The good news is members of the state Legislature have gone home—hopefully for the remainder of the year.
However, the long road to adjournment is strewn with fiscal and policy debris.
First, there’s the state spending plan. In May, the governor and the Democratic-controlled legislature agreed to a record-breaking $229 billion budget, $9 billion more than Hochul’s January proposal.
Albany potentates showed little concern about the consequences of their actions: budget shortfalls of $5 billion in 2025 and in 2026, $8 billion.
Since the governor signed the budget into law, the numbers have only gotten worse.
Tax collections for the first quarter of the year were $4 billion less than expected. Not a good sign.
Then the revised state financial plan released in June acknowledged that deficit gaps have doubled. The state now projects the gap will be at least $9 billion in 2025 and $13 billion in 2026.
Then there is the job-killing policy Albany approved. Raising the minimum wage from $15 to $17 an hour, and then indexing to inflation, will hurt low-skilled employees. Significant wage increases always lead to layoffs, fewer hirings and price increases.
Next, the Legislature refused to renew the 421a tax abatement for new construction or renovation of multifamily housing projects. While leftists are moaning that there is a shortage of apartments, their inaction will hurt the growth of affordable housing.
On top of that, the Public Authorities Control Board, manned by the governor and legislative leaders, put off a vote to approve the building of the 900-foot-tall, 5 World Trade Center. The New York Post reported, “the culprit for the delay appeared to be state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.”
Cousins’ last-minute move not only angered Gov. Kathy Hochul, who blessed the plan, but hurt the cause for affordable housing.
Thirty percent of the 1.2 million square feet of apartments to be built at 5 World Trade would be affordable rentals.
So much for Sen. Cousins’ devotion to working class folks.
The teachers union bullied the Legislature into stifling the growth of charter schools. Instead of agreeing to Hochul’s recommendation to open 100 new ones, they approved legislation to revive 20 “zombie” charter schools that had closed.
Given the record of charters outperforming traditional public schools, the opposition to these alternative public schools, whose students are largely minorities, is disgraceful.
A recent report released by Stanford University Center for Research on Educational Outcomes revealed that New York’s charter schools are among the best-performing in the nation.
For example, the students attending “New York Achievement First” schools, “achieved 66 more days of learning in reading and 146 days of more learning in math than their traditional public school peers,” the report said.
Apparently, campaign contributions from the unions mean more than enhancing the educational prospects of minority students.
One scheme that backfired: The executive branch bid to get carte blanche power to negotiate a new gambling compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians in Western New York.
Although Hochul had recused herself from any dealings that might impact her husband’s Buffalo company, Delaware North—which operates 2,000 slot machines throughout the state—her staff was not restricted.
Hochul’s office, acting in secret, “kept private all the crucial details of what was negotiated with the tribe,” The New York Times reported.
After the state Senate passed the unread bill “nearly unanimously,” it stalled in the Assembly after local officials complained about the governor’s crass power play.
The chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, Manhattan’s Liz Krueger, reacting to the blowback, admitted “we sort of got hoodwinked.”
Although the fast-track bill has been held up, The Times concluded “Ms. Hochul has taken actions that align with Delaware North’s interests.”
Rickey Armstrong Sr., the president of the Seneca Nation agreed. In a statement, he said, “Gov. Hochul may have recused herself from negotiations, but apparently could not recuse her own staff from the expectation that they prioritize corporate interests, Delaware North first and foremost, over those of a sovereign Native Nation.”
Whatever happened to Hochul’s “transparency” pledge?
Looking back on Albany’s follies these past months I’ve come to appreciate more than ever Mark Twain’s quip, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe when the legislature is in session.”