Friday, March 27, 2015

Budget Deadline is Quickly Approaching

It was another eventful week at the State Capitol, as the deadline for an on-time State budget looms near. After two press conferences and much member-to-member lobbying and conference briefings, the League had learned earlier this week that the Education Investment Tax Credit (ETC) was taken out of the budget negotiations. Our rejoicing was short-lived, though, as information circulated Thursday afternoon indicating that the ETC was still being considered in the negotiations. It’s not over until it’s over and we will remain vigilant in the few remaining pre-budget days ahead. On Wednesday morning, Marian Bott, our Education Finance Issue Specialist spoke about the ETC on Capitol Pressroom. To hear her radio interview, click here.
The League stood proudly this week at a press conference with Legislators and other advocates in support of A.6112, which would guarantee a women’s right to make personal, private decisions about her reproductive health care. To read the press release for this event, click here. Throughout the day, Legislators and advocates alike were seen walking the halls of the Capitol, sporting pink scarves and ties to showcase their support for women’s reproductive health care. We later sat in the gallery overlooking the Assembly chamber to watch Assembly Members debate this controversial (yes, it is STILL controversial!) piece of legislation. We applaud the Assembly for passing this and hope that the Senate will join the Assembly in passing this critical piece of legislation. To read our Memo in Support, click here.

We are hearing that the budget will still be passed on-time next week, so be sure to check back in then!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A typical mid-March week

It was a typical mid-March week at the Capitol – we spent session days running around the Capitol, attending committee meetings, press conferences, working with our coalition partners and meeting with Legislators as much as possible.

As you know, the League is a proud member of the Women’s Equality Coalition and, as such, has engaged in advocacy work on a range of women’s issues, including human trafficking and paid family leave.  We were very pleased that the Assembly passed anti-human trafficking and paid family leave legislation earlier this week. To read our memos on these issues, click here (human trafficking) and here (paid family leave).

On Wednesday, a press conference (which we were, ironically, not allowed attend!) was held to announce the two-way ethics agreement reached between the Governor and the Assembly (not Senate). And while the reforms outlined are surely a step in the right direction, the League and other good-government organizations were disappointed to learn that certain significant reform measures did not make into the agreement – for example, closure of the LLC loophole. You can be sure we will all continue to advocate for items that are not included in the measures advanced by the Governor and Speaker. To read our joint statement on this issue, click here .

Also on Wednesday, our Education Finance Issue Specialist, Marian Bott, joined Legislators and advocates at a press conference to support the Assembly and Governor’s Version of the Property Tax Relief Circuit Breaker, which would provide targeted property tax relief to those that need it the most. Check out the press release from this event here. It has been a busy week for Marian, who, as many of you know, has also been working tirelessly to oppose the Education Investment Tax Credit – check out her blog post this week here.

With the deadline for the budget getting closer with each week, we are sure to have our work cut out for us these next two weeks.  Stay tuned, as more updates are forthcoming!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Let the budget process begin!

It was another busy week up at the Capitol. On Monday, we stood with other civic groups, public education advocates and Legislators to reiterate our strong opposition to the Education Investment Tax Credit. A copy of our press release can be found here. Throughout the week, crowds of citizens and advocates descended upon the Capitol to advocate for their particular issues, making it difficult to maneuver through the hallways, get in and out of elevators and pass through exceedingly long security lines.

The Legislature’s election and re-election of Board of Regents members occupied a long joint session on Tuesday afternoon and Thursday ushered in debates of the one house budget resolutions. With that, the state budget process has begun! It appears that both houses have agreed to disentangle some of the Governor’s linkages in the budget, such as the linkage of the Education Investment Tax Credit to the Dream Act and Tuition Assistance Program. The process will include joint open budget conference committees, starting with the general conference committee comprised of leadership, known to lobbyists and advocates as the “mothership.”  Joint conference committees will begin next week, ensuring another busy week for us up at the Capitol!

Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 Legislative Session is (finally) in Full-Swing

Although the Legislature has been in session since January, it feels as though the work of the 2015 Legislative session has only recently started. A series of snowstorms coinciding with session days, combined with the surprising change in the Assembly leadership, resulted in what felt like an awfully slow (and scandalous!) start to this Legislative session.

With the dust from the Assembly leadership shift finally starting to settle and session now in full-swing, the League has begun its advocacy work around a variety of issues. For a list of our legislative priorities this year, check out our 2015 Legislative Agenda. February afforded us the opportunity to testify at two joint legislative public hearings – education and public protections. On February 3rd, Marian Bott, LWVNYS Education Finance Issue Specialist, presented testimony to the Joint Fiscal Committees and Assembly and Senate Education Committees, voicing our strong opposition to the Education Investment Tax Credit. To read her testimony, click here. On February 26th, I presented testimony to the Joint Fiscal Committees at the Public Protection Hearing, highlighting our position on Election Law reform items and reiterating the League’s positions on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform. To read my testimony, click here.

At this hearing, I also emphasized the League’s opposition to injecting non-fiscal policies into the State budget process to this extreme, which very much seems to be the Governor’s MO this session. To be sure, our conversations with numerous Legislators and advocates have indicated that the League is not alone in our deep disappointment that the Governor has leveraged the budget process in such a politicized manner. Alas, much of our advocacy efforts this March will involve working to separate some of the good policies that have been, regrettably, tethered to bad policies. And, we will be encouraging Legislators to do the same.

As some of you may already know, the League is vehemently opposed to the Education Investment Tax Credit (ETC), which has been linked in the budget to the Dream Act and to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).  Not only does the League believe that each of these policies should be considered on their own merits, the League also believes that public dollars should go to public education. We, therefore, oppose the ETC bill, which proposes a tax credit – not to be confused with a tax deduction, which represents a much smaller loss of revenue to the state than do tax credits – that will function to divert public dollars to private and parochial schools and siphon $100 or $150 million from the general fund. These are dollars that could (and should!) otherwise be directed toward addressing educational disparities in our public schools, especially given that the State has yet to fulfill the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit’s aim to provide students in low-wealth districts with the sound and basic education they are entitled to.  To read our memo in opposition to the ETC bill, click here. For additional background, check out the Policy Brief issued by Fiscal Policy Institute.  The League, in partnership with other civic groups, parent organizations, public education advocates and Legislators, will be participating in a press conference on Monday, March 9that 11:30am. 

Stay tuned for more updates – we’ve only just begun!