The 2018-19 Budget was passed by the Senate, Friday March 30, at around midnight, while the Assembly acted on March 31 at approximately 4AM, in time to meet the deadline for a balanced budget. Achievement of on-time budgets has become, in the public’s eye, a proxy for good governance but its contents, its size, and the many un-answered concerns should be central to such evaluations.
One senator observed that social issues should be han- dled apart from fiscal matters to limit the use hold-out votes that threaten the budget deadline though importance issues like sexual harassment were part of this budget. The bill places obligations and restrictions on both public and private entities, though much of the problem or at least the focus has been on the conduct of public sector employees who naturally have a higher profile, and, from whom, as as guardians of law and public ethics, more is expected. Transgressions by enter- tainers and TV celebrities have also garnered attention.
The final budget maintains fiscal discipline by keeping within the self-imposed two-percent spending cap and closes a $4.5 billion deficit, while also preventing billions of dollars in new taxes and fees to protect taxpayers and encourage economic growth.
Capping state spending over the last 8 years has saved taxpayers nearly $52 billion. It is unclear how this deficit and its implied spending level can be managed since tax increases proposed by the governor and assembly were defeated in the senate and the fee increases (none dare call it a tax) on “ride- hailing” services in Manhattan ($400M) and on opioid manufac- turers ($100M) do not provide enough. There was a sense that all parties were placing the matter aside to await an assess- ment of first and second quarter tax revenues likely to be high- er given the expanding economy. Mr. Cuomo’s characteriza- tions of the federal tax cuts – shooting an arrow in the heart of New York – for example, may work in the state’s favor even if his proposal to use charitable trusts as recipients of payments to preserve the SALT limitations is rejected by the IRS. He will have to find another way to keep taxpayers “whole,” but a bill by Senator Simcha Felder, a democrat who caucuses with re- publicans, to lower state taxes to compensate for the loss, is unlikely to get his support.
An excellent summary of the budget agreement may be found at: https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/articles/senate-complete- passage-2018-19-state-budget-rejects-1-billion-new-taxes-protects
Senator Tedisco has amended his bill, S7395C, giving the law a “name,” “the propane consumer emergency act”. It is now print number S7395D. The Senator also introduced S7986, the companion to A8940A that passed January 17, the first for- ay into the area of allowing non-owners to fill tanks during an emergency. Mr. Tedisco’s bill, S7395D, enumerates the emer- gency conditions under which tanks may filled. The assembly version that passed on January 17 is rather incoherent in this regard. A proposal to amend the assembly version was drafted but not submitted.
Many discussions with the senate sponsor produced what we believe is a workable but not perfect bill. Three attempts to meet with the assembly sponsor were unavailing though prior to the passage of the bill on a fast track, the NYPGA went on record in opposition. Though the assembly bill would allow deliveries during emergencies, the use of a declaration of emergency to suspend a law or regulation delaying fuel deliv- eries, would have no effect since no law exists. New York has twice rejected a “container law”.
Another deficiency implies the abrogation of a contract between the dealer and customer though the validity of state laws to invalidate such agreements is currently under review by the US Supreme Court. (Oral arguments were held Feb. 26)
The wording of A8940A empowers consumers to “self-de- clare” an emergency, possibly benefiting from their own de- fault or malfeasance. Such transfer of such powers to the lessee was rejected by the legislature in legislation relating to the right of assignment in refiner/dealer leases.
The legislature, in recess until April 16, will work until June 20, then take up bills usually scheduled for consideration after the budget. It is likely S7395D will be placed on the agen- da of the senate agriculture committee then go either to codes, or energy or rules where its fate will be determined.