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March 20, 2014

Hey, Assembly, what gives?

Tim Hoefer

Over at SeeThroughNY, our team works really hard to post fresh data quickly and accurately — when it’s available, that is.

Today, we updated legislative expenditures for the state Senate, but not for the Assembly, which hasn’t posted its data yet.

A week ago, the Assembly Majority assured us the data would be online in the “very near future.” The Senate made its data available back in late February. (more…)

November 19, 2013

Senate GOP weighs in on taxes

E.J. McMahon

Senate Republicans have issued a preliminary report laying out a series of state tax reform options and recommendations while also calling for a 2 percent cap on state spending to generate a “freedom fund” to pay for further tax reductions.

Like last week’s recommendations by Governor Cuomo’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission, the Senate report contains some interesting ideas. Some are better than others–but at least one is downright awful (see below).


November 8, 2013

Cuomo finally issues mid-year financial update

E.J. McMahon

Eight days past the statutory deadline, Governor Cuomo’s Division of the Budget (DOB) has finally released a required mid-year update to the state financial plan.

The report is not only late for a third consecutive year; at first glance, in what’s becoming a Cuomo administration tradition, it features minimal new information. For example, the 2014-15 budget gap is still projected at $1.7 billion, even though data from state Comptroller DiNapoli’s office suggest it will be much smaller. More analysis to follow in this space.

Meanwhile, and probably not by coincidence, DiNapoli was the only player in the state budget development process who met Wednesday’s deadline for issuing revenue estimates in advance of next Friday’s statutory deadline for a Quick Start consensus forecast. The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means Committee staffs, on both the majority and minority sides, are overdue in preparing their revenue estimates, presumably awaiting the Mid-Year report and DOB’s 2013 Economic, Spending and Revenue Methodologies report, also released today .


March 11, 2013

An Assembly reprieve for local reports?

E.J. McMahon

Based on their just-introduced one-house budget, Assembly Democrats don’t support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate all required reports by local governments and school districts to state agencies. From a transparency and accountability standpoint, that’s good news for taxpayers and the general public, as explained here.

Much less positively, in the same Article 7 budget bill, Assembly Democrats go along with the governor’s proposal to raid the State Insurance Fund (SIF) for $1.75 billion, which I criticize in this New York Post op-ed today.


March 4, 2013

STAR-crossed Senate proposes tax changes

E.J. McMahon

Senate Republicans today unveiled some new proposed personal income tax (PIT) adjustments that would generate savings for middle-class families.* For a couple with income of $70,000 and two children under 17, the potential annual tax cut from the proposed Family Tax Relief Act would appear to come to roughly $700. The estimated revenue hit of $500 million from these changes would be relatively modest, especially if spread over a few years.

So far, so good. The dependent exemption, after all, hasn’t been touched in 25 years, and those credits were never indexed to inflation.

Unfortunately, the Senate GOP conference also wants to spend a whopping $1.3 billion to revive New York’s School Tax Relief (STAR) property tax rebates — a classic political check-in-the-mailbox waste of money that disappeared, widely unmourned, just three years after its 2006 election-year enactment. STAR rebates would be calculated as a percentage of savings already provided through the main STAR homestead exemption program, and would average $445 per homeowner, and $460 for seniors. The Senate passed a one-house STAR rebate bill last year, too.  (Think of it as a $1.3 billion excuse for avoiding Triborough repeal and other school mandate relief.)


NY receipts forecast: Excelsior!

E.J. McMahon

In line with New York’s motto — “Excelsior” — the state assumes its tax receipts are headed ever upward.

Late last week, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced they had agreed to a consensus forecast adding $200 million to the combined receipts already budgeted for fiscal years 2012-13 (which ends on March 31) and 2013-14. Cuomo’s Executive Budget already had assumed healthy tax receipts growth of 4.8 percent— so the consensus simply pushes the envelope a little further out there, in an arguably riskier direction.


November 26, 2012

Cuomo misses deadline and breaks law — again

E.J. McMahon

For a second straight year, Governor Andrew Cuomo has fallen behind the schedule for releasing the required quarterly update to the state financial plan. And for a second straight year, the governor can’t come up with a persuasive reason for the delay.

In today’s Post, Fred Dicker quotes an administration source as saying the mid-year update is “all pre-Sandy numbers,” so the superstorm cannot be used as an excuse.


July 3, 2012

Counting our blessings

E.J. McMahon

It was Mark Twain who supposedly said “no man’s property is safe when Congress is in session” — a concept that a surely extends to the New York State Legislature as well. In that spirit, here’s something to celebrate on the Fourth of July: the Legislature not only left Albany on schedule June 21, it passed fewer bills this year than in any regular session since 1914, according to an analysis by New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

The 571 bills passed by both houses before the regular session adjourned were less than half the average during the 1960s, the decade in which the Legislature was most hyperactive. Perhaps not by coincidence, the ’60s — heyday of Rocky in Albany and LBJ in DC — also had the most lasting negative impact on the state’s economy and finances in the long term.*


June 15, 2012

Pay raises for everyone?

Tim Hoefer

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

It seems like everyone who counts in Albany could get a pay bump before the year’s out.

Pay raises are basically an annual tradition for government employees.  As The Chief reports (subscription required), about 75 percent of the members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and 67 percent of Public Employees Federation (PEF) members are getting increases from step increments and longevity bonuses, despite the state’s supposed wage freeze. (The unions say their members are still losing money due to payless furlough days and increases in health insurance premiums.) Teachers often get two raises each year, one negotiated in their contract as a “raise,” and one as a “step” increase.


June 5, 2012

A glimmer of hope for renewed transparency

Tim Hoefer

Headed for the governor's desk?

Reversing decades of precedent, all but one of the state’s public pension funds are now refusing to release the names of hundreds of thousands of retired employees who collect billions of dollars a year in taxpayer-guaranteed pensions.

The pension funds are citing a 2011 decision by the Appellate Division in Manhattan, which in turn upheld a lower court’s rejection of the Empire Center’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the names of retired New York City police officers for inclusion on the SeeThroughNY database. In a decision we’re fighting, the courts upheld the city Police Pension Fund’s claim that retirees themselves are entitled to the same confidentiality as their designated beneficiaries (usually surviving spouses).

But the Legislature may be riding to the rescue of the public’s right to know.


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