$500,000 to be allotted for database of deals
be for districts’ operating aid. He also said the final budget will require public and private employers to give workers three hours of paid time off on election days as a way to boost voter turnout.
Cuomo will be getting another round of $750 million to spend through 10 regional councils that draw up plans each year for how they would like to spend their allotments.
Lawmakers began pushing for new transparency measures in the wake of the Buffalo Billion bid-rigging scandal, which last year saw the convictions of Buffalo executive Louis Ciminelli and others in a scheme involving upstate projects led by the $750 million RiverBend solar factory project.
The Legislature again this year proposed a “database of deals,” in which the public could go to a state website to get detailed information about every economic development contract, including recipient, number of promised – and realized – jobs and a breakdown of taxpayer incentives.
In the end, the 2019 budget will allot $500,000 for Cuomo to create a database – but with no specific requirements about what the database must contain.
“It looks like we’ll just have to trust the governor’s objectivity,” said Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Kenmore Democrat and chairman of the Assembly Economic Development Committee.
Schimminger said the public, particularly after the Buffalo Billion scandal, is “entitled to know about the innards of economic development deals.”
David Friedfel, state studies director at the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog group, said the criteria for what gets included in a database of deals should be set in law and objectively written.
“It’s great to have a database of deals, but it’s more important to have a good database of deals. Having window dressing is in some ways more problematic because then you think you’re seeing all the deals and agreements, but if the public is not then there is a misperception,” he said.
Besides agreeing to close two prisons somewhere upstate, lawmakers and Cuomo also are closing in on a threepart deal to make changes in criminal discovery proceedings, ensure more speedy trials for defendants and end the cash bail system that critics say has kept lower-income individuals incarcerated when they do not pose a flight risk.
“What we’re trying to do is make the criminal justice system more just,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat. She added: “We’re trying to make sure people are not held when they don’t have to be” while protecting public safety.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, said negotiators are working on a list of specific serious felony offenses that would still be subject to a monetary bail system.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, estimated that 85 percent of people arrested will no longer have to come up with cash to get out of jail while awaiting a trial or settlement.
Cuomo, who has advocated for the end of the cash bail system, said Friday evening that deals are at hand on ending cash bail for misdemeanor and nonviolent felony arrests, but that there is still a “conceptual disagreement” about a new bail system for violent felony arrests.
Dozens of policy items have been ejected from the budget talks, including everything from legalizing marijuana to expanding options for betting on pro and college sports.
Also expected in the final deal: making the state’s property tax cap program permanent in state law. Future governors and legislators, as with any law, can always make changes to the program down the road.
After a stretch limo crash last October in Schoharie County that left 20 people dead, the new budget deal also is expected to include limo-safety provisions, including additional penalties for commercial vehicles operating out of service, tougher criminal penalties for removal of federal safety certificates, higher insurance coverage on limos, and driver certificates posted in limos for passengers to view.
The tentative deal also includes new commercial vehicle crash reporting rules, additional safety reporting requirements on inspection stations, U-turn ban for stretch limos and a state study on U-turn and wrong-way crashes.
The Cuomo administration confirmed new limo safety rules will be part of the budget.
“This is going to save lives,” said Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat and chairman of the Senate transportation committee.