if an agreement is not reached, the State Comptroller is empowered to make the decision. Late last week, the three sides were unable to reach an agreement by the deadline and as a result the decision was kicked to the comptroller.

Robert Mujica, the State Budget Director, issued a statement regarding the failure to reach an agreement by the deadline:

“The Governor has said that the challenge for this budget is dealing with the fiscal realities of revenue shortfalls and an unstable economy. At our revenue forecasting conference, independent nationally recognized economists, including those invited by the Legislature, warned of a slowing economy. The Federal SALT tax changes are hurting our economy and limiting our revenue raising options in the event of a recession.

“The revenue forecast is an essential starting point for the State budget, and the Senate, Assembly and Executive do not agree on a revenue estimate, with the Senate insisting on much higher revenues than the Assembly or Executive. By law, we now turn to the Comptroller for a binding revenue estimate.

“While the budget discussion always has differing political priorities and opinions, facts are still facts and numbers are still numbers and the numbers must govern a legitimate budget. The Governor has said getting the budget done on time is important but it is more important to get the budget right. Because of our record of prudent budgeting, we have never had to do a mid-year budget correction, and we are not about to start now.”

On Tuesday, the Comptroller set revenues at $190 million more, over a two year period, than the figure the Governor used for drafting his 30-day amendments. The Comptroller determined his revenue number based on even more recent receipt data than was used to determine the shortfall reflected in the 30-day amendments. In a statement released after the publication of the Comptroller’s revenue forecast, Governor Cuomo’s Budget Director said they agreed with the Comptroller’s conservative estimate and further agreed with the Comptroller’s positon that the money should be placed in reserves to protect against future revenue shortfalls in the wake of testimony from economists on the potential for recession in the coming years.

Governor Pushes Permanent Tax Cap

In an Op-Ed published in Newsday this week, the Governor laid out his argument for making the 2% property tax cap permanent. The Governor points the Trump administration’s cap on state and local tax deductions as major issue for taxpayers, making the property tax cap permanent now a necessity, even pledging to not sign a budget that does not include one.

Cuomo said:

“In 2011, after years of trying to rein in out-of-control property taxes — Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David A. Paterson all tried — we passed the first local property tax cap. The 2 percent property tax cap changed long-term trends, and saved New Yorkers nearly $25 billion. On Long Island, it has saved taxpayers $8.7 billion, with the typical Nassau taxpayer saving $7,611 and the typical Suffolk taxpayer saving $6,284. By every measure the tax cap has been a success, but that success is not guaranteed if it does not remain in place. That’s why in this year’s budget I call on the State Legislature to make the 2 percent property tax cap permanent. I will not sign a budget that does not include a permanent tax cap.”

Legislature Passes Safe Storage Gun Control Bill

Both houses of legislature passed another gun control bill which intends to keep operable firearms from being accessed by children. The bill would require anyone who owns or possesses a firearm and resides in a home that either, has children under 16 in residence or is likely to have children in the home for any reason, store said firearms in a locked and appropriate safe storage depository or rendered incapable of being fired by use of a gun locking device appropriate to that weapon. “Safe storage depository” is defined as a safe or other secure container which, when locked, is incapable of being opened without the key, combination or other unlocking mechanism and is capable of preventing an unauthorized person from obtaining access to and possession of the weapon contained therein. If signed by the Governor, violation of this law would come with a potential charge of a first-degree class A misdemeanor, which could carry a punishment of one year in jail or three years’ probation, as well as up to a $1,000 fine. The bill has not yet been delivered to the Governor for approval.

Governor Announces $128 Million in Funding to Repave Roads after Harsh Winter

The Governor announced $128 million in new funding through the PAVE NY initiative, designed to repair roads across the state after damage done by the harsh winter. The funding will support 91 different projects and will replace 1,000 lane miles of pavement.

The Governor said:

“A thriving transportation network is critical to supporting New York’s regional economic growth and local economies. While New York continues its nation leading investments in transportation infrastructure, harsh winter weather is the new normal and it impacts thousands of lane miles each year. This funding will help rejuvenate dozens of roads across New York and make traveling smoother while supporting local economies.”

Attorney General Joins 21 State Lawsuit over Federal Title X “Gag Rule”

Attorney General Letitia James joined a coalition of 21 State Attorneys General in a federal lawsuit aimed at the Trump administrations new rule altering the Title X family planning program. The rule is called the “gag rule” by opponents because they argue it places an unlawful and unethical restriction on health care professionals and prohibits them from providing information or referrals for abortion services.

James said:

“Title X was meant to support access to health care and family planning services. These new rules are antithetical to the purpose of Title X and will hurt millions of Americans. We will not stand by as this federal government attacks our rights and our access to health care.”

State Democratic Party Passes Resolution to End Fusion Voting

The state Democratic Party voted on a non-binding resolution to end fusion voting. Fusion voting is the practice of allowing minor parties to endorse and give a major party candidate their ballot line. The progressive caucus attempted to table the vote as the measure is facing strong opposition from the Working Families Party. The resolution was ultimately passed overwhelmingly. It is unclear if the ban on fusion voting has the support in the legislature to pass.

City Council Speaker Calls for City Control of the MTA

The City Council Speaker Corey Johnson this week called for city control of the MTA in his state of the city speech. Under this scenario, the MTA would lose roughly $10 billion in state funding, as pointed out by the Governor in a radio interview this week. The most interesting aspect of the Johnson’s speech, however, was his support for reforms to the scaffold law, including transitioning away for strict liability for the contractor and moving to a comparative negligence standard. Johnson argued that construction in New York is overly costly due in part to the scaffold law and its “absolute vicarious liability, with no inquiry into worker contributory negligence.” The Council Speaker is an unlikely ally for contractors in the state and this is perhaps the beginning of some discussion on scaffold law reform, which is sure to face enormous hurdles in the state legislature from labor groups and lawmakers.

Updates, Reminders, and Links

City & State NY’s weekly Winners & Losers here.

CNBC looks at New Yorkers leaving for Florida to avoid high taxes.

Syracuse’s Cor Development to remain free on bail during appeal.

de Blasio’s mandatory paid time off proposal garners some attention.

Cuomo goes on Chartock radio show again.

Former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and wife found guilty on corruption charges.

Coming Up

The Board of Regents will hold its next meeting March 11-12.

PSC will hold its next meeting on March 14th.

NYS Senate will hold a public hearing to discuss school governance reform and mayoral accountability in New York City, 250 Broadway, 19th floor at 10:00am on March 15th.

JCOPE will hold its next meeting on March 26th