Good morning from Albany, NY… where it is all budget, all the time.
- Governor Hochul appointed Robert Megna as Budget Director. Megna brings institutional knowledge, having served as Budget Director from 2009 to 2015 as well as experience, especially experience saying “no.” His first tour as budget director began during the Global Financial Crisis but Megna helped lift the state to its strongest financial rating in forty years. Megna will be a short termer, serving through the end of the Legislative Session in June before returning to his position as President of the Rockefeller Institute of Government and Senior Advisor to the Chancellor. Megna is also tasked with leading the search for a permanent budget director.
- Joint Legislative Budget hearings wrapped up this week with hearings on Higher Education, Health, Labor/Economic Development, and Housing.
- Of note from the Health hearing were the dire concerns around safety net health care, threatened by the looming cuts to New York’s 340B Drug Pricing Program. 340B is a federal program allowing covered entities, including hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and Ryan White Clinics to purchase prescription drugs at a discount for Medicaid patients and use those savings to fund wraparound services for underserved communities. The uproar at the hearing included NYC not-for-profit organization Housing Works CEO Charles King being arrested at the Capitol building.
- The Department of Budget, Assembly Ways & Means, and Senate Finance released the Consensus Economic and Revenue Forecast Report, as is required annually by statute, which found that “the economy remains vulnerable to headwinds from domestic fiscal/monetary policies and worldwide uncertainties.” The agreement is a key part of the budget process, with lawmakers needing to know how much revenue the state can expect to take in before they negotiate on how much they should spend in the budget. This year, the Legislature and Executive branch agreed on a two-year revenue forecast that is $800 million more than the Executive Budget.
- Governor Hochul has continued to rally support for her housing proposal which calls for 800,000 new homes to be built over the next decade. Her plan has faced pushback from rural communities and even some lawmakers in her own party who feel the proposal does not account for already overburdened electric grids, sewer lines, and lack of available space.
In New York City, Mayor Adams is taking some heat over his recent comments on guns, religion, and schools. At an interfaith breakfast, the Mayor said “When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools” and later, “Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body, church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
- The House and Senate are in session this week with jam-packed hearing schedules on everything from the FAA Reauthorization to confronting “threats from the Chinese Community Party.” Read more here.
- President Biden has nominated Deputy Secretary of Labor Julie Su to become the next Secretary of Labor, with current Secretary Marty Walsh having left the administration to lead the NHL Player Association. In a statement, Biden said, “Over several decades, Julie has led the largest state labor department in the nation, cracked down on wage theft, fought to protect trafficked workers, increased the minimum wage, created good-paying, high-quality jobs, and established and enforced workplace safety standards.” Her hearing before the Senate is expected towards the end of March.
- The fate of Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is now in the hands of the Supreme Court after they heard oral arguments on Tuesday. The Court’s conservative majority seemed skeptical of the plan and many legal experts have predicted that the Court will strike down Biden’s proposal. A ruling from the Court is expected this summer.
- In the election for Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot failed to advance to the runoff, making her the city’s first one-term mayor in forty years. Lightfoot’s inability to combat Chicago’s rising crime rate dampened her electoral chances and the two candidates who did advance to the runoff, former public schools executive Paul Vallus and county board commissioner Brandon Johnson, both made public safety the hallmark of their campaigns. The runoff election will be held on April 4th.
- Over in Europe, the United Kingdom and the European Union have come to an agreement on a long-term deal on the trading status of Northern Ireland, one of the last remaining issues needing to be resolved as a result of Brexit in 2020. Named the “Windsor Framework,” the agreement will avoid creating a hard border with Northern Ireland and revises import and export trade rules. It remains to be seen if the agreement will be enough to jump-start Northern Ireland’s political process ahead of the imminent 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April.
Politicians and high-ranking government officials are generally viewed as old, out-of-touch, and unrelatable, but 70-year-old Attorney General Merrick Garland has something we can all relate to…….he is a huge Taylor Swift fan.
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In The News