Last week, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo introduced his $178 billion State Fiscal Year 2020-21 Executive Budget—read the Budget Bills here. The budget theoretically remedies several of the issues driving the current $6 billion deficit and keeps “non-capital” spending below the 2% cap, the Executive Chamber’s plans left a number of questions that need to be answered in the coming weeks.
Here are the highlights—and the battles–that will be dominating budget negotiations:
- Medicaid—The Governor’s plans for reining in Medicaid spend—the main driver of the deficit—are two-fold. First, the proposed budget would force Counties to pay for Medicaid growth above 3% (a contentious proposal which the Governor seemed to have walked back following uproar after his State of the State address). Second, the Governor is tasking a Medicaid Redesign Team II to find $2.5 billion in savings (or potentially, in revenue) prior to the April 1 budget deadline. The co-chairs from the first MRT in 2011, Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health on Long Island (pictured, right), and Dennis Rivera, long time healthcare labor leader with 1199SEIU, will again lead the effort but the Governor was silent on the rest of the membership and any other details on how the MRT will operate. The Citizens Budget Commission also pointed out the Executive Budget continues the “unsustainable” practice of deferring Medicaid payments into the following Fiscal Year, whether or not that will be addressed by MRT II remains to be seen.
- Adult Use Marijuana—Cuomo included legalization in his budget proposal for the second year in a row, projecting the program could generate $20 million in revenue in fiscal 2021, growing to $63 million by fiscal 2022 and $188 million by fiscal 2025. The program has a long way to go in the Legislature—where sponsors Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) and Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) failed to reach a “philosophical” agreement with the Chamber last year on how the program should run—and where the revenues should be spent— and moderate suburban legislators are reluctant to fully embrace adult use legalization. The proposal did, however, pick up one of those suburban legislators on Friday in Westchester County. Senator Pete Harckham (pictured, left) threw his support behind the bill in exchange for an agreement to divert some of the revenues toward substance abuse treatments. Peoples-Stokes and Krueger said last week that they will soon be introducing an amended version of their bill.
- Foundation Aid—The conversation around the State’s main mechanism for funding schools, Foundation Aid—which first went into effect under the Spitzer Administration a decade ago—is coming to a head this year. Advocates, including NYSUT and the Alliance for Quality Education, are calling for an increase in spending far beyond the $800 billion proposed in the Executive Budget. That number is far below the $3.4 billion advocates argue that schools are owed based on the formula set forth in the decision (and subsequent commitments) of the landmark court case Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. the State of New York. Senate Education Chair Shelley Mayer is also pushing the Senate Democrats to take a holistic look at how high need districts are funded throughout the State.
Joint Legislative Budget hearings begin today—in Hearing Room B of the Legislative Office Building—and will run through February 13th—you can view the full schedule and request to testify at any of those hearings here. As always, do not hesitate to let us know what you are watching and how we can help!
Just three weeks into its existence, calls to repeal or amend to the cashless bail system are becoming louder and louder, in Albany and across the State. Although it was the Democratic Conference in both Houses that pushed these bills through last year, more and more Democratic lawmakers are starting to step out and propose changes to the newly enacted law.
Last week, the Governor gave probably the firmest answer on his opinion of the law so far, saying he believes the program is a “work in progress,” and that he is “100% open” to changes. Cuomo didn’t specify which changes, but he did say he does not support allowing judges to determine if a defendant is too dangerous. Two bipartisan bills have received the most attention. Republican Senator Sue Serino joined with Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (pictured, right) to introduce both bills: one bill would allow judges to issue bench warrants if a defendant failed to show for a court appearance. The other bill would ensure domestic violence charges are considered as a bailable offense. While Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins hear more and more from opponents throughout their Conferences, expect the conversation to dominate much of the non-fiscal and Medicaid space through the coming weeks.
In Washington, D.C., the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump is entering its second week. After bitter clashes over the trial’s ground rules last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to pass rules that blocked Democratic attempts to subpoena witnesses and documents 53-47—the Senate will be revisiting the issue later this week. Democratic Impeachment Managers spent the remaining days last week presenting their case against the President. Trump’s defense began Saturday and continues today. After the 24 hours in testimony from both sides are complete, Senators will then have 16 hours to ask written questions, after which point, the Senate will readdress whether or not to allow testimony from key witnesses.
— Jack O’Donnell
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Warren Wins Prized Des Moines Register Endorsement
Elizabeth Warren has won the coveted endorsement of Iowa’s top newspaper — a significant boost for the Massachusetts senator’s campaign in the highly competitive, first-in-the-nation presidential contest. The Des Moines Register’s editorial board interviewed nine Democratic candidates who have spent significant time in Iowa before announcing its decision Saturday [Read more.]
New York’s Subway Boss Quit: Will Your Commute Get Worse?
When Andy Byford was recruited to run the New York City subway, the system was in crisis. Trains broke down routinely. A series of accidents raised safety concerns. Constant delays made riders late for work, meetings and medical appointments. Mr. Byford has been praised for helping reverse the steep decline, driving down major delays and raising the subway’s on-time rate from historic lows. But on Thursday Mr. Byford announced his resignation. [Read more.]
Why do American Houses Have so Many Bathrooms?
American exceptionalism takes on many forms, both flattering (our immigrant-founded start-ups) and unfortunate (our health-care prices). But perhaps no part of life in the United States is more unambiguously exceptional than this: We have so many damn bathrooms. [Read more.]
Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Is Partly Overturned
A federal appeals court on Tuesday partly overturned the 2018 corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, once the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, but allowed much of the conviction to stand — most likely ending his hopes of remaining out of prison. [Read more.]
Trump Wants a Democrat to Vote for Acquittal in Impeachment Trial — The White House Eyes Joe Manchin
How to Mark Brexit Day? Boris Johnson is Searching For the Right Tone
At the strike of 11 p.m. local time on Jan. 31 — a.k.a. midnight in Brussels — Britain will leave the European Union, more or less. Brexit champion Boris Johnson will have won. But, as Britain’s new prime minister, Johnson is struggling to get his victory celebration just right. [Read more.]
Top Latino Mayoral Hopeful in New York City Drops Out
Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said that he will no longer seek public office, and hoped to spend more time with his family. [Read more.]