One (house) and done

With help from Shawn Ness

The Senate and Assembly's one-house budgets have officially been approved, and Republicans think Democrats are addicted to spending.

Both houses of the state Legislature approved their one-house budget proposals this afternoon, setting the stage for final talks with Gov. Kathy Hochul over the spending plan that’s due March 31.

Today’s debates also gave Republicans a chance to formally weigh in on the plans the Democratic supermajorities released earlier in the week. And they issued a unanimous verdict: Democrats are addicted to spending.

“We’ve been consistently ranked as one of the worst tax climates in the country,” said Assemblymember Ed Ra, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. “We’re here again with ‘temporary’ tax increases, as we call them, but very rarely are they temporary.”

The tab for the Assembly and Senate budget plans both near $246 billion. That’s more than $13 billion over what Hochul proposed in January.

The increase comes in part to a billion dollar adjustment in revenue projections and a hoped-for $4 billion waiver for more federal Medicaid money. But it’s also made possible thanks to proposed increased taxes on high-earning individuals and corporations.

Republicans noted that the price tag the Legislature is seeking would lead to a $75 billion increase in total spending since Democrats assumed one-party control of the state in 2019. That increase in the course of six years is more than the total annual budget for 37 states.

“If spending money made New York more affordable, we’d be the most affordable state in the country,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said. “In fact, we’re the least affordable state in the country.”

Democrats hit back on Republican attacks, particularly accusations that the budget would further increase New York’s outmigration.

Manhattan state Sen. Cordell Cleare said during the floor debate that the number one reason she has heard from neighbors “who have had to leave the city” is that “rents are too high.”

“We have to create affordable housing. And I’m very proud of what was put into this one-house to create that,” Cleare said, referencing Democratic plans to jumpstart stalled talks on a housing policy.

Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger said her house’s proposal was the best she’s seen in her 23 sessions in the Legislature thanks to how it deals with topics like clean energy, higher taxes on the ultrawealthy and education funding.

“I know some of my colleagues think we’re making all of the wrong decisions and it’s not true,” Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, said. During Republican control of the Senate, the Legislature would “borrow, borrow, borrow, because we didn’t want to tax and spend.”

“And now, yeah, we do some taxes,” Krueger said. “Minimal, on those who can afford it. But we’re not borrowing to balance our budget. We have a plan for a balanced budget. And there are really important things in that budget for every part of the state.”

Lawmakers then left for the week, to return Monday for another four-day session week as the budget deadline nears. Bill Mahoney

State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner are sponsoring a bill that would give tax credits to local news outlets. The inclusion of the bill in the one-house budgets has the Empire State Local News Coalition hyped.

SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM: After the Senate and Assembly released their one-house budgets on Monday, the Empire State Local News Coalition applauded the inclusion of the “Local Journalism Sustainability Act.”

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, would provide tax credits to local news outlets that employ local journalists. Local organizations would receive a 50 percent tax credit against the first $50,000 of each employee’s salary. The credit is capped at $200,000 per outlet.

“Our coalition’s unprecedented mobilization of more than 150 New York local news outlets in just a few months sent a clear message to Albany: it’s time to support local journalism,” Zachary Richner, one of the group’s founders, said in a statement.

“Communities across our state are speaking up about the indispensable role of local news in safeguarding democracy and strengthening social ties amid a time of unprecedented crisis for the news industry,”

Since 2005, 2,500 newspapers across the country have closed. Over 40 percent of all newspapers in New York have closed since 2004.

“The Local Journalism Sustainability Act will incentivize the hiring of journalists and ensure that New Yorkers have access to the quality, independent local news they deserve,” Richner added.

Supporters have tried for years to get similar measures approved, but to no avail. It’s unclear whether it’ll change this year. — Shawn Ness

The Department of Investigation is looking into the NYPD's use of surveillance technology, parking placards and public-housing water contamination.

CASH CRUNCH: The city’s Department of Investigation plans to probe the NYPD’s use of surveillance technology, the use of parking placards (which are wantonly abused by public servants and others) and a public-housing water contamination snafu at public housing, Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said during a City Council hearing today.

However, the department said two rounds of savings initiatives, called “Programs to Eliminate the Gap,” have hit it particularly hard.

“DOI does not have programmatic initiatives or discretionary obligations that can be easily cut to satisfy the Programs to Eliminate the Gap and thus reducing vacant positions has been our primary tool to meet reduction targets,” she said during a budget oversight hearing.

The agency is seeking funds to hire 20 vacant spots largely in its investigative division that Strauber said are key to performing basic duties and expand the department’s ability to launch proactive investigations. — Joe Anuta

ZAZA WASN’T: New York City officials seized and padlocked a notorious illegal pot shop Wednesday for selling untaxed cigarettes, Playbook reported. But this morning, Zaza Waza was open again for business. …Until Council Member Gale Brewer called the cops, who talked to the merchant inside and got her to leave and lock the door.

Brewer has been trying to close the store — one of 53 unlicensed cannabis shops on the Upper West Side, she said — for over a year. This episode highlighted how government agencies haven’t been able to close head shops that are openly flouting marijuana control laws.

The state Office of Cannabis Management doesn’t have enough resources to take on the problem, Brewer said. So she reiterated her budget ask: “The state has to give authority to the city and the City Council has to pass a law” to boost enforcement. Jeff Coltin

The United University Professions is hosting a series of virtual panel discussions on the impact of SUNY Downstate's closure on the Brooklyn community.

UUP HOSTS DOWNSTATE PANELS: The United University Professions is making its latest push against SUNY’s plan to shutter Downstate Medical Center’s building with a series of virtual panel discussions. 

The panels will focus on the impact a closure of the hospital would have on the community and medical field in Central Brooklyn. Panelists will include Downstate faculty, and healthcare professionals.

The plan laid out by SUNY would reduce the number of UUP members employed at the hospital by up to 20 percent. It’s been criticized for its lack of transparency and a closed door community engagement process.

The panels are set to kick off on Friday followed by additional meetings on March 19 and March 20. They will be open to the public, a contrast to the closed door focus groups conducted by SUNY this month. — Katelyn Cordero

DANIEL’S LAW PUSH: Funding for a pilot program that would reduce the reliance on police when a person is in a mental health crisis has gained support of state lawmakers.

The state Senate and Assembly this week included $2 million to fund the enactment of a measure named after Daniel Prude, who died while in the custody of the Rochester Police Department.

Supporters of the measure want to create crisis teams composed of mental health and substance abuse to aid people and reduce the role police would play. Nick Reisman

FIGHT FOR MAYORAL CONTROL: Schools Chancellor David Banks today expressed concerns about stripping Mayor Eric Adams of his control over the New York City public school system after state legislators declined to weigh in on the issue in their one-house budgets this week.

Banks maintained he’s made a strong case for why Adams should receive a four-year extension of mayoral control, which will sunset June 30. He warned against making changes to the Panel for Educational Policy, the Department of Education’s governing body, the majority of whose members are appointed by the mayor.

“If you don’t have the majority of the votes, you don’t have the power because that means now you have to negotiate for every vote that you’re trying to do,” Banks told reporters at Tweed Courthouse, the DOE’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan. “You’re trying to do the right thing for kids, but every single vote now has to be negotiated. That’s politics.”

He added: “The reason I accepted this assignment as chancellor was because of this mayor and the ability to work in alignment with this mayor. I have no interest in serving as a chancellor in a system where you don’t really have the authority to make real decisions … I wanna be very, very clear about that.” — Madina Touré

Syracuse’s auditor Alexander Marion is urging Hochul to give more money to localities. (State of Politics)

A man in NYPD custody died of an overdose, the NYPD is now launching an investigation to determine if the man was searched properly. (Daily News)

New York City can finally start applying for reimbursements for its migrant spending. (POLITICO)

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