State budget agreement: Who came out on top?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo got a lot of what he wanted in the state budget – criminal justice reforms, a renewed 421a subsidy for real estate developers, a free college tuition plan backed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders – but even if it’s the “best budget” he’s ever had, it still was a week late. So we looked elsewhere for our special state budget edition of Winners & Losers.
Joe Lentol & Velmanette Montgomery – It’s official: New York was the second to last state in the U.S. to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. The budget agreement includes legislative changes – sponsored by these two Brooklyn lawmakers – that treat the age group as juveniles and no longer houses them in adult correctional facilities. With a liberal state like New York, who knew it would take so long?
James Merriman – Traditional public schools got a funding increase this year, but so did charter schools, which had been one of the big holdups in the budget talks. Charters will see a $1,500 increase per student after this June and future increases will be tied to public schools. And that’s a win for Merriman, the head of the New York City Charter School Center, along with other charter proponents – even though they didn’t get the charter school cap lifted.
Josh Mohrer – Mohrer’s New York Uber team has led the fight to expand ride-hailing services beyond New York City. This year, the governor made it a priority and legislators ultimately reached an agreement that could have Uber operating in upstate by Independence Day. Now state legislators will have to find something else to complain about besides upstate’s taxi services.
Kathy Sheehan – Albany is unique among upstate cities: It hosts the state Capitol, while it also suffers from the usual upstate New York issues. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan caught a break in the latest state budget, which includes $12.5 million in funding that is critical to the city’s future. And with a re-election bid for Sheehan this fall, the timing was right.
Howard Zemsky – In the wake of investigations into alleged corruption involving state economic development funds, lawmakers called for more oversight. That doesn’t seem to have panned out. So despite the possible malfeasance and persistent questions about the effectiveness of Empire State Development programs, Zemsky will still get to run the state economic development arm the way he and Cuomo want – without pesky legislators getting in the way.
Bill de Blasio – Could the mayor really have expected things to go any differently in Albany? While the three (or four) men in the room debated whether to extend, expand or eliminate the state millionaires tax, de Blasio figured he could convince everyone to adopt his mansion tax idea, too. And while he still wants an extension of mayoral control of schools for more than 12 months, even a one-year extension stalled and will have to be taken up again later this session.
MaryEllen Elia – The major education policy discussion this year was the governor’s $163 million plan to offer free tuition for certain students at public colleges and universities. But far more consequential is the state’s overall outlay in public school aid, which is rising by $1.1 billion to $25.8 billion. While that’s a nice chunk of change, it’s well short of the $2.4 billion boost that state Education Commissioner Elia had sought.
Polly Trottenberg – Budget and policy experts have long touted design-build as a way to complete construction projects on time and on budget. But while a number of state entities have used the project delivery method for several years, the state isn’t about to grant the same authority to the five boroughs, even though NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has projects in the works that could benefit from it. It’s the same message Albany has been sending for years: Home rule, schmome rule.
Francisco Moya – After failing to advance for years, the Dream Act wasn't expected to make much headway in Albany. But Assemblyman Moya persistently puts it forward, while Senate Republicans persist in doing nothing with the measure, which would extend state scholarship assistance to undocument immigrants. This year, Moya’s long-suffering co-sponsor, Sen. Jose Peralta, could at least tout new funding for legal aid for immigrants.
Ted Potrikus – It’s often easier to just order what you need on Amazon. But what about the local shops and stores that are losing out on all that business? With that in mind, Potrikus’ Retail Council of New York State rallied behind the governor’s proposal to expand a tax on internet sales to third-party sellers to level the playing field – but they just couldn't seal the deal.