Friday, March 17, 2017

March Budget Madness Continues

Monday started with a conference and rally by NYCLU dealing with reproductive justice, GENDA legislation, and legal services for the indigent and immigrants. The conferees rallied outside of the Capitol in very cold temperatures but the conference attracted over 2,000 people.  All of the speakers delivered moving firsthand accounts of the challenges they have faced because of outdated and prejudicial laws surrounding reproductive health care, the judicial system, and immigration. Several League members were part of the rally. The one house budget resolutions were released in both houses but because of the blizzard Tuesday’s session was canceled.

On Tuesday New York State was hit with a large snow storm that stalled budget negotiations in the Senate and Assembly. Wednesday business resumed and the two houses began debating their budget resolutions. The Assembly included early voting, automatic voter registration, closing the LLC loophole, and some other ethics reforms in their package. They also included as a priority Raise the Age, funding for immigration services, a $1.8 billion increase in school funding,  and a commitment to a full phase-in of the Foundation Aid formula starting with a $1.4 billion increase this year.
The Senate’s proposal was quite different with a heavy focus on further reducing taxes on the middle class and wealth 1%. The Senate also proposed an increase in school aid by $1.2 billion and increase in foundation aid by $4.7 million over executive proposal. Both houses disagree with Governor over the elimination of foundation aid formula. Both resolutions also included a clean water bond act, and an opioid addiction plan.

Senate Democrats put forward their own resolution that was not permitted by the majority to be considered by the full Senate. There was extreme tension between the GOP and Dempcrats that resulted in a heated debate between Senators Bonacic and Gianaris. The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) also created their own budget resolution. The Senate GOP allowed the conference to have their resolution come to the floor for a vote. Mainline Democrats were furious and all voted against the resolution after some very raucous debate.

The IDC resolution was largely the same but did focus on Raise the Age (although not the same Raise the Age provisions as the Assembly), more money for legal defense for immigrants,  different monetary amounts for Medicaid, the DREAM act, and a few other “progressive” policies. Over all the two bills are very similar and the Democrats were furious over the obvious power play by Senator Klein. Senator Gianaris was particularly upset and got into a heated debate continues  with the new Senator from Manhattan Marisol Alcantara who eventually went on to accuse Gianaris of white privilege because he was opposing the DREAM Act (a bill which Gianaris is actually a staunch supporter). Eventually Senator Flanagan had to rise and remind the Senators to keep with chamber decorum or else face being removed from the chamber.

Even though the IDC resolution passed this really doesn’t mean anything.  We expect on Monday the General Conference Committee (aka Mothership) will meet this coming Monday and our hope is that they will set table targets for the different issue area committees to discuss (ex. Health care, education, transportation). As always the three men in the room do the actual budget negotiations behind closed doors.  The League will continue to push for open leaders meetings as the budget negotiations continue. It is likely that many of these proposals will be stripped from the final bill but we hope that the Assembly will stand strong on their proposals to include Raise the Age and a full phase in of Foundation Aid. 

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