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7 Takeaways From New York's $ 175 Billion Budget



[Whatyouneedtoknowyourstart: Get New York Today in your inbox negotiating, New York's $ 175 billion state budget is finally here.

You could call it the budget of progressive priorities. It's the first budget in a decade to be negotiated between all Democrats – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Democrat-led State Senate and Assembly – and will turn many long-neglected liberal priorities into reality.

But you could also call it the budget or compromises. Even if activists cheered on the inclusion of certain issues, they also said that some measures did not go far enough, or delivered on certain promises in name only.

The idea of ​​charging drivers of vehicles that had the busiest parts of Manhattan had been around for decades. But lawmakers from outside Manhattan always shot it down, worrying that their constituents would pay a price without reaping benefits.

Mr. Cuomo, who has been hammered by political opponents over the transit system that he controls, made congestion pricing a must have in negotiations. Democrats campaigned on a promise to fix the subways, and even many legislators from outside Manhattan rallied behind the plan as a way to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"We at the point where the Assembly members understand the need to find the MTA," Carl E. Heastie, the Assembly speaker, said last week.

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had pushed instead of tax on the wealth, agreed that congestion pricing was the only viable way forward.

Legal weed failed

The pieces seemed to be in place this year for legalizing recreational marijuana. Mr. Cuomo, who had long been skeptical of what he called a gateway drug, finally announced his support for legalization in December. And Mr. Cuomo is known for getting what he wants in Albany.

Well-financed medical marijuana companies wanted a stake. So did progressive black lawmakers, who opposed any bill that did not guarantee returns for their communities. Some suburban legislators did not want legalization at all – they were public safety and health effects.

Even though activists made a huge last-minute push – hundreds of people walked through the Capitol last week, chanting loudly for legalized marijuana – it

There was still a chance that it could have passed separately in the remaining months of session. But it may be more forceful to vote without a budget deadline. And while there is always next year, 2020 is an election year and few lawmakers are not taking controversial votes while up for re-election.

One of the most striking last year's election was the number of incumbents who were unseated, in spite of deeper pockets and, in many cases, party support.

The challengers who replaced them were pushed for a small-donor matching system, which would elevate the voices of everyday New Yorkers over megadonors, and could encourage more upsets in the future.

That predictably unnerved by some longtime politicians. After all, why would anyone want to change a system that had allowed them to win? Mr. Heastie said earlier this month that he was sure he had the votes to push through public financing.

Hence the compromise: The budget guarantees a small-donor match system but leaves the details to a newly created commission, which would determine key details like the ratio of the match and contribution limits.

The commission could create a program like New York City, which matched donations 6 to 1. That would make New York the first state in the nation to have an active, robust matching program. Or it could create a toothless program that actually kept the old system in place.

"It's possible the commission could create a successful program," said Jessica Wisneski, co-director of Citizen Action of New York, a grass roots group. Or, she said, "It could be a cynical attempt to kill reform." New taxes on the rich (just note those taxes)

After the billionaire, Kenneth C. Griffin, bought a $ 238 million penthouse in Manhattan – the most anyone ever paid for a home in the United States – simmering around income inequality turned into a sudden momentum for a pied-a-terrib, which would tax ultraluxury second homes above $ 5

But the powerful real estate industry, which has found many officials' campaigns, jumped into action. They were especially unsuccessful in the recurring nature of the tax, which developers would devastate the high-end market. Tax experts also said that the proposal would be difficult to implement on top of the city's antiquated property tax system.

So a compromise emerged, yet again: instead of a recurring pied-à-terre tax, the state will raise the so-called -Called "mansion tax" and the real-estate transfer tax on multimillion-dollar properties. Those taxes will be one-time fees and raise a combined $ 365 million.

That was less than some people had predicted a tax-raising tax would raise. But it also sends a clear message that those who can afford to pay are expected to do so.

In other words, real estate showed again that it has power in Albany. But maybe less than before. [Criminaljusticetransformed

Mr. Heastie, the first black Assembly speaker in state history, memorably said in January that he would have been a failure as a black man if we did not reform the criminal justice system. ”On Sunday, he could celebrate some major changes. ] While cash bail will not be entirely due, as some had wanted, it will end up for all but certain violent felonies. Mr. Cuomo's office estimated that 90 percent of people charged with a crime would no longer be jailed before trial.

Prosecutors will also be forced to reveal possibly exculpatory evidence to the defense earlier in the discovery process, and speedy trials will be guaranteed.

These are all major victories for advocacy groups and public defenders, who have noted that new York's discovery laws had previously ranked fourth worst in the nation. Rebecca Brown, director of policy at the Innocence Project, called Sunday's package "transformational."

When it comes to describing how Mr. Cuomo felt the sudden collapse of the plan to bring Amazon to New York City, might seem too gentle.

He called the deal's opponents "ignorant" and "superficial." He blasted them as politically motivated and insincere . He even suggested that the Senate Democrats had engaged in a form of "government corruption" by nominating a vocal opponent of the deal, Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, to a board with possible veto power over it.

And he continued to make his name is known on Sunday, through a commission of the state budget that gives him "full discretion to immediately remove" in member of the board that Mr. Gianaris was nominated for, if the governor found that member was "acting, or threatening to act," in any way that went beyond just fiscal analysis. "It was never," You came and use your political wisdom. " There was a very limited legal role, "Mr. Cuomo said on Sunday. “And a person who is acting outside their legal role should not be in that role.”

Everyone (except perhaps the Republicans) was declaring victory on Sunday. And to a certain extent, everyone could.

Mr. Cuomo could claim victory on almost every priority he had outlined in his State of the State budget in January. He got a permanent property tax cap, a (limited) plan to publicly finance campaigns and bail reform. He could also have another timely budget, a special point of pride.

The Senate and Assembly majorities could claim to have made those policies possible, after years of being a member of a Republican led Senate. They also were most likely not upset by the $ 10,000 pay raise that comes with a timely budget (though what means "is a matter of some debate.")

Liberal activists, who had spent the last week of the budget negotiations pacing the Capitol's halls, meeting with legislators and hosting raucous rallies, could point to concrete outcomes.

But Albany's longtime power brokers didn't leave empty-handed either. They successfully talked to legislators out of the pied-à-terre, and a fully formulated public financing program. Full-fledged ethics reforms to address pay-to-play scandals and enforce freedom-of-information laws go unaddressed.

"It's a mixed bag," said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a government reform group. “A more open, longerier process would have given us a stronger result.

"But I don 't want to undercut the fact that we are at least talking about these things and at least moving some reforms."


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