New York Budget Negotiations Continue Into Eleventh Hour
By Mike Vilensky The Wall Street Journal March 31, 2017
Negotiations over New York’s roughly $160 billion budget are coming down to the wire. A deal is anticipated by the budget’sApril 1deadline, but key issues were still being sorted outThursday. Here are some of them:
Uber has spent more than $1 million in advertising since it began a new push late last year to legalize ride-sharing statewide, a move that polls show has broad support. But legislators have haggled over details like taxing rides and setting insurance requirements.On Thursday, people close to budget talks said a deal would likely come together by the budget’s deadline. But such talks have failed before, so all parties are hedging their bets.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration plans to subsidize some struggling nuclear plants as part of his goal for the state to rely on renewable energy sources for half its power by 2030.
But even supporters of the 2030 goal have criticized this deal as lacking transparency and too burdensome for utility customers. Legislators are pushing for a moratorium on the plan. The governor’s office said critics are overstating the hike in customers’ bills and that it will help New York in the long run.
The signature policy issue of Mr. Cuomo’s budget proposal is a plan to cover tuition for more state college students, an idea at the fore of the 2016 presidential Democratic primary. Mr. Cuomo’s Democratic colleagues have said his plan is less sweeping than advertised, and Republicans have questioned if it could hurt taxpayers down the road. But Mr. Cuomo has shown a knack for legislative negotiations, and is unlikely to walk away empty-handed on a priority.
A measure pushed by Democrats would remove minors from adult prisons and courts for nonviolent crimes, on par with all states besides North Carolina. Exactly which crimes are exempt from the conventional process, and what replaces adult courts, is still being hashed out. Democrats in the Senate Minority and advocates for large-scale changes have said they are ready to pounce if the changes are too minor. Republicans have expressed concerns about exempting too many people.
Education and Health Spending
Medicaid and public education take up the biggest slices of the budget every year, but Mr. Cuomo this year has said they must be kept at “conservative” levels to prepare the state for potential cuts from the federal government under a new Republican president. That didn’t sit well with Democrats in the state Assembly who are closely aligned with teacher’s unions. Democrats said they will fight the governor on it.
A former top Cuomo aide was indicted late last year, and a state senator was indicted just last week, but those scandals haven’t appeared to move the ball on ethics measures. (Both have pleaded not guilty.) In January Mr. Cuomo proposed a number of measures to tighten campaign-donation rules and restrict outside income for lawmakers, but none are likely to pass with the budget, people close to the talks said.
Legislators have also gone back and forth with the governor over new oversight measures for state economic-development programs. But this may get pushed to the end-of-session negotiations in June.
Senate Republicans are pushing to overhaul New York’s workers' compensation program that is paid out to injured workers. They say it is burdening businesses that have to pay into it and allege it is vulnerable to being abused. Changes to the system could be a bargaining chip as Mr. Cuomo goes back and forth with the GOP pushing his own policy issues.
Mr. Cuomo’s $1 billion revival plan for Buffalo, N.Y., has come under scrutiny for its effectiveness. Some of the deals related to the program also sparked federal charges. However, Mr. Cuomo and lawmakers are expected to fund the rest of the program -- another $500 million -- in the budget. Mr. Cuomo is also pushing to spend $1 billion to aid struggling swaths of Brooklyn.
Protections from Federal Cuts
Mr. Cuomo earlier this week suggested there was so much uncertainty about how New York would fare under policies from a Republican president and Congress that lawmakers may hold off on passing a new state budget. That idea has faded in recent days, but lawmakers are still considering measures for making midyear budgetary changes in response to federal action.