Deep Dive

NY Budget Oversight, Executive Staff Changes, Tech Award

Good morning from Hearing Room B in the Legislative Office Building in Albany where Joint Legislative Budget Hearings are in full swing as the two chambers prepare to submit their respective one-house budget proposals. Member letters requesting items in the budget are due on February 8th in the Senate and February 15th in the Assembly. Giddy up.

Last week featured hearings on Economic Development & Arts; Workforce Development & Labor; Human Services; Health; Transportation; and Elementary & Secondary Education with General Government, Environmental Conservation, and Higher Education on the docket for this week. 

Which issues will dominate the 2024 Legislative Sessions from D.C. to Albany?

Jack lays it out in our annual Legislative Preview.

Read it here.

The biggest news came from Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy who said her office will move forward with repairs to the Capitol’s famed ‘Eastern Approach’ staircase which has been closed for the better part of a decade due to structural instability.

Originally added in 1897, structural deficiencies became evident as early as 1953, when the State spent the equivalent of $1.9 million in today’s dollars on repairs. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo spent $1.3 million in 2014 to inspect the staircase, but a restoration project never materialized. The current repair project is in the design phase, according to Moy, and will include connecting the north and south promenades, east portico, and executive ramp. Physical restoration work is expected to cost $41 million and be completed by 2028. Pretty cool.

The Capitol is not the only state-owned complex in need of repair or renovation. Moy pointed out that the majority of state office buildings, built more than 50 years ago, “are reaching the end of their useful life.” Moy also touched on the need to “modernize these workspaces to meet the needs of today’s state workforce” and noted that technology and hybrid work environments are part of the “modern workplace.” 

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  • Ivan Acosta has been appointed Deputy Chief of Staff

  • Robert Calarco has been appointed Assistant Secretary for Long Island Intergovernmental Affairs.

  • Shanna Cassidy has been appointed Assistant Secretary to the Governor.

  • Colleen Deacon has been appointed Deputy Secretary for Upstate Intergovernmental Affairs.

  • Daniel Dornbaum has been appointed Assistant Secretary to the Governor.

  • Stevens Martinez has been appointed Deputy Director for Long Island Intergovernmental Affairs.

  • Jacqueline Paredes has been appointed Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.

  • Shirley Paul has been appointed Assistant Counsel for Judiciary.

  • Edgar Santana has been appointed as the Executive Deputy Secretary to the Governor.

  • Jessica Scaperotti has been appointed as the Assistant Secretary for Cabinet Affairs.

  • Angel Vasquez has been appointed Deputy Secretary for Downstate Intergovernmental Affairs.

After announcing his retirement, Breslin said, “You know, I feel very good. It was a very, very difficult decision for me. But I've been here 28 years, going on 28 years. And I think it was time to let someone else do the work and, to do what I've done for that long and to be so much an intimate part of my life.” Breslin and Capital District Assembly Member John McDonald formally endorsed current Assembly Member Patricia Fahy to take over the 46th Senate District.  In a statement, Fahy said, "I’m excited and honored by the prospect of serving our community in a new capacity, and look forward to formally announcing my candidacy in the coming days and sharing my vision for our district, community, and State in the near future.” 

“It was a very, very difficult decision for me. But I've been here 28 years, going on 28 years. And I think it was time to let someone else do the work and, to do what I've done for that long and to be so much an intimate part of my life.”

State Senator Neil Breslin

In a major win for Binghamton and New York State as a whole, Binghamton University has won the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional “Innovation Engines” Competition (NSF Engines), one of ten inaugural designations under the program. Created by the CHIPs & Science Act, the program will build off of Binghamton’s 2022 Federal Tech Hub designation and will provide up to $160 million over the lifespan of the program to conduct cutting-edge research on battery technology and to onshore critical supply chains. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered, “This award helps make the message clear: We want the future of American batteries developed in Binghamton, not Beijing.”

Binghamton is the only University in the country to receive the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) award, the Federal Tech Hub designation, and the NSF Engines award. Schumer has been at the leading edge of these efforts and remains determined to transform Upstate New York into a global leader in these technologies. At the press conference,  Schumer said, “Lightning has struck not once, not twice but three times to supercharge Binghamton and the NENY (New Energy New York) coalition as best in class to grow cutting edge research in America’s battery industry. For years I have worked to craft and lead to passage of these new programs to spur economic development, create good-paying jobs, and spark scientific innovation, specifically with places like Binghamton and Upstate NY in mind.”  More evidence of how great it is for New York to be represented by Majority Leader Schumer. 

“This award helps make the message clear: We want the future of American batteries developed in Binghamton, not Beijing.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

In Washington, D.C., things seem to get more hectic by the day. Last week, New York Republicans attempted to flex their political muscles and threatened to kill an unrelated rule if their concerns around state and local tax (SALT) deductions were not addressed in the House version of the tax bill. The threat of tanking a rule served as a public rebuke of leadership, something more often employed by the far-right Freedom Caucus, but New York Republicans felt the threat was the only way to have their concerns taken seriously.

New York Representatives Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Andrew Garbarino, and Mike Lawler are pushing to raise the SALT cap from $10,000 to $20,000 for married couples who file taxes jointly, arguing that the cap disproportionally affects states with higher taxes. Fiscal conservatives have balked at the proposal, citing the estimated $12 billion price tag, but Rep. Lawler pushed back on that saying, “This is about fairness with our constituents being double taxed. This is pro-family. This is about ensuring married couples are not being penalized in the tax code.” The group has also argued that the changes will give blue-state Republicans a win and will increase their chances of holding the House in November.  

“This is about fairness with our constituents being double taxed. This is pro-family. This is about ensuring married couples are not being penalized in the tax code.”

NY Representative Mike Lawler

Seemingly unsatisfied with Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) concessions, the group of holdouts voted against the rule allowing legislation to be brought to the floor… but only temporarily. After the “no” vote, the group met with Speaker Johnson and House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) in the Republican Cloakroom before promptly returning to the Floor to change their vote in exchange for the promise of a standalone bill addressing SALT deductions however, the coalition of New York lawmakers did not have much leverage.

Even if the group all voted against the tax bill, it had enough bipartisan support to make their votes irrelevant. They also would have had to deal with the political fallout of voting against legislation that extends the Child Tax Credit and provides tax relief to businesses. Despite Speaker Johnson’s assurances, any standalone bill on SALT deductions would face an uphill battle in the House, and would almost certainly be dead on arrival in the Senate.  

The special election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District to serve out the remainder of former Rep. George Santos’ term will take place next Tuesday, February 13th. Former Rep. Tom Suozzi has significantly outraised Republican and current Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, bringing in $4.5 million since October compared to Pilip’s $1.3 million.

That margin gets slightly smaller when accounting for spending by national parties and outside groups: $9.8 million for the Democrats and $6.2 million for the Republicans, but given that candidates receive better rates on TV ads than outside PACs, Suozzi has dominated the airwaves. Suozzi is a proven vote-getter in NY-3, but issues including crime, migrants, and congestion pricing all lean towards the GOP.  A Democratic win would further complicate life for Speaker Johnson who is already dealing with one of the thinnest majorities in modern history. The election could also serve as a bellwether for November, providing insight into whether Republican gains in 2022 were a one-off or a broader sign of the changing political landscape in New York.  

The first sanctioned Democratic primary took place over the weekend in South Carolina, with President Joe Biden handily defeating Congressman Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson to secure the state’s 55 delegates. South Carolina catapulted Biden to the nomination in 2020 and as a thank-you, the primary calendar was shuffled around to make South Carolina the first state to vote.

In a statement, Biden said, “In 2020, it was the voters of South Carolina who proved the pundits wrong, breathed new life into our campaign, and set us on the path to winning the Presidency. Now in 2024, the people of South Carolina have spoken again and I have no doubt that you have set us on the path to winning the Presidency again — and making Donald Trump a loser — again.”

The Republican primary in South Carolina will take place on February 24th.


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Dr. Joseph Robert Love

OD&A begins our commemoration of Black History Month by sharing the story of Dr. Joseph Robert Love, the first Black graduate of the University at Buffalo’s Medical Department.

Dr. Love received his medical degree on Feb. 25, 1880. [Read more.]

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Employee Spotlight

Background: Prior to joining O’Donnell Associates as Senior Advisor and Head of New York City Practice, Kara Hughes was Executive Vice President of New York City’s largest lobbying firm, where she led strategic planning for the firm’s corporate clients and directed legislative strategy firmwide.

She also has extensive government experience, including serving as Acting Director of City Legislative Affairs for Mayor Bill de Blasio. Prior to that, Kara worked on Capitol Hill as an aide in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. She also was a key player on numerous political campaigns, including as Deputy Policy Director for Hillary Clinton’s historic 2000 Senate race. Kara later served as Director of Economic Development for Senator Hillary Clinton, and following the September 11 attacks, was the Senator’s point person on 9/11 issues, acting as liaison to Lower Manhattan, New York State, and City officials, and to the business community on issues involving the redevelopment of Ground Zero.

Specialty: Kara Hughes offers clients a wealth of experience throughout the public policy spectrum. Her skill and determination have helped clients obtain government funding and create unique partnerships between the public and private sector – including securing the final agreement for one of the largest air cargo facilities in the country, a key part of the JFK Airport Revitalization.

Successes: Among Kara’s legislative victories are the reauthorization and expansion of the New York City School Speed Camera legislation home rule, the launch of New York City’s outdoor dining initiative during the height of COVID, and assisting OD&A client, Pixis Drones land a major role in NYC’s 50th celebration of hip hop. Kara also guided some of the largest employers in NYC to help them understand and navigate COVID regulations at the height of the pandemic, ensuring that their feedback helped shape policies.

Kudos: Kara has been recognized extensively for her work, including City & State’s Responsible 100 and Who’s Who in Government Relations, the Queens’ Power 50; “Economic Development Power 75,” and consistently ranked among the top 50 lobbyists in New York City. She also was a Schneps “Power Women of Queens Honoree.”

Extras: Kara attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she played Division 1 lacrosse. She graduated with a B.A. in Social Thought & Political Economy. She lives in NYC with her husband and their two daughters.

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OD&A in the Community

Alec Lewis and Assembly Member Billy Jones

Our Alec Lewis was proud to join Assembly Member Billy Jones and our friends at the North Country Chamber of Commerce for the annual presentation of the State of Clinton County, the City of Plattsburgh and the Town of Plattsburgh.

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February 5, 1994: Medgar Evers' murderer Byron de la Beckwith is sentenced to life, in Jackson, Mississippi, 30 years after the crime.


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