Politics and primaries frontload the schedule
The legislative session in New York will be more like a sprint than a marathon this year, as leaders have moved the finish line up three weeks to June 2.
That means the bulk of the debate will occur between January and April 1, when the next fiscal year begins and the 2020–21 budget is supposed to be done.
“Because of the schedule, the primaries (April 28 and June 23) and the November elections, it’s going to be a tough year to get lawmakers to focus on much after the budget is done,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “But we will focus on the issue of inequality in education as a result of a lack of funding, from pre-K through graduate school, throughout the session.”
It’s not just about funding for pre-K–12 schools, he said. (See article on Foundation Aid, page 6.) “Higher education funding remains a priority. We must have long overdue investments in CUNY, SUNY and the SUNY hospitals, and the community colleges.”
The governor’s budget office has already launched what seems like an annual plea of poverty in advance of budget negotiations. It issued its “midyear” report just before Thanksgiving that outlined a projected $6.1 billion budget gap, which the office attributes to increasing Medicaid costs.
Not surprisingly, “this will become a debate about revenue,” Pallotta said.
NYSUT advocates legislation that would generate new revenues by demanding that the ultrawealthy — who have been afforded multiple ways to reduce or eliminate their tax liability — finally pay their fair share in taxes.
In addition, although the state tax cap is now permanent, NYSUT will continue to push for modifications to the law.
Most importantly, because the cap is set annually at 2 percent or the previous year’s rate of inflation, whichever is lower, the allowable levy growth factor has actually been below 2 percent for five of the nine years since the law was enacted.
The Legislature approved two union-backed changes to improve the tax cap law this year, although they await enactment. NYSUT advocates further amendments to make the cap 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is greater, Pallotta said. This model has been more workable in Massachusetts.
The union also will advocate to eliminate the 60 percent supermajority required to pass a budget proposal that exceeds the cap. That’s an unreasonable burden, Pallotta said, and it violates the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.