Lawmakers return to the Capitol this week to tackle the big issue of the session: approving a state budget. As part of that $140 billion plus decision, lawmakers will be forced to also debate a key issue: reforming the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws.
It wasn’t long ago when it seemed that the tobacco lobby’s stranglehold over New York policymaking was finally broken. In addition to federal court decisions, state actions were being taken. During the years of the Pataki Administration, the state raised its tobacco tax, enacted one of the nation’s most sweeping restrictions on smoking in public places and in work environments. The Spitzer Administration bolstered funding for the state’s tobacco control efforts, helping it rise to the 5th most well-resourced program in the nation. In the Paterson Administration, New York raised its tobacco tax rate to the highest in the nation.
The governor’s budget is based on a huge promise – that he will keep the budget growth to less than 2%. The governor presents this number as a simple feat, keep to the rate of inflation and he can use some of the revenues for a tax cut.
One of the state’s most important public priorities is ensuring that New Yorkers have access to affordable and high quality medical care as well as providing health services to those who are poor or needy. Tens of billions of dollars are spent to meet those demands and this week the governor’s health budget proposal was the subject of a legislative public hearing.
During the 2012 election, far too many Americans voters had to stand in long lines for hours in order to cast their ballot. Voters who were stuck waiting were all too frequently lower-income and non-white. The President promised to act, in order to ensure that such a disgraceful situation would never happen again.
The New York State budget fight begins this week with the governor offering his budget plan. The governor’s budget will be massive – probably $135 billion of spending. Over 95 percent of it will become law without much fuss.
Last week, Governor Cuomo delivered his fourth State of the State address. In it, he followed the typical State of the State game-plan for incumbent governors: he delivered his priorities for the 2014 legislative session, spending much of the time describing past accomplishments and bolstering an image for the election campaign.
This week, Governor Cuomo unveils his plans for the 2014 legislative session. The State of the State allows the executive a unique opportunity to command public attention and to mobilize support for his proposals. Typically, a State of the State address in the first year of any Administration focuses on the need for changes and reforms. As the governor over time comes to represent the status quo, his or her rhetoric changes and the State of the State becomes a vehicle to extol the achievements of the Administration and to build on the image the governor is trying to project.
The beginning of 2014 heralds the full implementation of the federal health care reform law – the Affordable Care Act. For most New Yorkers, the new law will have no noticeable impact. For the 2 plus million New Yorkers who lack health insurance or who pay for it themselves, the new law offers dramatic changes.
Last week, a gubernatorial commission released its $2 billion tax cut plan for New York State. The commission’s plan provides for a 2-year property tax freeze, a cut in the tax rate on corporations to 6.5 percent and a reduction in tax on manufacturers to 2.5 percent.