This Week in Albany

Week ending February 16, 2018

State Budget Update

Amendments to the Executive Budget proposal were released late on Thursday night. We are currently reviewing all of the Governor’s amendments to determine their impact on CSEA members. For more information on these proposals, as well as CSEA’s legislative memos and budget flyers, please visit our website.

Among several new proposals are proposals to address federal tax reform.

The first proposal would create state, local government, and school district charitable funds to encourage taxpayer donations for purposes like education and health care. These contributions would be deductible at the federal level, and would receive favorable state and local tax treatment.

The second proposal would establish an optional payroll tax system where employers could decide to shift to an employer-paid payroll tax for employees earning over $40,000 per year. It remains unclear how likely this proposal is to be included in a final budget, or how it would function in practice.

The amendments would also “decouple” state tax code from several provisions of the new federal law to prevent large increases in taxes.

Additionally, the amendments propose a new disciplinary procedure for employees of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision outside of procedures that have been collectively bargained. CSEA has major concerns with this proposal.

Pension Fund Reaches New Record

Comptroller DiNapoli announced this week that the New York State Common Retirement Fund reached an estimated value of $209.1 billion as of December 31, a new record. That balance was up 8.7% over the value of the Fund at the start of the 2017-18 Fiscal Year on April 1.

Under the leadership of Comptroller DiNapoli, New York continues to have one of the best managed and best funded pension plans in the country.

Federal Update

President Trump released his long-awaited infrastructure plan this week. While the document released by the White House is still only a broad outline, there are several areas of potential concern for CSEA members.

The White House has often referred to the President’s infrastructure plan as a $1 trillion or even a $1.5 trillion plan. In reality, the President’s proposal includes only $200 billion of federal funds. In theory, that money would be used to raise money from state and local governments and private investors to complete infrastructure projects.

As part of the proposed efforts to encourage private investment, the President’s plan calls for a broad expansion of public-private-partnerships for all types of infrastructure projects. Public-private-partnerships (commonly referred to as P3s) typically involve a private entity financing the construction of a project, and then operating, maintaining, and collecting any tolls from the public asset. An expansion of P3 authority is of serious concern to CSEA as it would allow for the outsourcing of many public infrastructure assets and the maintenance and operations jobs that support them.

It is not clear if or when the President’s plan will move forward in Congress.

At a Glance

The state legislature will spend next week in their home districts before returning to Albany on February 27th. The state budget is due by April 1.

Never Quit Fact of the Week

The risk of workplace death is 49% higher in “Right-to-Work” states than in non-“Right-to-Work” states like New York, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

    This Week in Albany

    Week ending February 9, 2018


    Federal Update

    Congress has reached an agreement to fund the federal government for two years. The agreement will raise caps on military and domestic spending by $296 billion through 2019 and increase the debt limit through March 1, 2019.

    Regarding healthcare, the bill delays cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments until 2020, extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional four years (on top of the recent six-year extension), reauthorizes Community Health Centers for two years, and repeals an independent medical advisory board established under the Affordable Care Act to control Medicare spending.

    Other provisions in the deal include $90 billion in disaster relief, $20 billion for infrastructure projects, $6 billion to combat the opioid crisis, $5.8 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant program, $4 billion for the Veterans Administration for veterans’ hospitals and clinics, and the creation of a committee to study the solvency of multi-employer pension plans like the Teamsters plans that have been forced to slash benefits recently.

    CSEA is continuing to review the spending agreement and will provide updates as needed.


    At a Glance

    The state legislature will be in session for two days next week, and will hold budget hearings on health, Medicaid, and mental hygiene. Legislators will then spend a week in their districts and return to Albany on February 27. The budget hearing on environmental conservation that was scheduled for this past Wednesday was rescheduled to February 27 due to the weather and will be the final joint legislative budget hearing of the year.

    Amendments to the Executive Budget proposal are expected to be released by the end of next week. Governor Cuomo has indicated that these amendments will include proposals to address federal tax reform legislation, possibly including a proposal to shift the tax burden from an income tax to a payroll tax. Stay tuned for more details on these proposals when they become available.


    Never Quit Fact of the Week

    The average worker in a “Right to Work” state makes $6,109 less per year than a worker in a free bargaining state like New York.

      This Week in Albany

      Week ending February 2, 2018


      Budget Updates

      You can learn more about the Executive Budget proposal and its impact on CSEA members on our website. There you will find a copy of CSEA’s budget testimony, a video of the testimony at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Workforce Development, and a video discussion of the budget proposal with CSEA’s region Political Action committees. This website will be updated with more materials and information as they become available.

       

      Special Elections

      Governor Cuomo is expected to call a Special Election for the 11 vacant state legislative seats for April 24. There are nine vacancies in the State Assembly and two vacancies in the State Senate.

      The April 24 date would set the elections for after the state budget is finalized, potentially important because of what these elections could mean for control of the state legislature.

      Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in the senate have said that they will work to take over control of that chamber if Democrats win both Special Elections. However, it remains unclear how likely this “reunification” is before the end of the legislative session.


      Federal Update

      President Trump gave his first “State of the Union” address this week. The President’s speech largely focused on his first year in office, rather than laying out a policy agenda for 2018. The President did raise the idea of a new $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, but details on what this proposal would actually look like were not made available.

      In the short term, Congressional leaders will be focused on negotiating a spending bill, as funding for the federal government expires at midnight on February 8th. Immigration reform and border security remain two of the largest areas of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on the Hill.


      At a Glance

      The state legislature will be in session for two days next week. The legislature will also hold budget hearings on the topics of local governments, human services, environmental conservation, and taxes.

      The 21-day amendments to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposal are expected to be released next week. These amendments are usually only technical in nature. Additional policy proposals, like a potential proposal to address federal tax reform, could be added when 30-day amendments are made on February 15.

        This Week in Albany

        Week ending January 26, 2018

        CSEA Testifies at State Budget Hearing

        CSEA testified at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Workforce Development this week. The testimony highlighted many of CSEA’s concerns with the 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal, as well as several proposals that CSEA supports.

        Overall, the Executive Budget proposal does not target public services or contain many of the harmful proposals seen in years past. With that being said, there are many areas that need improvement or adjustment.

        Among the areas covered in the testimony are: revenues and taxes, health care, state agencies, local governments, retiree health care, child care, procurement, the separation of powers, economic development, schools, and libraries.

        CSEA’s full written testimony, along with a video of the testimony, can be found on our website.


        Federal Shutdown Ends After Weekend

        After Congress couldn’t reach an agreement to continue funding the government last Friday, the federal government shut down over the weekend. The shutdown didn’t last long, however, as an agreement to fund the government through February 8th was reached on Monday.

        Included in the short-term spending bill was a six year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Importantly for CSEA, the package will also delay for two years the so-called “Cadillac tax” on the health care benefits of many union members. The Cadillac tax is a 40 percent excise tax on health benefits valued at more than $10,200 for individual coverage or $27,500 for a family that was initially set to take effect in 2020. The implementation of the tax will now not take effect until 2022.

        The spending bill did not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or provide funding for President Trump’s “border wall.” Negotiations over immigration policy is expected to continue until the next deadline to extend government funding.


        At a Glance

        The Senate and Assembly will be in session for two days next week. In addition, the legislature will hold joint budget hearings on the areas of economic development, public protection, and elementary and secondary education.

          This Week in Albany

          Week ending January 19, 2018

          Executive Budget Released

          Governor Cuomo presented a $168 billion state budget for 2018-2019. The Governor’s budget would close a $4 billion deficit through various cuts and new revenue.

          Here is a short summary of the proposals in the budget:

           

          Revenue / Taxes

          The Governor has raised the possibility of amending State tax law to address the limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT) imposed by the recently-passed federal tax reform law, though none of these proposals are included in the Executive Budget at this time. Possibilities include shifting taxes from a personal income tax to a payroll tax or creating new state-run charitable organizations. CSEA is reviewing these proposals at this time.

          The budget includes the following revenue increases:

          • Collecting sales tax on all internet purchases. A portion of this tax would go to local governments;
          • A tax on opioids to help combat the opioid crisis;  
          • A tax of 14% on health insurance windfall profits;
          • A tax on vaping liquid, similar to cigarette taxes;
          • A $120 inspection fee for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to inspect for-profit passenger carriers.

          CSEA supports these revenue increases.


          State Operations

          Funding for State operations is essentially held flat. In spite of that, many agencies are held harmless from cuts and will see an increase in positions.

          Budget proposals regarding state operations include:

          Adding Employees

          Several agencies will see an increase in full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions, including:

          • The Department of Health (DOH): DOH will be adding 381 FTEs. These new positions will be used to help with the continuing State takeover of local administration of Medicaid (200 positions), provide operational support within the Office of Primary Care and Health Systems Management and the Office of Public Health (142 positions), and to provide necessary resources to review Adult Home applications and provide background checks for Health Home Care Managers serving vulnerable populations (39 positions);

          • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): DMV will be adding 89 positions to help the State meet federal Real ID requirements;
          • The Department of Transportation (DOT): DOT will be adding 70 positions for snow and ice removal and highway maintenance.

          CSEA supports these investments in the State workforce.


          OCFS

          The budget proposes closing the Ella McQueen reception center in Brooklyn, which is operated by Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). The budget would eliminate the required one-year notice of closure and move forward with closing this facility after 30-days notice. CSEA opposes the closure and the elimination of the one-year notice.

          The budget would re-authorize the “Close to Home” program for five years. This program has a history of being unsafe, with many juveniles going AWOL and committing crimes while away from the facility where they are supposed to be housed. CSEA will advocate for changes to this program.


          OMH

          The budget calls for the reduction of 275 full-time equivalent positions within Office of Mental Health (OMH) adult services programs. These positions will be reduced through attrition, but there are currently no details on where these reductions will come from.

          There are no proposed facility closures in the budget, but the budget includes language that would allow OMH to close up to 400 State-operated inpatient beds. The budget has included this language in each of the last several years. While some beds have been closed, OMH has never reached the 400 bed limit. CSEA opposes a reduction in OMH staff and a reduction in the number of State-operated beds in the mental health system.


          OPWDD

          The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) will not see any significant cuts, an improvement over recent years. Additionally, funding will be provided for CSEA’s care pilot programs. CSEA supports the continued funding of these programs, which provide valuable services to OPWDD clients.


          Wadsworth Lab

          The budget includes $600 million to build a new Wadsworth Laboratory somewhere in the Capital District. The specifics of the plan are not yet known.


          SUNY, SUNY Hospitals, and Community Colleges

          Funding for the State University of New York (SUNY) will increase by $116 million over last year. Community College funding is held flat at $2,747 per full time equivalent student, but will see an overall reduction of $22 million because of declining enrollment.

          The budget proposes eliminating the $78.6 million State subsidy to SUNY hospitals and replacing it with capital funds. CSEA will fight to get this subsidy back.

           

          Local Governments

          The budget holds funding for local governments (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) flat at $715 million. In addition, the budget would make the county-wide shared service panels created in last year’s budget permanent. No AIM funding is tied to these panels, and there are no financial penalties for a county that does not put forward a plan.

          There is $100 million included in the budget for local government expenses in complying with “Raise the Age.” CSEA supports this funding because it will help county probation departments that will see an increased workload under “Raise the Age.”

          Education

          Education funding would be increased by 3%, or $769 million.

          Library aid would be cut by $4 million, with an additional $10 million cut to building aid. CSEA opposes these cuts to libraries.

          The budget would also allow school districts to equip their buses with cameras that would record anyone who passes a stopped school bus. The information would be sent to a law enforcement agency, which could then issue a ticket. This proposal would increase safety around school buses and provide additional revenue to school districts, and CSEA supports it.

           

          Health Care

          The budget would increase the Medicaid budget by $1.7 billion.

          The budget also fully funds a cost-of-living increase for direct care workers across multiple agencies. CSEA supports this proposal.

           

          Child Care

          The budget would increase child care funding by $7 million. This amount was cut last year in the budget. CSEA supports increased investments in child care.

           

          Infrastructure

          Funding for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and Marchiselli program are held flat at $438.1 million and $39.7 million, respectively. The budget proposal does not include the additional $65 million for local highway and bridge projects for “extreme winter recovery” that was included in last year’s budget. CSEA supports investments in local highway and bridge maintenance, and would support the restoration of funding for winter storm recovery.

           

          Other Proposals

          The budget includes a proposal for ensuring that all levels of government have policies in place to address sexual harassment. The budget proposes to forbid the state or local government from paying any costs associated with a financial settlement of an employee who is accused of sexually harassing a fellow employee. In addition, the state, public authorities, and all local governments would be required to develop a standardized reporting and investigations policy for complaints of sexual harassment.


          Retirees

          The budget would cap the State’s reimbursement of standard Medicare Part B premiums to $134 per month and eliminating the State reimbursement of Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA). CSEA strongly opposes increasing costs for retirees.

          CSEA is continuing to review the budget legislation and proposals. Please check our website for more information on the Executive Budget proposal and its impact on CSEA members as it becomes available.

           

          At a Glance

          CSEA will be testifying at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Workforce Development next Wednesday, January 24. The hearing starts at 2:30PM.

          The legislature will also be holding hearings on higher education, housing, and transportation next week and will be in session for two days.


          Federal Shutdown

          At the time of this writing, it appeared that the federal government would be heading for a shutdown for the first time since 2013.

          The House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill late on Thursday. The bill that passed the House would fund the government through February 16, fund the Children’s Health Insurance Plan for six years, and delay or suspend several “Obamacare” taxes. The bill would not address protections for immigrants who came to the United States as children, a major concern of Democrats.

          The bill faces a steep climb in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass legislation. Many Democratic Senators oppose the bill passed by the House, mainly because of its lack of immigration provisions, and several Republican Senators either oppose the bill or oppose the continued passage of short-term budget extenders.

           

          Congress has until midnight on Friday to reach an agreement. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

            This Week in Albany

            Week ending January 12, 2018

            At a Glance

            Governor Cuomo will present his 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal at 1pm on Tuesday. A summary of the proposal will be included in next week’s “This Week in Albany,” and stay tuned to our website for more updates as they become available.

            The legislature will be in session for two days next week.

             

            Governor Releases 2018 Women’s Agenda

            Governor Cuomo released a 30-part agenda this week to advance equality and promote opportunity for women and girls in the areas of health, safety, the workplace, and family.

            Some of the proposals address combating sexual harassment in the workplace, extending human rights law protections to all public school students, closing the gender wage gap, increasing child care subsidies by $7 million over last year’s budget, and establishing the child care availability task force that was created by legislation passed in 2017.

            Many of the proposals were also included in the Governor’s State of the State speech.


            Nominee Chosen for Senate Special Election

            While no Special Election has been scheduled yet for the Senate seat vacated by new Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Democrats have chosen their nominee for when that election is eventually called. At a convention of party leaders, Assemblywoman Shelly Mayer (D-Yonkers) was chosen to be the Democratic candidate.

            Republicans have not yet selected a candidate.

            It is widely expected that Governor Cuomo will call a Special Election for the 11 seats currently vacant across the state legislature after the state budget is finalized in late March.

             

            Incidents with State Legislators

            Assemblywoman Pamela Harris (D-Brooklyn) was indicted on federal corruption charges this week for alleged fraud following Superstorm Sandy. Harris, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2015, has not indicated if she will resign the seat.

            Additionally, a former staffer has accused Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) leader Jeff Klein of sexual misconduct. While Klein denies the accusation, Governor Cuomo and several legislators have called for an investigation into the allegations.

             

            Martin Luther King, Jr.

            As we recognize the holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on Monday, it is important to remember his ties to the labor movement. In 1968, Dr. King gave his life in Memphis, Tennessee, to help sanitation workers represented by AFSCME to come together to win freedom and dignity on the job.


              This Week in Albany

              Week ending January 5, 2018

              State of the State

              Governor Cuomo delivered his eighth “State of the State” address in Albany this week, laying out the broad outlines of what his 2018-19 Executive Budget and legislative session priorities will be.

              Much of the speech focused on how New York will respond to changes being made at the federal level. While light on specifics, the Governor raised the possibility of restructuring the State’s tax code in response to recently passed federal tax reform and announced that the State will sue the federal government over the new limitations on the deductibility of state and local government taxes.

              In the speech, Governor Cuomo addressed the upcoming Janus v AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court case by saying that he will do everything in his power to preserve workers’ rights and protect the right to organize and collectively bargain in New York.

              Among the other proposals of importance to CSEA members were:

              • Making permanent the local government shared service panels created in last year’s budget;
              • Converting the entire Thruway system to electronic tolling by 2020;
              • Investing in State parks, as well as the creation of a new State park in central Brooklyn;
              • Increasing investments to fight the heroin and opioid crisis;
              • Election reforms, including public financing of political campaigns; and
              • New policies to address sexual harassment for state and local government employees.

              CSEA is closely monitoring all of these proposals, and will work to ensure the jobs, rights, and benefits of CSEA members are protected.

              More details on these proposals will be known when the Governor releases his 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal on January 16.


              2018 Gubernatorial Election

              Two potential Republican candidates for Governor have announced that they will not run, while one has confirmed that he will run.

              Businessman Harry Wilson and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro have both announced that they will not move forward with campaigns, while former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra announced that he will run. Giambra joins Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb as the two announced Republican candidates.

              On the Democratic side, Governor Cuomo will be seeking his third term. Former State Senator Terry Gipson has announced that he will challenge the Governor in a Primary.

              The Governor’s race will be on the ballot this November along with the State Comptroller and Attorney General, all 213 state legislators, all 27 members of Congress, and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s seat.


              At a Glance

              The Senate and Assembly will be in session for two days next week in Albany.