State Legislative Update
The Senate and Assembly will convene for session in Albany Monday, March 6 through Wednesday, March 8th. Both houses are expected to release their one house spending plans the Week of March 13th. These could take the form of bills or resolutions that establish the major priorities of each house.
Once these one house measures are released and passed by their respective chambers, legislative leaders will name Budget Conference Committees which negotiate aspects of the budget still in question. Conference committee meetings could begin as early as the week of March 13th, leading up to final negotiations and a budget agreement due by April 1st.
Joint Economic Revenue Consensus Forecast
Last week the Legislature and Governor agreed to add $200 million in available revenues to the Governor's original budget proposal. This is below what the Senate and Assembly projected in their one-house revenue forecasts. The Senate projected newly available revenues of $503 million for the end of the current state fiscal year and the 2018 fiscal year. The Assembly projected nearly $1.4 billion in newly available revenue. For the most part the differences stem largely from economic projections and how different growth models impact New York State tax collections. All sides agreed there are important risks to these estimates and many unknowns related to federal fiscal policy (both spending and taxation) that could alter this forecast. Global economic growth, energy prices and the general strength of the U.S. economy and its' major sectors (finance, housing, construction, manufacturing, retail and services), along with consumer confidence, all carry upside and downside risks to the State Financial Plan and the agreed upon revenue forecast. The new revenue estimate will become a key contributor to finalizing the state budget, which will also be further informed by each chambers' one house budget proposals and caseload estimates.
County Officials Gather in Albany to Rally for Indigent Defense Reform
On February 28, 2017 dozens of county officials came to Albany to continue advocating for indigent defense system reform. County officials, including Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and Chief Defenders Association President Mark Williams, asked state lawmakers to enact legislation that will enhance the indigent defense system by way of State fiscal takeover and adding funding in all counties for arraignment counsel and public defender caseload caps.
Last year, the State Legislature unanimously passed S.6341 (DeFrancisco) /A.6202B (Fahy) to accomplish this goal, but it was vetoed on December 31, 2016. Those attending the rally stressed that indigent defense system proposals are in the current Executive Budget are only a half measure, and changes are still needed to include reimburse the $400 plus million counties/property tax payers are spending on current services.
Water Infrastructure: Multiple Proposals on the Table
The state's aging water infrastructure, deteriorating pipes, struggling wastewater treatment plants and water main breaks have become commonplace throughout the state. Comptroller DiNapoli recently issued a report indicating that the State would need and estimated $80 billion to repair, maintain and replace drinking and wastewater infrastructure in New York over the next 20 years. To begin addressing these issues, the Governor and State Legislature have started to release various water infrastructure proposals.
The Governor's proposal creates a$2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act to be funded at $400 million per year over five years for municipal drinking water and waste water infrastructure improvements and source water protection. Funding would be utilized to improve municipal drinking water distribution and filtration systems, replace lead service lines, improve wastewater treatment infrastructure, make strategic open space and farmland protection investments, expedite the cleanup of hazardous waste that may impact drinking water, and support green infrastructure.
There are 4 program proposals included within the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017:
A legislative proposal put forth by Assemblyman Phil Steck and Senator Jim Tedesco would create a Safe Water Infrastructure Action Program (SWAP) to assist local governments for drinking water, sanitary sewer and storm water infrastructure projects. The program would be similar to the existing Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs), with payments based on a formula calculating the amount of funding allocated in relation to the length and width of water infrastructure.
- 1. State Funding for Land Acquisition Projects
- 2. Lead Service Line Replacement Grant Program
- 3. Cleanup & Abatement of Solid Waste & Drinking Water Contamination
- 4. New York State Regional Water Infrastructure Grants Program
A State Senate republican proposal, put forth by Senator Tom O'Mara, who chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee, and Sen. Kemp Hannon, who chairs the Health Committee, would provide a $5 billion bond act for water infrastructure. Under this proposal, $1.5 billion would be used for protecting watersheds, drinking water supplies and water quality research and restoration. The remaining $3.5 billion would be used for water and wastewater infrastructure, replacing septic systems, new filtration systems and other measures to address water contamination.
Any bond act would have to approved by voters in a referendum.
New NY Broadband Program - Phase 2 Awards
On Tuesday, February 8th Governor Cuomo announced $212 million in New NY Broadband Program Round II grants have been awarded to projects across Upstate New York. In total, Round II will drive $268 million in public-private investment and will support a total of 54 projects that will reach 89,514 homes and institutions in unserved and underserved communities. With upstate high-speed broadband buildouts and upgrades being carried out by Charter under mandates from the New York State Public Service Commission, Round II awards will potentially provide 98 percent of New Yorkers access to the high-speed broadband. For a list of Phase 2 Awards, visit https://nysbroadband.ny.gov/new-ny-broadband-program/phase-2-awards.
Celebrating Women's Suffrage: Centennial Commission Announces Events
From the inception of the women's rights movement in Seneca Falls in 1848, New York has been a leader in advancing women's equality. Women obtained the right to vote in New York in 1917, and the 19th Amendment was ratified three years later. To honor the centennial of women's suffrage in New York, the State Legislature passed and Governor Cuomo signed a law establishing a 14-member Women's Suffrage Commission.
The Commission will organize a series of statewide programs starting in 2017, which marks the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in New York State. The programs will continue until 2020, a century after the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting all women across the United States the right to vote. The state has begun to move forward with plans for the three-year celebration of the centennial of women's suffrage, with a new display going up in the Capitol and several events planned for the summer.
The Commission's programs will celebrate the accomplishment of women's suffrage and the central role of New Yorkers and New York State in this milestone, while also helping shape the future to ensure a more just and equitable society for all. For more information, please click here.
Legislation would support county DMV's and provides aid to counties
Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi and Senator Patricia Ritchie have introduced bipartisan legislation (S1908/A3397) that provides an equitable share of DMV generated revenue to counties. The State requires counties to operate and staff DMV's on their behalf yet the State retains 87.3% of all revenue generated from this county provided service. The costs of operating local DMV's only continue to increase while at the same time counties are required to operate under a property tax cap. This legislation seeks to fix the current broken system by increasing the county share of DMV created revenue from 12.7% to 25%. This legislation does not increase the fees or costs to residents, but it does provide county DMV offices with the resources they need to better serve residents.
NYSAC commends Assemblymember Brindisi and Senator Ritchie for their continued effort to champion this legislation. NYSAC encourages county leaders to voice support for this measure, and encourage them to include this language in their one-house budget proposals.