Good Morning from Federal Hall (and Happy President’s Day)… 

While President Trump celebrated President’s Day Weekend by taking a lap at Daytona 500 in the “Beast” (pictured below), State Legislators wrapped up Joint Budget Hearings last week and headed back to their districts. They will return to Albany February 24th. In the meantime, 30-Day Amendments to the Executive Budget Proposal are due February 20th. As Legislators prepare for re-election campaigns in the months to come, many also face tough questions in their districts on Bail Reform, the current Trusted Traveler morass, and other controversial issues stemming from last year’s “most productive” session ever. That leaves a burning question in Albany: how much will REALLY get done this year? 

  • Medicaid Redesign Team II—Last week was the beginning of work on MRT II—with the first meeting of the Team, a public forum (announced less than 24 hours in advance), and the announcement of the first working group on Managed Long Term Care. We saw just how far the MRT II has to go in the short period of time before they have to make recommendations amounting to $2.5 billion in savings in about a month and a half. Legislators and the public again expressed deep frustrations at the lack of sunlight on the MRT, especially the lack of notice on the first public hearing. The Executive Chamber has taken the position that it HAS to get something done this year, but the clock is ticking. How ambitious the reforms will be remains to be seen. 
  • Adult Use Marijuana—Over the course of Cuomo’s tenure, he has continuously used negotiating leverage in the State Budget process to his advantage. It looks like he will be using a similar playbook on adult use marijuana this year. Governor Cuomo said last week: “Marijuana, if it’s not done in the budget, it’s because they say to me, we can’t do it.” The Governor put additional pressure on a handful of moderate members of the State Senate whom he does not think politically could vote for a standalone bill. He may be  right on the politics but driving the budget process is also undoubtedly a strategic maneuver. Additionally, we have yet to see the amended version of the Legislature’s bill from Sponsors Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) (pictured, left). 

And finally, will the Executive Chamber and lawmakers find the long term solution to a growing deficit? Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s Report on the Executive Budget last week raised significant concerns about transparency and accountability, including proposed statutory changes that could distort the reporting of revenue and spending in the state’s financial statements and allow the Executive to spend beyond the amounts approved by the legislature, and questions on the actual funding sources for expenditures in the new capital plans for the MTA and the DOT. Read the full report here.

We hope you enjoy the week away from Albany. Please let us know what you want to see us cover in the weeks to come! 

— Jack O’Donnell

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Vazquez Announces Run for 138th Assembly District

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See Incredible Photos Of The NYC Subway Getting Built In The Early 20th Century

When construction began at the turn of the century, transit officials hired Pierre and Granville Pulls to be the official photographers for the project. [Read more.]

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has portrayed himself as a champion of women’s rights, the environment and refugees, with varying degrees of success. He is now becoming the champion, perhaps unwittingly, of another cause: making politics safe for bearded men. [Read more.]

NYC’s Longest-Serving Judge Finally Retires Aged 98

When construction began at the turn of the century, transit officials hired Pierre and Granville Pulls to be the official photographers for the project. [Read more.]