Both houses are ex­pected to re­ject gov­er­nor’s plan for AIM pro­gram

The Buffalo News - - CON­TIN­UED FROM THE COVER -

way for law­mak­ers to give fis­cal shout-outs to po­lit­i­cal sup­port­ers and lob­by­ists. It led to both houses jam­ming in items law­mak­ers knew would never be en­acted in the fi­nal bud­get deal, but it served a po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est to woo cam­paign donors and stake­hold­ers with like-minded in­ter­ests in ei­ther house. This year is dif­fer­ent. Democrats con­trol both houses, and their one-house bills next week are ex­pected to con­tain a high num­ber of sim­i­lar bud­get pri­or­i­ties. Se­condly, there is lit­tle love lost right now be­tween Cuomo and his fel­low Democrats in the Leg­is­la­ture, who have been mak­ing chest-pound­ing sounds that Cuomo is not go­ing to be so in com­mand of the bud­get process as he has the past eight years.

On Wed­nes­day, both houses are ex­pected to pass their one­house bud­get bills, which are more res­o­lu­tions than bills. But they do rep­re­sent call­ing cards for leg­isla­tive lead­ers to present to Cuomo to show him their spend­ing and tax wishes.

“It’s a very im­por­tant process to go through be­cause we’re mak­ing de­ci­sions on scarce re­sources,” said Assem­bly­man Sean Ryan, a Buf­falo Demo­crat.

“Like the gov­er­nor’s bud­get pro­posal, the Assem­bly one­house bud­get con­veys the pri­or­i­ties of the Demo­cratic Assem­bly. Many of the pri­or­i­ties will be match­ing, but as al­ways, there will be dif­fer­ences. And most of the fund­ing dif­fer­ences come in fund­ing for education and health care,” Ryan added.

Se­nate plans changes

“We are work­ing through the process to en­sure that ev­ery sin­gle area of the state, in­clud­ing West­ern New York, is not only part of the dis­cus­sions but lead­ing the bud­get process,” said Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buf­falo Demo­crat.

In the Se­nate one-house bill, which is still tak­ing shape, Kennedy said he hopes a film tax credit will re­main in the law as a way to lure movie com­pa­nies to film in ar­eas they might not oth­er­wise con­sider, such as West­ern New York.

The Se­nate bill, Kennedy said, is ex­pected to re­store $65 mil­lion cut by Cuomo for the Ex­treme Win­ter Re­cov­ery pro­gram used by lo­cal­i­ties to re­pair roads. Kennedy, chair­man of the Se­nate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, said the Se­nate is poised to add $150 mil­lion above Cuomo’s bud­get for the Con­sol­i­dated Lo­cal Street and High­way Im­prove­ment Pro­gram, a 38-year-old state fund­ing pot for lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture work.

The Se­nate, like the Assem­bly, is ex­pected to call for more fund­ing for the state univer­sity sys­tem, and the Se­nate is look­ing at ex­pand­ing day care sub­si­dies for cer­tain in­come lev­els of work­ing adults.

Both houses are ex­pected to re­ject Cuomo’s plan for Aid and In­cen­tives to Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, a nondis­cre­tionary pot of fund­ing that goes to lo­cal­i­ties across the state. Cuomo first pro­posed cut­ting mil­lions of dol­lars from the pro­gram; he backed away from that idea but now wants county gov­ern­ments to help sub­si­dize the AIM pro­gram through sales tax rev­enues they are in line to re­ceive un­der a pro­posed in­ter­net sales tax pro­gram af­fect­ing third-party trans­ac­tions through sites such as Ama­zon.

“Our con­fer­ence is 100 per­cent com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing com­mu­ni­ties de­pen­dent on AIM fund­ing to func­tion and keep prop­erty taxes down get those funds,” Kennedy said.

There is no guar­an­tee that the fi­nal bud­get will re­flect those leg­isla­tive wishes. That’s what the next three weeks of horse-trad­ing at the Capi­tol will de­ter­mine.

Cuomo says on-time bud­get no longer cru­cial

For his part, Cuomo has been us­ing his bud­get di­rec­tor, Robert Mu­jica, to fire off state­ments in re­cent days with the gov­er­nor’s own line-in-the-sand de­mands. For in­stance, he wants a spe­cific plan to fund New York City sub­way cap­i­tal ex­penses, along with mak­ing the state’s prop­erty tax cap pro­gram into per­ma­nent law and en­act­ing more de­fen­dant­friendly mea­sures like an end to cash bail man­dates.

This year’s new mantra from Cuomo, de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent than his past rhetoric: Time­li­ness is nice, but “get­ting it right is more im­por­tant than any dead­line,” Mu­jica said Thurs­day.

The bud­get must be adopted by March 31 if a fis­cal plan is to be in place for the start of the new fis­cal year at the stroke of mid­night April 1. In the past, Cuomo has de­manded on-time bud­gets, though his record is spotty over the eight years in achiev­ing that goal.

This year, Cuomo is OK with a late bud­get. Why? The more he says he doesn’t really care about time­li­ness the more pres­sure it puts on law­mak­ers who will have to forgo a sched­uled 9 per­cent pay raise next year if the 2019 state bud­get is not en­acted on time.

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