Albany Budget Update: Senate and Assembly Budget Conference Committees Meet, Internal Negotiations Continue
On March 23rd, the Senate and Assembly announced table targets, allocated amount of funding to be spent for each policy area. These are as follows amounts:
Health: $25 million
Education: $60 million
Higher Ed: $60 million
Human Services: $55 million
Public Protection/Criminal Justice: $13 million
Mental Health: $15 million
Environment/Agriculture/Housing: $20 million
General Government/Local Assistance: $15 million
Economic Development: $9 million
Transportation: $5 million
Total: $277 million
Now with dollar amounts known, negotiations begin in earnest to iron out specific programs and funding allocations within each issue area. Many Legislators have indicated that they are disappointed with the allocated funding. Legislative leaders have also alluded to an on-time budget, aiming to finish by Sunday, March 27th and begin printing bills to age appropriately. With many issues still to reach consensus, including "raise the age", minimum wage, paid family leave, education funding and transportation funds, it is unclear when lawmakers will finalize their negotiations. A budget is not due until Thursday, March 31st. This would be the sixth consecutive on-time budget.
The 2016-17 State Budget presents a unique opportunity for the State Legislature to build upon recent mandate relief efforts in support of counties and local taxpayers. Counties project our tax cap will be nearly zero in 2017 (.3%), and maintaining the tax cap under these circumstances will be difficult.
County leaders are encouraging state lawmakers to fight for:
1. A takeover of county indigent defense costs
2. Increased community college funding
3. Lowering and expanding the E 9-1-1 surcharge
4. Targeting bank settlement funds for infrastructure
Traction Building on Indigent Defense Expansion and State Fiscal Takeover
NYSAC lobbying efforts continue for a phased in state takeover of the costs and an expansion of Indigent Defense services. Currently counties pay close to 80 percent of the state mandated program. Additionally, the lack of uniformity of the system across the state must be addressed. Currently a State settlement to expand indigent defense services in five counties and New York City is leaving the remaining 52 counties with the choice of either not provide these same expanded services or to fund the expansion with local tax dollars.
Bipartisan State legislative support is growing for a state takeover the fiscal responsibility as well as expand Services. As reported earlier, bill S.6341
DeFrancisco) /A.6202B (Fahy) have been introduced to accomplish these goals, and now both the Senate and the Assembly have included the language in their one-house budget proposals.
Motor Fuel Price Projections for 2016 Continue to Fall
As recently as December, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that the average price of a gallon of gasoline would be about 3 percent less in 2016 compared to 2015. These projections for the average price of a gallon of gasoline continue to fall as we move into 2016. In early March, just three months later, the EIA is now projecting that the average price of a gallon of gasoline in 2016 will be about 22 percent less than it was in 2015. This continues a trend where each monthly estimate since December by the EIA has dropped further. Global supply and demand make accurate projections difficult, but current trends seem to indicate that fuel prices could remain lower than previously estimated through most of 2016 - at least for now. County sales taxes are applied as a percent of the retail price of a gallon of gasoline so lower fuel prices translates to lower county sales tax collections from motor fuel sales. The full year impact on total county sales tax collections from this fuel price trend, however, remains unclear at this time.
Assembly to Adopt a Series of Rules Reforms
The Assembly Majority released a series of 42 recommendations aimed at increasing transparency, integrating technology and streamlining the Legislative process. These proposed recommendations come as a result of a working group Assembly Speaker Heastie established nearly a year ago.
Some of the most significant reforms include increasing transparency by making documents such as expenditure reports, sponsor memos, support and opposition memos and procedural paperwork available online, for free. Another significant reform would be a two-year legislative process established through a rules change that eliminates automatic regression of bills when the second year of the two-year cycle begins. Eventually they will work toward a fully integrated two year session, so bills passed in the first year by one house may be passed in the second year by the other, and sent to the governor. The Senate would need to agree to this, and a change in statute would be required. The committee process will also be reformed to allow all members to have priority bills of their choosing be considered and voted on in committee. Lastly, in an effort to make the first half of a Legislative year more efficient, efforts will be made to bring more bills to the floor for a vote early in session, rather than waiting until after the NYS budget is adopted or until the last few weeks of session.
Some recommendations will effect local governments. Reforms will require that home rule messages from localities be made available online to the public. Reforms also require that when Assembly members introduce a new piece of legislation that they consider the bills fiscal impact on localities and notate any impact on an Introducer's Memorandum.
The Assembly is expected to formally consider these recommendations next week.