Budget Season Begins, But First Let’s Talk Redistricting
On Wednesday, the Senate voted on the second passage of the constitutional amendment on redistricting, with 43 senators voting in favor of the amendment and 20 opposed. Debate on the amendment included a heated exchange between Senator Krueger and Senator Defranciso concerning whether Democrats had faired any better than have Republicans in creating fair redistricting lines – an exchange which highlighted that, as Senator Defranciso noted, “you can’t take politics out of politics” and that fair redistricting won’t happen in 2022 without independent oversight of the politically charged process. Senator Gianaris of the mainstream Democrats debated in opposition of the amendment, having a lengthy dialogue with Senator Nozzolio, who was speaking in favor of the amendment for the Republicans. No member of the IDC spoke during the debate, but all 5 members voted in favor of the amendment, as did 13 Democrats and all Senate Republicans. Having long fought for a change to the current ineffective and unfair redistricting process, the League supports this amendment and believes that it is the best chance for permanent structural reform for decades to come.
This week also saw the release of Governor Cuomo’s 2013-14 fiscal year budget proposal. Overall, while the governor has indicated a progressive social agenda this session, his proposed budget points to a continuation of a more conservative fiscal agenda. Over the next 6 weeks, the legislature will begin debating legislative priorities and how they fit into the proposed budget.
Budget hearings begin next week and can be viewed live on both the senate and assembly websites. The League will be testifying at Tuesday’s education hearings – our education finance specialist, Marion Bott, has been very busy in our offices this week preparing testimony. While the governor’s budget calls for a 4% increase in education funding, many school districts are still dealing with budget cuts of years past. The League will also be testifying and/or submitting testimony on the Board of Elections during the public protection hearings and on healthcare and transportation. Of note, the state budget does not include funding to increase staffing at the State Board of Elections or for a publicly funded campaign finance system.