The Governor and the legislative leaders are in the midst of ongoing budget discussions which have intensified as we have gotten closer to the budget deadline. As rumors swirl in the Capitol, several issues should be clarified. The Governor has stated repeatedly and clearly that ethics reform was a top priority and that he wouldn’t sign a budget without ethics reform. Nothing has changed. A budget done with both houses must include ethics reform. The Governor believes that the concerns of legislators who have outside employment such as a law practice have been addressed consistent with his program for increased ethics disclosure and transparency. The Assembly obviously has already agreed with the Governor’s ethics package and has numerous members with outside employment. The Governor said he would not sign off on a budget that doesn’t include the ethics reforms he outlined, and he meant it.
Education reform is another top priority in this budget. The key education reforms are dealing with the epidemic of failing schools, improvement to the teacher evaluation system, tenure reform, teacher performance bonuses and scholarships to attract new teachers. If those reforms are passed, the Governor will support a significant funding increase. The Governor believes these changes will be transformative to our education system.
The DREAM Act is supported by the Assembly and the Education Tax Credit is supported by the Senate. Last year, neither initiative was passed. The Governor believes at this point, that either both will pass or neither. The Governor supports passage of both and included them in his budget. If they don’t pass in the budget, they could still pass in regular session.
The Governor supports a pay commission and included it in his original budget. The charter cap and mayoral control for New York City are issues that can be addressed in the budget, or more likely in the remainder of the session. Regardless, both should be addressed before the conclusion of the session.
Other top priorities in the budget include raising the minimum wage, a small business tax cut and real property tax relief, the Governor’s $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative, statewide broadband, a Thruway stabilization fund and a substantial increase in funding for affordable housing.