New York Times
After weeks of intraparty bickering, the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday signed off on a $175 billion budget that was wreathed with progressive initiatives, including changes to the cash bail system, a new tax on high-end homes and a groundbreaking plan to charge motorists to drive into Manhattan’s busiest stretches.
The budget deal was immediately hailed as “transformative” by Mr. Cuomo, and it will clearly have an impact felt far beyond taxpayers’ wallets. The agreement included deals that will likely change the way millions of New Yorkers shop, commute and vote: bans on plastic bags from retail stores, billions in new funds for New York’s troubled subway system and a new paid three-hour break on Election Day.
The budget’s progressive theme was a victory for Mr. Cuomo and the newly elected Democratic majority in the State Legislature, most notably Democrats who helped give the party control of the State Senate for the first time in a decade. They largely lived up to pledges to address big money in politics, raise taxes on the wealthy and overhaul a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets minority communities.
But the deal announced in the wee hours of Sunday morning also showed the limits of those
campaign promises. Activists criticized a plan to empower small campaign donors as halfhearted. A measure to tax luxury homes was refashioned at the last minute after the powerful real-estate industry intervened. And, perhaps most significant, hopes for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana were dashed, though lawmakers could still approve that later in the legislative session.
Still, for veteran observers of Albany, the sheer variety of issues settled since January — from infrastructure to the environment, from voting rights to transgender rights — was a relief from years of divided government, when interests of Republicans in the Senate often stood in contrast to the state’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.
“The process seems very similar,” said Blair Horner, the executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, and a former aide to Mr. Cuomo. “But the product is obviously very different because you have a new majority in the Senate.”
Most of the deals announced on Sunday were largely made behind closed doors, and left to the 11th hour: Voting was likely to push right up to, and perhaps past, the midnight deadline.
Chief among the new policies was congestion pricing, which is likely to affect the habits of anyone who works or plays in Manhattan. Under the plan, the first of its type in the nation, vehicles traveling below 60th Street will be subject to a toll, revenue that will be funneled into the city’s beleaguered subways and other regional transportation needs.
Another saw a proposed pied-à-terre tax, an annual recurring tax on second homes that were valued at $5 million or more, eliminated. Although the tax had the backing of state leaders, it evaporated under pressure from real estate interests and legal concerns.
In its place, lawmakers and Mr. Cuomo agreed to a “mansion tax” coupled with a real estate transfer tax, two one-time levies that would be charged at the point of sale on multimillion-dollar homes. The tax rate would top out at 4.15 percent on the sale of properties worth $25 million or more.
A plan to ban plastic bags in the state was also included in the budget, but it makes a fee on paper bags optional, which some environmentalists worry will lessen the popularity of reusable bags. New York would be the second state, after California, to ban plastic bags. (Hawaii also effectively has a ban in place, since all the state’s counties bar such single-use bags.)
New York Post
Gov. Cuomo just scored a 40 percent pay hike — and it’s not even the Legislature’s biggest gift to him in the new budget.
The late-night vote to increase the gov’s compensation — making New York’s chief executive the nation’s highest-paid — was just icing on a very fatty cake:
A six-member Traffic Mobility Review Board will fill in all the devilish details on the new tolls for driving in Manhattan below 60th Street — and it’s clear that Cuomo will dominate that panel while preserving his deniability.
The Cuomo-controlled MTA board will get final say over the tolls, as well as how the revenues are used, new MTA Chairman Pat Foye announced. That guarantees the gov will get his way.
New rules boost Cuomo’s power by making it easier to replace MTA board members.
Mayor de Blasio and the City Council thus wind up with zero power over the new tolls in the town they supposedly run — and no say in how those funds, or the take from new “mansion taxes,” get spent. Yet these are all revenue sources that city agencies, not state ones, should control.
The gov also won the ability to remove unruly members from the state’s Public Authorities Control Board — further increasing his power over millions in state grants.
A new commission will draw up the framework for public financing of state campaigns. Bet that Cuomo will either call the shots, or see that the whole thing blows up if he doesn’t like the results.
With the passage of this budget, Albany has created a gubernatorial monster.