NY Budget OT

New Extender, Housing Hang Ups, It Ain't Fair, John Sinclair

Good morning from Buffalo… the center of the universe for today’s solar eclipse! You can find a list of eclipse viewing events taking place later today, here

In Albany, the budget is officially over one week late after lawmakers passed a series of short-term extenders to buy themselves more time while ensuring state workers still get paid. Assembly Members returned to the Capitol yesterday to pass another short-term extension through Thursday, April 11, allowing inclined members to return home for today’s eclipse.  The Senate is expected to pass the extender today.

Late last week, Governor Kathy Hochul offered optimism saying, “the end is near” while delivering cookies and eclipse glasses to members of the Legislative Correspondents Association.  While there is still no text, 'handshake agreement,’ or agreement on revenue and spending, some details are coming into focus. Most notably, Hochul told reporters that her plan to change the state’s education foundation aid formula will not be in this budget, but a deal is in place for next year. Hochul offered, “We talked about putting a process in place so that by this time next year, giving everyone the notice and warning they all asked for, there will be a different formula. I'm just deciding how that mechanism will work, but I think it's going to put us in a better place.” The proposed changes, which would have seen some school districts receive less aid than previous years, was met with intense backlash from teachers unions and was publicly rejected by leadership in the Legislature. Hochul had insisted that declining enrollment and plush reserves in some districts warranted the changes, but ultimately failed to get her fellow Democrats on board. 

On behalf of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Hochul was pushing for a four year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools in the budget, however, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins indicated that, too, will be nixed from a final agreement. Adams’ current authority over city schools expires in June and lawmakers are expected to address the issue after budget. 

Housing remains the biggest holdup with education off the board. There is broad consensus that action is needed to address skyrocketing rents and a lack of available housing stock in urban areas—and to help vulnerable legislators facing primary challenges—but getting everyone to agree on a solution continues to prove difficult. Hochul and the Legislature have to balance the need for strong tenant protections while also incentivizing developers to build, protecting workers, and navigating New York City’s century old Byzantine housing rules. Hochul summed it up: “It’s beyond just this Legislature. It is factors out in the community. We have to address their concerns. Otherwise, I can’t force the private sector to build. I can’t make them go do it. They will not build if the conditions are not right for them.” Further complicating the issue is the lack of a wage deal on incentivized new housing construction between building trade unions and real estate. Along with a fix for affordable housing units, lawmakers need a deal on wages before a broader plan can come together.  

“It’s beyond just this Legislature. It is factors out in the community. We have to address their concerns. Otherwise, I can’t force the private sector to build. I can’t make them go do it. They will not build if the conditions are not right for them.”

Governor Hochul on housing

What’s the purpose behind presidential primaries after the nominations have been secured?

And which issues are still simmering in NY budget talks?

Listen to Jack on the line with the morning team at WBEN here.

New York’s Presidential Primary Election took place last week with President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump both coasting to victory in their respective contests. New York is a shoo-in for Biden in November, but the state is still an important fundraising battleground for both campaigns. Of the $112 million the Biden campaign has raised this cycle, just shy of $8 million has come from New York, and that total does not include last month’s event at Radio City Music Hall featuring former Presidents Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton that reportedly brought in a record-setting $26 million in one night. Trump has not quite seen that level of financial support from New Yorkers, but has still raised $3 million in the state and leads Biden’s fundraising totals in a handful of Western New York counties


In Washington, D.C., lawmakers will return tomorrow following their two week Easter recess. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is expected to move forward with a supplemental aid package for Ukraine after delaying the bill for weeks to avoid a confrontation with his far-right members who oppose additional aid. The $96 billion foreign aid package that passed the Senate in February and includes funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, is unlikely to be adopted by the House as it is currently written, but Johnson is searching for ways to make the support more palatable for his members. Johnson has spoke publicly about structuring the military assistance as a loan and pursuing the REPO Act, legislation that would fund Ukrainian aid by selling off frozen Russian assets. Johnson said, “If we can use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to allow the Ukrainians to fight them, that’s just pure poetry.”

Johnson is also pursuing a domestic policy change in the hope that it will help him win over more Republican support. As part of the package, the Speaker is calling on the Biden administration to reverse the pause on new liquified natural gas export permits, contending that the move will decrease global reliance on Russian exports and subsequently undercut Russia’s bottom line. The Biden administration paused new permits early this year and argued that the U.S. already exports more liquified natural gas than any other country and that the government had already approved a number of new export terminals that are expected to double domestic export capacity by 2027. The White House has yet to comment on the proposal, but have expressed a desire to work with Johnson and his Republican colleagues to get a deal across the finish line. 

At least one Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, said she will move to oust Johnson as Speaker if he brings an aid package for Ukraine to floor: “Mike Johnson is not working for Republicans, he's not helping Republicans, he's not even listening to Republicans. Mike Johnson is doing the Deep State's dirty work. We need a new Speaker of the House!” Greene currently seems to be the only one pushing for that extreme measure, but that could always change if Republicans feel Johnson is being too conciliatory to Democrats. It is also possible that Democrats could vote to save Johnson if a motion to vacate was brought to floor in exchange for his cooperation on foreign aid. Significantly, the White House did not reject Johnson’s trial balloons out of hand nor have they attacked him for going slow on such an important national security issue. Much to watch here.

Like the rest of America, the Biden campaign has been watching women’s basketball.  They bought ads in seven battleground states for last night’s championship game. It is a smart investment. The 60-second ad will cost Biden $5,000 for a one-minute ad on the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, $10,000 on WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and $4,000 on KNXV-TV in Phoenix. More than 12 million people watched Monday’s Elite Eight game between Iowa and Louisiana State, a rematch of the 2023 championship game.  The ads ran in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The campaign says it is running its primary spot, “For You” during the Sunday women’s championship game. 

That ad has been in steady rotation since the Biden campaign went on offense following last month’s State of the Union.  While TV audiences are broadly shrinking, sports programming—especially women’s basketball—is an exception and most people watch live with no commercial skips.  Women’s basketball also typically draws a younger and more female audience than other sports.  Just the sort of people Biden needs if he is to win reelection.

Of course, the presidential campaign would be expected to play out in the House of Representatives, but this is unprecedented: after a group of Republicans proposed renaming Washington Dulles International Airport after former President Donald Trump, Democrats countered with legislation to change the name of the Miami Federal Correctional Institution in Florida to “Donald J. Trump Federal Correctional Institution.” 

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), who sponsored the bill to rename the airport said, “There is no better symbol of freedom, prosperity, and strength than hearing ‘Welcome to Trump International Airport’ as they land on American soil.”

John Garamendi (D-Calif.) countered, “I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to our former president, Donald J. Trump, than renaming the closest federal prison to Mar-a-Lago in his honor.”  

To take things even lower, take a look at relationships between some of Latin America’s presidents who are embroiled in the kind of verbal spats commonly found on schoolyards.

It’s a war of words playing out on television and via posts on X:  ‘Ignoramus.’ ‘Fascist.’ ‘Small-Penises Club.’

Clockwise from top left: Javier Milei, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Nicolás Maduro and Gustavo Petro. GETTY IMAGES (2), NURPHOTO/ZUMA PRESS, REUTERS

Finally, farewell to John Sinclair.  

It ain’t fair, John Sinclair.

In the stir for breathin’ air.

Won’t you care for John Sinclair?

In the stir for breathin’ air.

Let him be, set him free.

Let him be like you and me.

—John Lennon

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Our Jack O’Donnell was a featured speaker at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Tech Industry Leaders Forum to provide an update on ongoing New York State budget negotiations and the future of Empire AI. [Read more.]

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