From the Mayor: Major Policy Initiatives Included in, and Omitted from, the 2018-19 New York State Budget Print

alt

By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Apr. 4, 2018:  New York State passed a budget late Friday as legislators headed home for Easter and Passover celebrations.

The approved budget incorporates a deficit of $4.4 million, largely due to changes in the recent federal tax laws that affect New York State. The governor sought $1 billion in new taxes to help offset the loss but only a tax on prescription opioids paid by the manufacturers made it into the final budget. An Opioid Prevention and Treatment Fund will be started with the $127 million of projected first-year revenues.

Governor Cuomo was able to get bipartisan approval for tax credits for charitable contributions to public education and certain health care programs. To further ease the federal tax impact, the governor’s provision to allow employers to replace the income tax currently paid by employees with a payroll tax paid by the employer with salaries adjusted accordingly was agreed upon by the Senate and Assembly. (It does appear the IRS is ready to challenge his plan.)

Intertwining budgetary needs with new policy initiatives has become the new norm in most state capitals, including our own.

Now new legislative goals are funded at the front end in budget projections rather than as bills brought before the legislature during normal debate.

As an example, the concept of congestion pricing. Mayor Bloomberg, who last brought it up in New York State in 2008, could never get a bill out of committee on the subject. In the present state budget, a new revenue line was created that places a surcharge of $2.75 per ride on Uber and Lyft and $2.50 per ride on taxis traveling south of 96th Street in the city. Though the imposition of congestion charges for most vehicles in London and Stockholm works well, drivers groups, commercial truckers, and electeds from outer boroughs lobbied together to limit the surcharge in New York City to for-hire vehicles only.

In the ongoing internecine battle between the mayor of New York City and the governor, the governor was able to get the legislative leaders to give him added oversight of the mayoral-controlled NYC public school system; a $250 million state stipend to repair public housing; a directive to require the city to contribute $418 million of its budget to emergency subway repair; and a state legal right to direct the development near Penn Station.

Other new policy initiatives that were incorporated into the budget-funding process included a sexual harassment policy that requires contractors bidding on state projects to have an approved policy on the subject. State and local government workers will also be held to uniform standards including the divulging of confidentiality agreements unless the victim objects. The major criticism of the negotiated policy is that no women were included in the final language deliberations.

As a corollary, forensic rape kits must now be preserved 20 years vs the current requirement of only 30 days. 

Equally important are the items that dropped out during the frenzied negotiations. The budget was on time but at the cost of transparency. The governor signed, at the legislature's request, “a message of necessity” that allows state government to bypass the constitutionally mandated three-day waiting period between the introduction of a bill and a vote on it. Bills were then negotiated behind closed doors all without any release to the public.

The entire budget process was also stalled for a time until Senator Felder of Brooklyn received waivers for yeshivas to meet certain state education department regulations, as he is pivotal in the current delicate balance of power.

Major items omitted included the reform of the Child Victim’s Act, which is one of the most restrictive in the nation. The goal was to raise the age from 23 to 28 for victims to bring felony actions against purported abusers and to 50 years old for civil claims. The bill also contained a controversial “one year look back” litigation window to allow victims to sue regardless of the year of the alleged abuse. The proposed revisions of the act were opposed by the Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church, some yeshiva groups, and an insurance company lobby.

New York is one of only 13 states with no early voting; a provision to require counties to make polling arrangements for balloting up to 12 days prior to an election was defeated largely because no provision was made to cover the $6.4 million in local costs to implement.

Judicial reform also faltered, including the proposed elimination of bail requirements in low-level criminal cases; the requirement that prosecutors share basic evidence prior to the first day of a trial (New York is one of only ten states that currently allows the withholding); and the requirement that defendants are not held unnecessarily due to prosecutorial delay.

A version of the Dream Act, offering tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, did not receive the needed support, nor did an ethics reform measure that would remove the LLC loophole that currently allows donors to circumvent contribution limits by donating through limited liability corporations.

Though these items were left on the cutting room floor, many advocates are not completely disheartened by the failure of initiatives to receive traction, as the process has served to bring the issues to the public consciousness, and with it, garner perhaps future support for the concepts. 

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, legislators, and candidates. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.