NY Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin Resigns After Arrest in Federal Probe
- Appropriators in Washington will begin the sprint to reach a Federal Fiscal Year 2023 spending deal for all 12 subcommittee bills before the end of 2022, a deal that will likely include billions of dollars in Congressionally Directed Spending or “Earmarks” for the second year in a row.
- Congressional negotiators will also begin shoring up differences between the House and Senate on an over $100 billion advanced technology authorization bill, which includes funds and programming for artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and quantum computing, in order to compete with China’s growing foothold in the “AI Cold War.”
In New York State…
The breathtaking fall of Lieutenant Governor Benjamin dominated the political news while a horrific subway shooting in Brooklyn reinforced fears about about public safety, questions about mental health services, and the troubles of the MTA . They also showcased the valor and bravery of regular New Yorkers.
- Healthcare in New York State—After two of the most difficult years for public health in our State’s history, healthcare administration and workforce have a State Budget that makes major capital and operational investments in the industry, which Hochul called “the largest investment in healthcare in State history.” The Budget included a $1.6 billion fourth round of the Statewide Health Care Facilities Transformation Fund, $5 billion set aside for healthcare workforce bonuses, and a boost in pay for home care workers. The goal of all of these investments: growing New York State’s healthcare workforce by 20% over the next five years.
- Western New York—The Buffalo Bills are getting a new stadium that will anchor the team in Western New York for the next 30 years. Hochul has faced major criticism throughout the Legislature for doling out a cash-heavy deal negotiated primarily behind closed doors. Others say the stadium should have been built Downtown to maximize the economic development impact of the State and County investment. Ultimately, for the Governor and for many in Western New York, the peace of mind of having the Bills in the region for the foreseeable future was worth it especially with the Bills now the current favorites to claim the Vince Lombardi trophy come next February.
- The Building Trades—The final budget agreement included sweeping labor standards and prevailing wage for projects undertaken pursuant to the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act that will go before voters this November. Furthermore, the Bills Stadium agreement will mean thousands of good paying union construction jobs. And lastly, the budget contains language clarifying that larger projects using design-build contracts always must use project labor agreements. In short, the budget contained a number of wins for the Building Trades.
- Gaming Industry—The final budget includes language accelerating the process for three downstate Casino licenses, allowing a competitive bidding process to start this year (which were originally slated for next year). The licenses will go for a minimum of $500 million each and while the state Gaming Commission will control the bidding, a six-member community advisory committee will have a say over the proposed locations.
- Governor Kathy Hochul—got it done, billions in health care, record investment in education, gas tax suspension. Money for construction. Good things to run on. She also got small but measurable changes in the bail laws to tout on public safety.
- Restaurants: Booze To-Go—Governor Hochul wanted cocktails-to-go, popular with restaurants at the height of the COVID pandemic, to become permanent. Liquor stores cried foul saying it would hurt their bottom line. The final result in the budget is a compromise. The legislature agreed to a three-year extension and cocktails can only be sold to-go as part of meals. Sales of bottles are prohibited. As a consolation prize, liquor store can now be open on Christmas Day.
- Governor Kathy Hochul—The Governor kicked the budget process off with the first State of the State delivered from the Assembly Chamber in more than a decade. Her address highlighted her commitment to more transparent state government and a more collaborative relationship with the Legislature. The final weeks of the budget process turned that notion on its head: sweeping rollbacks to bail and discovery reform were announced through a leak to the New York Post that left advocates fuming, and the Governor’s mammoth Bills stadium deal was met with perhaps even heavier criticism when it was unveiled just 72-hours before the budget deadline. The Governor is left with just one month to patch up fractured relationships with much of the Legislature and position herself for the difficult election season ahead. A good or bad month of May could deeply change her path to a win in November.
- New York City Developers—Despite support from the Governor in the Executive Budget Proposal, a lucrative tax break that underpins a great deal of development in New York City—the 421-a Program—was not extended in the final budget. It is set to expire June 15th, and a standalone bill faces more difficult prospects getting to the floor. Key Labor Leaders and the Real Estate Board of New York say they look forward to continuing the conversation post budget.
- Housing Advocates—While advocates mount an all-out push to pass Good Cause Eviction before the end of session, they also will have to try to pass several key initiatives that fell out of the budget conversation: the Point of Access to Housing Services or “PATHS” Bill to expand rental subsidies for individuals living with AIDS living outside New York City fell short, teeing up an end of session discussion on the issue. “If we’re going to have an end of AIDS now, the first step is to make sure we have housing,” said Rochester Assembly Member Harry Bronson. The Senate and Assembly’s proposed $250 million housing voucher program also fell out of the final agreement. While the budget does include an $800 million plus up of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), many advocates say the State needs to be far more aggressive in its approach to housing.
- Progressives—Coverage for All fell out of the final agreement. 2019’s landmark Bail and Discovery Reforms were rolled back. Senator Julia Salazar voted against the “Big Ugly” Budget Bill citing the “criminalization of poverty.” While Senator Jabari Brisport also voted “Nay” in protest saying the final budget fell short of addressing the Child Care Crisis in New York State. We will have to wait and see if these legislators are able to mount a successful push to address some of these issues before the legislature adjourns June 2nd, but suffice it to say the larger conversation in Albany has moved decidedly back toward the middle with many statewide elected officials focusing on 2022’s midterms.
What if New York’s Political Leadership Wasn’t an Embarrassing Mess?
For the 12th time in the past 20 years, New York this week got a new lieutenant governor. Acting lieutenant governor, yes — but: still. Perhaps you were under the impression that the position came with a four-year term in office. Well, you are correct! But since the beginning of 2003, only two lieutenant governors have actually served a full, January-to-January-four-years-later term. [Read more.]
Client News: State Budget Includes Capital Funding for New UB Engineering Building