The Governor and Legislature have failed to provide New Yorkers with basic budget transparency. At a minimum, state leaders should:
- Honor the law that requires a minimum 3-day transparency period between time bills are printed on and voted on (“aging requirement”).
- Stop abusing “message of necessity” emergency powers to avoid public transparency, potential political embarrassment, and opposition.
- Provide simple financial tables showing spending by function, anticipated budget gaps, and other basic expenses and revenue assumptions.
- Account for billions of tax credits as expenditures in the budget. This is not free money.
New Yorkers should know that billions in newly authorized state reimbursements to Hollywood and Broadway producers are classified as “tax credits” and are not included in the $229 billion in expenditures approved in this budget. Also, the budget includes huge amounts of lump sum spending that will be paid out at the direction of the Governor and legislative leaders, much of which is excluded from Comptroller review.
Our Budget Priorities
Thumbs up: $25 million for matching funds and $14.5 million for administration for the public campaign finance program, meeting part of the Public Campaign Finance Board’s request.
Thumbs up: Amendment to Open Meetings Law so people with disabilities can join public meetings remotely, while still counting toward a quorum (Part X, Article VII TED).
Thumbs down: No funding to help agencies overwhelmed by Freedom of Information Law requests.
Thumbs up: Comptroller review restored for billions in lump sum COVID emergency pots in State Operations budget, which were also reduced in size (State Ops).
Thumbs down: Still tallying huge amounts of spending excluded from Comptroller review in the Aid to Localities budget (Aid to Localities).
Thumbs up: Authorities Budget Office funding increased to $3.359 million (State Ops).
Thumbs up: Staggering the terms of the ethics commissioners (Part Z, PPGG Article VII).
OK: $7.8 million for the new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. Increases for IT should be explored in next year’s budget (State Ops).
$8 Billion in New and Expanded Corporate Giveaways
With this budget, New York is doubling down on billions in discredited business subsidies while funding many state programs at less than the rate of inflation. We are glad that the state did not extend the 421-a NYC property tax abatement or resurrect Start-Up NY as EPIC. But once again, the state did not end Trump’s Opportunity Zone tax break, nor repeal Madison Square Garden’s costly tax abatement by passing S1632 (Kavanagh) / A846 (Weprin). Both measures can still be passed in the regular session.
Altogether, the state passed more than $8 billion in new and expanded subsidies.
- $7.7b film/TV tax credit ($700m/year x 11 years, 2024 to 2034 inclusive). State reimbursements raised to 30% costs, makes eligible some “above the line” costs of actors, directors, and producers (Part D, Revenue).
- $300m Broadway production tax credit ($300m total for 2021-2025), an increase of $100m (Subpart E, Part I, Revenue).
- $35m commercial production tax credit ($7m a year, extended five years to 2028) (Subpart C, Part H, Revenue).
- $455m loan for Belmont Park racetrack, plus transfer of Aqueduct Racetrack to NYS and races and jobs to Belmont (Part X, Revenue).
No new mention of funding for Penn Station redevelopment, just a reappropriation of $1.2 billion for below-grade transit improvements.
Keeping the MTA Solvent
Thumbs up: The state budget completely fills the MTA’s budget gaps ($600 million in 2023, and $1.2 billion in the out years), with new dedicated funding remitted directly to the MTA, and an agreement to expand transit service (Article VII TED).
Thumbs down: The final budget shifts the majority of the burden for funding the MTA to NYC taxpayers, who already pay an outsized share of taxes, leaving the suburbs off the hook, and relies too heavily in the out years on uncertain casino revenues (Article VII TED).
Article VII MTA and Transportation Policy Proposals
Thumbs up: New transparency requirements, including projects on MTA capital dashboard coded by accessibility and resiliency, and new open data on the MTA’s budget, financial plans, and staffing levels (Part CCC, Article VII TED).
Thumbs up: New pilot for free buses allows expanded enforcement of traffic laws by the NYC Department of Transportation for bus operation-related traffic regulations (Parts MM and NN, Article VII ELFA).
Assessing: The language authorizing the free bus pilot program specifies that it cannot cost more than $15 million in net operating costs; it is unclear whether this is big enough and it may disqualify some crowded bus routes from being considered. (Parts MM and NN, Article VII ELFA).
Thumbs down: “Sammy’s Law” not included, which would allow NYC to lower speed limits to 20 mph, nor were other traffic and toll enforcement measures that would be beneficial with the implementation of congestion pricing.